Speaking Of Life 1013 | Becoming a Grave for Hate
I am not a person who has ever been abused or attacked because of my race. As a world traveler, I have experienced bias and endured rude behavior, and even that level of mistreatment doesn’t feel good. My heart goes out to people who have endured hate and violence, and I pay honor to those who have through the power of the Spirit risen above the oppression of their oppressors.
Priest and author Jerome Kodell tells a story of a conversation he had in the early 1960s, when the American civil rights movement was coming to a boil all across the country. The abbey where he lived was hosting an interracial retreat for those involved in the movement. He spoke with a young man who was working for voter registration in eastern Arkansas, where tensions were particularly high. He asked the young man if he had experienced persecution as a result of his work.
The young man said that he had been “spit on and beaten with fists, pipes and chains.” Father Kodell asked if he ever defended himself, and the young man’s answer was as honest as it was insightful:
Yes. At first I did fight back. I made some of them sorry they had attacked me. But then I realized that by fighting back I wasn’t getting anywhere. The hatred coming at me in those fists and clubs was bouncing right off me back into the air, and it could just continue to spread like electricity. I decided I would not fight back. I would let my body absorb that hatred, so that some of it would die in my body and not bounce back into the world. I now see that my job in the midst of that evil is to make my body a grave for hate.
“To make my body a grave for hate.” To make sure that the sickening cycle of offense and revenge would end with him. Powerful words.
In our scripture for today, we read from Jesus’ sermon in Luke chapter 6:
Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:34-36 ESV)
Jesus speaks here about making our bodies a GRAVE for hate, making our ears a grave for gossip, making our mouths a grave for insult, making our hearts a grave for retaliation. Just as the young civil rights worker knew that his non-violence was absorbing some of the hatred in the world, so Jesus commends us to break the vicious cycle “an eye for an eye.”
Jesus began the movement, he was the first to fully break that cycle. He made himself the grave for judgment; he took the chaos and ugliness caused by sin into himself to die. He gave us FREEDOM in return.
If this is the Lord we serve, and the reality we live in, how can we absorb some of the pain in the world today? How can we stop this broken cycle? Perhaps forgiving a grave offense or even simply stopping, and listening to someone who needs an ear? In doing this, we do Christ’s work in the world.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.