We use words in funny ways. Some people can craft amazing sentences that stir the soul. Others, while writing a lot more, can make us feel like places such as Narnia are real enough that we want a visa to visit. Punsters enjoy the look of anguish on people’s faces when they turn a word around and play with its meaning for humorous effect. There are those words that we use whose intensity changes based on the object. Take “love” for instance. While other languages have more than one word to describe things we “love,” in English we us “love” to describe a wide variety of emotions and feelings. I love chocolate ice cream. I love that movie. I love how you did that. I love your kids. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love God. Each use of the word love portrays a different understanding. Each shows a different level of intensity. Each use has an unspoken understanding of what we would do to fulfill that love.
Another word that we use with varying intensity is “hate.” I “hate” liver. Don’t ask me to eat it! A lot of kids are letting their parents know how much they hate school about this time. I hate racism and hate groups. (Think about that one.) Just as with the companion word of “love,” “hate” involves a lot of different emotions, feelings, and actions. How do you act when you love someone or something? How do you act when you hate someone or something? Those two words trigger strong emotional feelings when they’re used, so when Jesus uses them, He packs a wallop! When Jesus is talking about why He won’t travel up to Jerusalem for the festival, He reminds His family that His message can set people off. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)
Jesus’ brothers weren’t too sure about their big brother. They heard stories about Him, but they remembered growing up with Him. You know how it is with your siblings. You could win the Nobel Prize for Peace and they would talk about how you always started fights at the dinner table. They were taunting Him, urging to head to Jerusalem to the festival. They wanted to provoke Jesus to show Himself to the world. They were saying, in effect, “Come on, brother. You’re so high and mighty, let the whole world see you. Everyone who’s anyone’s going to be at the Festival. If you’re so great, shine there.” They didn’t understand what Jesus had gone through in dealing with the religious elites. Jesus let them know the problem. “You get along with everyone because you don’t make waves. Those same people hate me because I testify, through words and deeds, that all they do is evil.”
Chris DeLuna, a pastor in a nearby city, made this point bluntly recently. He mentioned the outcry over the hypocritical behavior of a well-known Christian. He reminded us that the world hates hypocritical Christians. Even moreso, they hate consistent Christians who live according to God’s word in the Bible. The world doesn’t live according to the Bible. According to the world, we should tolerate sinful behavior and call it diversity. According to the world, that used to call us hypocrites for living one way on Sunday and another the rest of the week, we are to keep our religion confined to the church building and not let it affect the way we live. Speaking the truth, even in love, engenders hatred from the world. So what do we do. Jesus ended up going to the festival in secret, but He couldn’t stay secret long; He had to teach! Our responsibility, at all times, is to continue to proclaim the love and grace of Jesus in the face of a world that hates us. If you do that, you will be hated. Don’t fear the hate, though. Return love. Return the love that Jesus showed even while He was on the cross. Give grace to those who would attack the messenger and the message knowing that Jesus forgave them on the cross, just as He forgave you.
Oh Lord, in a world that’s full of hate, let me be a beacon of Your love.