13th Sunday After Pentecost

S. Pentecost 13.22 “Holy Hate” Luke 14:25-35

“Hate is not a family value” was a popular meme years ago. It was one thing liberal and conservative moralists could agree on; though, in today’s cancel culture, maybe even that point is contested?

A friend of mine saw a sign out front of an Episcopal Church that read “We include everyone who includes everyone” which he noted is actually a very exclusive little circle! Far more people exclude deplorables than include them (who invites rapists, murderers, and insurrectionists over for drinks, right?). So inclusion is perhaps the most exclusively elitist move there is, these days. Maybe that’s why the Episcopal Church in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago my wife and I peeked into on a Sunday morning (on our way to an LCMS church) a few weeks ago was completely empty except for the organist and the rector—who chased us down the street, hoping to get someone in the pews? (We fled… 😉

But hate enjoys a much better reputation in the Holy Scriptures generally, and with Jesus particularly than it does among us. Huh. Surprising! Who knew? Well, I did; but I read the actual Scriptures somewhat obsessively and notice things like this, being a contrarian by nature. In my favorite Psalm of David, 139, he says at the end: “do I not hate them who hate you, O Lord? I hate them with perfect hatred.” The prophet Jehu rebukes King Jehoshaphat for helping the wicked and loving those who hate the LORD. Perfect hatred is a concept that fascinated me from the time I heard about it as a boy; still seems interesting, today…

Most everyone assumes that God loves everybody, always, and doesn’t hate anyone—because hate is not a Christian or a family value—according to the conventional wisdom. So hate has an almost universally bad reputation in the modern world (which is not really very big on reading the scriptures regularly and thoroughly 😉

But Jesus is here this morning among us to rehabilitate hate. He has nothing but good to say about hate in our Gospel today; and, while that initially gives us pause, if Jesus is for it, how can we be against it? I’ll bet you’re a better hater than you give yourself credit for. After all, you naturally hate your husband for leaving used tissues, open journals, books strewn around the house and the toilet seat always up; or the old woman in the Ford Focus with the handicapped plates who slipped in ahead of you in the bumper to bumper mess we call 440, right?

And I’m betting that, if you eliminate your innate (but groundless!) prejudice against all forms of hate, you might find you take to hate like a duck to water. Just like “there is nothing more depressing than a sermon on joy!” I think you’ll be surprised how uplifting a sermon in praise of hate can be. Well, anyway, try to have an open mind, OK?

Let’s dive in…

Great crowds accompanied Jesus, and he turns on them and says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also (the Greek ψυχην can also be translated “soul” or “person” as well as “life”) he cannot be my disciple.” Whoa! Holy Hatred, Batman, er, Jesus! What does this mean?! Surely Jesus can’t mean that we need to hate everybody, especially ourselves in order to be disciples of his, can he? Because that goes against everyone’s understanding of Christian values!”

Uhm, well…

It does cut against the grain of Christendom, I’ll admit. But I operate on a pretty simple-minded hermeneutical principle: Jesus says what he means and means what he says. But I find the vast majority of Christendom (then as now) operates on the interpretative principle that Jesus has to conform to the majority notion of what a “Good God” says and does and so the bible must be heavily hedged to keep from being dangerously subversive literature of the sort that requires prim librarians, scholastics, and the papacy to ban it. The Holy Scriptures, you probably know, have been on the papal list of banned books for most of the last five (or six) hundred years. It’s not easy to find on the shelves of public libraries still today. Risky reading!

But suppose Jesus actually meant all that stuff he says in the Gospels?—including our passage today? Hmm? What would our takeaway be, then?

Well, why would we hate our mother, father, wife, children, siblings, and our own selves? Is there a biblical reason for hating? Yes! Psalm 5:5 says God hates all evildoers and Psalm 7:11 says God is indignant every day with such like. And you hate evildoers too, right? Murderers, rapists, robbers, insurrectionists are not your kind of people at all, right? (Is 75% a passing grade on this test? 😉

Jesus is God and God hates sinners. There is, BTW, no text anywhere in Holy Scriptures that says “God hates sin and loves the sinner”. Nope! It’s nowhere in the bible! I’ve checked. Read it 30 times yourself cover to cover if you don’t believe me and report back…

You might be surprised what’s in there and what’s not in there… 😉

But this passage is not so tough to understand. Of course, the Holy God hates sinners. And not because he’s some hall monitor, do-gooder who likes to find fault. No. He’s a good shepherd who made his sheep to find the greatest delight and joy possible—and that joy is following him to his pasture, his banquet feast in heaven. When we sin, we aren’t breaking some arbitrary rules. We are getting off the way that leads to the good pastures and the clear waters. We’re just killing ourselves and God didn’t make us to die miserably, but to live gloriously and grandly with him forever.

So God hates seeing us kill ourselves and make ourselves miserable—though that’s what we sinful people do to each other all the time. Our fathers, mothers, wives, children, siblings are sinful and lead us astray all the time. Shoot, we’re the chief sinners and lead ourselves into a beautiful flare of ruin and self-immolation.

So Jesus the Good Shepherd, the Great Physician, in order to heal us has to get us hating being lost and miserable. Hating evil and bad stuff, especially the bad that’s in our own hearts is good!

This is what the cross does: it kills the sin and evil in us that we hate so much; it unstrings our bones and spits us out reborn—the good sheep Jesus made us to be. Now, the bit about counting the cost is important, too: can you get the evil out of you just by hating it? No, you cannot. Can you stop sinning just by trying harder to love Jesus more? No, you cannot. And if you think you can, you’re kidding yourself and getting worser.

    Here’s the healing power of hate…

Hating yourself—seeing how far short sin makes you fall—is the beginning of loving Jesus. It’s taking up the cross, renouncing everything of yours, and putting all your bets on God’s grace, love, and mercy to save. This is Holy Hatred. This is a Good Thing—it’s justification by grace alone through faith alone for Christ’s sake, alone. God kills to make alive and wounds to heal. When you realize you can’t afford heaven, you’ll sneak in as a beggar, a hitchhiker, a hobo; and this is the Way…(!)

Maybe we make holy hate easier for friends and family when we don’t hide our sinful nature? Hey, the vicar needed a vacation already, so I think it’s working with him?

It’s the salt thing. The ancients sowed soil with salt so nothing would grow. The salt of holy hate is like celestial Round-Up for sin. So, stay salty my friends; and the love of Jesus is ever, always, yours. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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