Rev. John Zehring has served as Senior Pastor to UCC churches in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. He is the author of more than sixty books and is a regular writer for The Christian Citizen.
Scripture: Psalm 97:10a (NRSV)
The Lord loves those who hate evil;
Reflection: Hate The Evil
In childrearing, parents are encouraged to love the child but to dislike bad behavior. A parent should never tell a child that she or he is bad. Rather, the child is told that she or he has done a bad thing. The child is then guided to learn what is the right behavior. The child should never be told by the parent “I don’t like you.” Rather, the child should be told “I don’t like what you did.” See the child as good, the behavior as not good. The Divine Parent does this. God sees the child as good and loves the child, but hates evil done by the child. To be God-like is to love the person, hate the behavior.
In our time, the stocks of hatred are rising, fast and furious, surpassing everything that people of faith had hoped for. This year. Last year. The whole decade. Here is one headline: Hate crime reports in US surge to the highest level in 12 years, FBI says. Hate spawns ever more hatred, perhaps moving good people of faith to hate the haters. There are some people who seem so evil in their intentions that we hate them. They look to us like evil personified. Sometimes we want to condemn them as just plain evil people. But the way of love says “Oh no, don’t do that.” The way of love modeled by Jesus leads us to condemn their evil and work to defeat injustice, but to love the person and to see them as a person loved by God. If we as people of faith don’t cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe, who will?
One of the best meanings of New Testament love – agape - means to desire that which is truly in the other’s highest and best interests. Agape is not necessarily feelings of affection or attraction, but rather, seeking the other person’s best interest. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, love does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Agape rejoices in the right. There are people we do not like, especially people who consistently do evil behavior, but we can still tower above our dislike to love them in the sense of desiring their highest and best interest. Hate evil, but love the person.
The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: "Today you will meet all kinds of unpleasant people. They will hurt you, and injure you, and insult you. But you cannot live like that. You know better, for you are a person in whom the spirit of God dwells." Therein lies the underlying reason we would bother to love in the face of hate, injustice, or evil behavior. When you are a person in whom the spirit of God dwells, your underpinnings are to love and to give grace.
In his book A Gift of Love, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Because you are a person in whom the Spirit of God dwells, you have the capacity to hate the evil, while still loving the person. Hard? Oh yeah! Impossible? Not for those in whom the Spirit of God dwells, for they are empowered to practice love, grace, and forgiveness as they discover that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.
Dear Lord, I hate the evil I see in persons, in institutions, in corporations, and in leaders who promulgate evil ways. Help me to not hate them as individuals, but to hate their behavior, and pray for them to become good. Help me to remove the log from my own eye, so I may be aware of my own choices or acts which are evil. I ask for your forgiveness, Dear God, and ask that you would lead me to become a person who forgives others as I would wish to be forgiven. Thank you. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war
- For those experiencing homelessness
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For all those high school students who have or will have enjoyed end-of-year activities this year after two years of disruptions
This Week in History:
May 25, 2020 (2 years ago) George Floyd is killed by Officer Derek Chauvin who kneels on Floyd's neck for almost 10 minutes during an arrest. Floyd was arrested for allegedly using counterfeit money. His death was recorded by bystanders and set off nationwide unrest calling for change in police tactics. Chauvin was arrested for murder later that month. In April, 2021, he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to 22 and half years in prison.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”