Image: Community at prayer, Paulatuk
The Gospel takes a drastic shift today as Jesus’ focus turns from speaking about love, to the reality of hate. Up until now we have been hearing about the love of the Father for the Son and Jesus’ love for his disciples. Yesterday’s Gospel had Jesus sharing the great commandment, that we are to love one another as he has loved us. In today’s readings, we will see that love is not always reciprocated.
I feel fortunate that I can say I have never been persecuted for my faith. Certainly, there have been a few uncomfortable moments along the way but nothing like what was experienced in the early Church.
As Paul continued his missionary travels we are told that he was led this way and that by the Spirit. At times the Spirit allowed the missionary’s message to be shared and at others he was not able to share it at all. Whether this was because of outright persecution or just bad timing we are not told but we certainly see plenty of examples in Paul’s travels where he was faced with people’s hatred for the message he bore.
Today we are fortunate to live in a land that allows a high degree of religious freedom but that reality is not universal. Today many Christians continue to be persecuted and martyred because of what they believe.
While such persecution is tragic it should not come as a surprise, after all, Jesus was very clear that we should expect it. As Jesus was preparing for his own death his words of warning were stark,
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”
Why do people reject God’s love? What causes hate?
There are many factors for why people hate but most hate boils down to fear; fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the different. As long as people keep a distance from what they are afraid of they feel secure. Hate then is a wall, a defense mechanism that offers them protection. But there is a way through the wall.
Daryl Davis, a black musician from the United States, accidentally persuaded around 200 white racists to abandon the Klu Klux Klan simply by befriending them. He traveled the country for around three decades, actively seeking out white supremacists as a hobby. “I never set out to convert anyone in the Klan.” Daryl said, “I just set out to get an answer to my question: ‘How can you hate me when you don’t even know me’.”
“If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”
The love that God offers is frightening to many people because it is a different love from what this world offers and so they rebel against it. Our task is not to be deterred. We are called to love in spite of hatred and, in doing so, overcome the fear.