Proverbs 10:12 – Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
Welcome to day 7 of our 21 days of prayer and fasting. When you hear the word hate, what do you think of?
I hear the word hate a lot. We use it so casually.
“I hate it when it rains during quarantine.”
“I hate kale.”
“I hate it when my grocery pick up doesn’t have the toilet paper I ordered.”
On the other hand, I also hear the word love used casually.
“I love this ice cream.”
“I love gardening.”
“I love Kanye West’s new album!”
Two extreme words – love and hate- are used in such flippant ways that we have lost their value.
M-W dictionary has several definitions for hate. But, at the top of the list is this: : intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.
When I was growing up, my friend’s mother told us not to use the word hate, because it means we wished someone was dead. I was shocked. My 11 year old self would never wish death on anyone. Now, it’s common on social media for people to tweet out that they wish death on anyone they disagree with. I guess it’s easier to wish someone didn’t exist than to have to maintain a civil discourse with them. It’s also easy to get pulled into a fury of emotion when social media forces you to take sides. I’ve seen more gentle hearted people than I can count be accosted on social media than I care to count. I truly believe social media is the devil’s favorite new toy to stir up division, greed, fear and hate.
The word love, on the other hand is used so commonly that it is as available as a pebble in a rock garden. Sadly, genuine love in action is more of a rare stone these days, especially when needed in action and in truth. Our best example of love to overcome boundaries of hatred, sin and division is Jesus.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes on him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
From this simple, beloved verse found on posters at ball games, but less and less known by people in our time, we see the heart of love.
Love is sacrificial. “That he gave…”
Love gives till it hurts. “His only Son…”
Love brings life from death. “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
Do we love when it is uncomfortable? Do we love those who are difficult to love or do we quickly say, “I hate it when they…..?” Do we love people unless they fail to live up to our expectations, and then we write them off? Do we speak life where there is death, or do we stir up dissension with arguments and contradictions? Do we love people in their pain, or do we want to focus on our own pain?
Remember that Jesus went to us in our pain. Jesus came to those who would reject him and kill him, so that he could bring their redemption. What did he do with all of that pain? He took it to the Father. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”Jesus came as a covering of love.
In Jesus’ time, there were ancient divides hundreds of years old. There was hatred, prejudice and division even in people descended from Abraham’s own household. Jesus used love (and a time of fasting) to overcome hundreds of years of hatred and animosity.
In John 4, Jesus built a bridge of love by reaching across racial divides to minister to a Samaritan woman. The disciples weren’t there when the conversation happened. They were shopping in town, but when they happened across the scene, they were shocked to find Jesus talking to a woman – and a woman of mixed race. (All of those who think of Jesus as oppressive don’t know what he did to turn the cultural prejudices on their heads.) Why was this such a shocking thing- for Jesus to talk to a Samaritan woman? Samaritans were half Jewish and half Assyrian. Their Jewish ancestors were victims of the Assyrian assault on the Northern kingdom over 700 years earlier. The Assyrians came in battle against Israel, killing a third of the people, and distributing another third over the planet to destroy their identity. Finally, the Assyrians intermarried with the remaining third of the Jews to take over the culture.
It worked. The Samaritans lost their identity as Jewish. They became outcasts to both Jews and Gentiles. Yet, Jesus found it very important to reach this woman and her whole town. When the disciples got back from their shopping trip in town, this is what happened:
“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.””
Notice that Jesus gave up eating to minister the truth of reconciliation and repentance to this woman that no one else considered worth much of anything. They judged her by her gender and her race. But, Jesus saw a child of God who needed redemption, belonging and love. He saw ministering to her as his food and his drink.
She became one of his strongest proponents of Jesus in that town. She led the whole town to Jesus, because Jesus put her needs ahead of his stomach and the strongly held prejudices of his culture. Jesus touched one woman’s life and then faith spread like wild fire. You don’t have to save the whole world. You just need to love the people you encounter.
We can learn from his example. This account is a perfect example of fasting for the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus put the spiritual reconciliation of this Samaritan town ahead of food and drink. What does God have for you today? What does he want to teach you about putting aside food and drink to do his work? I don’t know what you need to learn. Only the Holy Spirit knows your heart- the way that Jesus knew everything about this woman- the Holy Spirit knows what you need to hear today. Listen to him.
For the entire scriptural account go to John chapter 4. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4&version=NIV