“There is no room for hate in religion, in faith, or in spirituality. There is no room for hate in society, in humanity, or in community. There is no room for hate in the command to love.”
– Rev. Dr. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe –
We can disagree. We can be a people resolute to uphold civil discourse. We can pursue peace while recognizing our differences. We can acknowledge the equal humanity of the other without sacrificing our own humanity. We can honor our values without dishonoring another’s. We are called to this work. It is the work of love.
1 Corinthians 13 is a popular scripture text for wedding ceremonies and spiritual trinkets of love. It is even referred to by some as the “love passage.” We attribute it to the love between two spouses, but its meaning is far more profound. This passage on love depicts the kind of love God has for us and the kind of love God expects from us.
We will always be tempted to give in to bitterness, anger, and even hatred. These ways are not God’s ways. God’s ways are of gentleness, kindness, and mercy. The world tells us to fight with words and fists. Jesus taught us to fight with service to the other and a radical reliance on God. The ways of the world are about defending and protecting ourselves. The way of the Lord is about defending and protecting others. Jesus said:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” John 15:12-17
Friends, there is no out clause in the commandment to love. There is no place for our grievances to exempt us from what God expects of us. Jesus calls to us even still to take up our crosses and follow him. He doesn’t ask us to follow the wide and easy path, but the narrow one that leads to life. The narrow, powerful, transformative way of love is more than relevant for our times, it is the very essence of what has and will save us.
Though we may not always find consensus with our neighbors, we can rest assured that we have been commanded to do the very opposite of hate. There is not room in the Gospel, the Good News, for hatred. There is no justifying hate towards any group of people. We must be leaders of the way of peace, the way of justice, the way of humility, the way of love. We must uphold our values of grace and forgiveness, generosity of spirit and hope. We must not accept the carnage or hatred at synagogues, mosques, or churches. We must not participate in words or actions of hatred or violence. We must be the difference we wish to see in the world.
Friends, may we be the light of God to all we meet. May we be love in the face of hatred. May we make room for more of God’s love to be experienced by all of God’s children. May we give away all of the love we can to all of the people we can as often as we can. May we be in prayer for our brothers and sisters at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. May we be in prayer for all who have suffered at the hands and acts of hatred. May we be love in the darkness.
Read the 1 Corinthians passage again. As you read it think about our world and where we are asked to be a voice in the wilderness. Meditate on where God can use you in your community or beyond to be the light of the Lord. Pray for those who have harmed you and ask God to help you forgive them. Then pray for those who you have harmed and ask God to help you forgive yourself. Seek God’s guidance to help you better understand and love those with whom you have difference or misunderstanding. Stretch to see where you might listen more to those around you, to their experiences and their stories. Then once you’ve held this passage in your hands and thought upon the world, replace the word LOVE with GOD. Then reread.
1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV) – The Gift of Love
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”