"You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Lord. 19 You shall observe my laws." Leviticus 9,17-19
"With the readiness of the good news of peace bound on your feet: 16 above all taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." Ephesians 6,15
"For while we spend our life in a body of flesh, we do not war with carnal weapons. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but they are powerful with God's help for the tearing down of fortresses, 5 inasmuch as we tear down reasonings and every proud barrier that is raised up against the knowledge of God and lead every thought into subjection to Christ." 2Corinthians10,3-5.
There's a strange cowardice inavading our culture, especially in our hyper media age.
It threatens the church too, lest we kid ourselves.
I sometimes hear it in the voices of talk radio hosts, and their regulars with their hate talking points at the ready, and see it amidst the shiny cable sets and perfect make up of pretty folks paid to repeat the snark.
We see it in the smirk, hear it in the affected voice or the condescending laugh, on cue. Its on display like a false confidence that deceives. It's the thinly veiled cowardice of hating our neighbor.
Set up your enemy, play it safe from a distance, gossip to win, assert "your rights" in everything, and then hate hate hate, hiding it if you can.
Our culture is now marketing this behind various cultural and media gates, a hatred that bashes enemies with the nearest weapon at hand (and the bible too). Only when it gets really out of hand do we call it out, but it's often closer to the surface than we care to admit.
Hate is a human judgment better left to the final judgment of God. Only God has the right to ultimately to turn his face against someone.
Jesus told us "to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us." Or, are we going to fall into the heavy trap of hatred that could fell the wildest bear let alone any human?
The Lord led me again recently to the story of Joseph and his brothers, an instructive novel of sorts begining at Chapter 37 of Genesis. You might know some or all of this dense and splendid saga. Joseph was the favorite of his father, Jacob, who gave him a multi-colored royal coat.
And he was also especially favored of God, receiving dreams of his pre-eminance. He stood out as a better shepherd than his brothers (and perhaps even showed off once in awhile). But his brothers were jealous and hated him without cause, so they threw him in ditch, and left him for dead. But he ends up travelling with a band of Ismaelites to Egypt, where he ends in the house of the Pharoah.
He rises up in favor and becomes the Pharoah's right hand man "vizier." And when his brothers make the 200-300 mile journey south from Israel looking for Egyptian grain in a time of famine, Joseph (who recognizes his brothers whereas they think he's dead) wrestles with his choice of hating his brothers.
The future of Israel, all the promises to Abraham, hung in the balance.
We would all do well to recognize that each of us- the best like Joseph or the worst like Cain- has this same choice.
What caught my attention reading this story again is that Joseph's choice to forgive was not something that he just did once, or solely for the honor of his father Jacob. We all know folks who will sort of make peace once, in say families or in the office for the sake of a family member or their income.
But after the will is read, after Mom or Dad are dead and gone or one finds a new job they make the choice to hate again.
After his father Jacob died and was buried in Israel, Jospeh's brothers thought the peace wouldn't last:
"Now that their father was dead, Joseph's brothers were afraid, for they said, 'What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back for all the harm we did to him." Genesis 50,15.
They sent an envoy to search Joseph out, but Joseph chose again to forgive- when he could have taken full revenge upon them without any personal consequence to him, save that Israel would not have been preserved to enter the promised land.
He expressed his mercy this way: "Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God?" Genesis 50,19
So while haters may keep at it, and trying to hide it, the story of Joseph and His brothers, instructs us not to take the bait. Not to choose forgiveness just once, but again and again by choosing love.
As Jesus taught us, the strongest and most understanding individual in the room picks up the best weapon of our Spiritual warfare- loving forgiveness- and pulls out of his heart the flaming dart, the stronghold of hatred.
The sooner the better.
First Feb. 2014
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...