Hate Subsided from the Heart

Reflections on Albert Hung’s Sermon “The Sinner’s Friend”

By Juan Zung

 

Sometimes being right isn’t really the point. Sometimes being right isn’t even right.

In the case of gay rights, the fight is already over. Americans, ever devoted to the principles of freedom and opportunity, have reached a tipping point. Larger systems will take time to work out the details. But we see, in pure numbers, even among evangelical and conservative young people, the change has already happened. People accept that LGBT Americans deserve the same rights as straight ones. [1] This, I believe, is the right position.

The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that a lot of people that we still love still aren’t there yet, and might never get there. They still hold what many of us consider to be wrong and bigoted ideas.

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I’m actually lucky. My parents have a “live-and-let-live” approach to other peoples’ love lives. They’d never interfere with who’s marrying who. It’s not a moral position, but, as they’ve told me, they just don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s future.

But other folks, like my spouse, have overtly anti-gay activist parents. Parents that lament her pro-gay positions and have engaged her in emotional debates on the politics, theology and morality of homosexuality. It’s easy for me to just write them off.

Even if I won’t say it out loud, I think: The world has passed them by. They’re dinosaurs. They don’t know any better. They’re a product of their times. They’re stuck in their ways.

The underlying feelings to these thoughts are simply cruel: They are idiots. I don’t respect them. The world is waiting for them to die.

I have these thoughts and feelings. And they are evil.

They are decidedly un-Christ-like.

They are the kind of thoughts that remind me of the Pharisee in Jesus’ story [2]:

Two men went to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said: God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

It’s not hard to rewrite this with me as the Pharisee:

Two men went to pray. One a pro-equality activist and the other a bigot. The activist said: God, thanks for not making me like those bigots. I always stand up for what’s right and donate to good causes.

But the bigot stood at a distance. He wouldn’t look to heaven, but said: God, have mercy. I am a sinner.

Pastor Albert said, in his sermon “The Sinner’s Friend,” that we should remember that the Pharisees were the good guys of their time.

Even more so than what Albert mentioned, they were the progressives of their time, men of the people. They broke traditional rabbinical bloodlines, raising teachers and leaders from the common people; they believed in the afterlife; they weren’t dogmatic and they believed in diversity; they were innovative, devoted and well-intentioned; they lived good and righteous lives.

But Jesus pointed to their one great flaw: they relished in the idea that they were right and others were wrong. In Jesus’ life on earth, it doesn’t seem to matter that the Pharisees were right. Like when they caught Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They were right. Jesus broke the law as it was written. [3] But they missed the whole point of the law.

It’s stories like these that give me pause.

I do believe that I am right on this issue. But maybe, even in saying that, I’m missing the whole point.

Maybe justice is not about retribution and revenge, but about reconciliation. A deep loving embrace of those we’d see as enemies, laying down our pride for our friends, and not fighting fire with fire, not seeking to gouge out an eye for every eye and a tooth for every tooth. Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven is a lot more about not fighting at all.

——————————–

NOTES

[0] The title of this post is taken from Gandhi’s concept of “Ahimsa,” which refers to “the overflowing love that arises when all ill-will, anger, and hate have subsided from the heart.”

[1] In Albert’s sermon, he notes Public Religion Institute’s 2014 statistics showing that 50% of Millennial Republicans and 43% of Millennial White Protestant Christians support same-sex marriage rights.

[2] Luke 18

[3] John 5

 

JPjuly'12.001Juan Zung is a secular Christian, practicing Christianity but remaining atheistic in his beliefs. He writes about Faith and Religion on his blog, Ghozt Writer.

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2 thoughts on “Hate Subsided from the Heart

  1. Reblogged this on GHOZT WRITER and commented:

    The best intentioned of American Evangelicals are trying to figure out how to do the right thing and love as Jesus loved, meaning friends and enemies alike. An effort that has been terribly uneven and sometimes awkward, but hopefully is on the right track.

  2. As I shared at Study, I learned Pharisees’ origins were rooted in much violence ( https://bible.org/seriespage/pharisees ), in preservation of existential and cultural identity, not to mention their very lives w/their families (800 Pharisees slaughtered?!). For those of us contemporary Christians, perhaps we don’t acknowledge enough our own half-buried, existential insecurities which begets cycles of fighting and violence. I always think of King David, who was kept by God from building the Temple because of ‘blood in his hands’. Sometimes ‘necessary’ but still leaves consequences.

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