Pastoral Messages | June 18, 2015

I understand what it means to dislike someone, or to treat a person with disfavor. I “get” the idea that it is possible to view another human being as distasteful. But I cannot wrap my hands around a hatred that completely devalues the other. How does one even study this phenomenon? Pure hatred seems too deep to understand, and yet too shallow to deserve analysis.

Still, every time there is a fresh act of hatred in the news, we find ourselves restarting the engines of thought that try to figure out why someone would do such a thing.

I woke up this morning to learn that arsonists had torched the Church of the Multiplication in Galilee. As the name implies, this is a holy site for Christians where many believe Jesus of Nazareth multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to create a meal that would feed 5,000 people. I remember stopping in that beautiful church while filming a documentary on Jesus. There were spectacular 5th-century mosaics embedded in the floor depicting loaves and fishes.

Graffiti spray-painted on the walls seems to suggest that Jewish extremists who have been targeting Christian and Muslim holy sites in recent years are responsible.

For some people, religion provides their warrant for whom to love and hate. (Read Deuteronomy 13:6-10 sometime if you want an awful reminder of how religion can kill. By the way, these verses are not metaphor or allegory but direct words to kill.)

For other people, skin color or ethnicity is how they decide whom to love or hate.

Half a world away from Galilee is the port city of Charleston, S.C., where a 21-year-old shot and killed nine African-American Christians inside a historic church last night. The killer, who has been captured, expressly indicated that he wanted to shoot black people. What’s going to be a chilling realization for weeks and months to come is that he participated in the prayer and Bible study of this small group for a full hour before he murdered them.

So what do we do with the scourge of hatred? I have two deep convictions that stand out among some other thoughts of mine.

First, we need to make sure that in combatting hatred we do not create more hate within ourselves or through our acts. As the late Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin once put it, “If you love the good, you must hate evil, or else you are sentimental. But if you hate evil more than you love the good, you become a damn good hater! And the world has enough of those.”

Second, the only thing that can delouse hatred from a sin-sick soul is the weaponry of love. We can throw people into jail, and we should for certain hate crimes. But punishment doesn’t kill the cancer of hatred. As Martin Luther King Jr. said to jailing authorities in the early days of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott: “We will counter your force with soul force; we will match your ability to hate with our ability to love.”

That’s a tall assignment on a sad day, but one worth accepting.


Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.