Between Love and Hate


Today’s readings (click below to open in new window/tab):
Psalms 93; 150, Exodus 18:1-12, 1 John 2:7-17, Mark 16:9-20

One Sunday after church, my little brother began telling our dog Buffy that he hated her. Buffy was his best friend – what could have happened? When our mother asked why, he said the priest told us to love God and hate the things of this world. Imagine his relief when Mom reassured him it was perfectly OK to love the dog.

If, like my younger brother, we want to take scripture seriously, how are we to deal with texts like 1 John which tell us to love only God and hate the world?

When these passages were written, people thought Christ was returning any minute. All their focus was meant to be on that event. We’ve since realized we need to live in this world a bit longer; hating it is more difficult when you’re in it your whole life.

Are we really to hate it? After all, the Psalms glorify creation, and Christ instructed us to love our neighbors. He also told one young man to abandon all he owned. There’s a lot to sort through to figure out what we’re supposed to be loving and hating.

Maybe the lowest common denominator is this: love God above all else, with a love that makes all other affections seem insignificant – perhaps hateful? – by comparison. We love the beauty of creation because it glorifies God. We love other people because they are first beloved by God. We recognize anything we possess is a gift from God and valuable only in proportion to how we use it to glorify him. This perspective shifts our affection from the things themselves, and directs our love and gratitude where it truly belongs.

As we navigate the world and try to be “in it but not of it,” we find things to love because we are created to love. Specifically, we are created to love God and the things God loves. We will also find things worth hating, such as injustice and oppression. At all times, our benchmark should be love of God, and we can trust God will love the rest for us and through us.

Comfort: Loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul puts everything in perspective.

Challenge:  This week, abandon one thing that distracts you from your faith.

Prayer: God of love and mercy, thank you for the blessings and gifts of this world. Help me to remember they are reflections of your glory, so all my love may be directed toward you. Amen.

Discussion: What things might you “love” too much?

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