Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Prov. 10:12
Sometime around the beginning of Advent late in 2017, when I was still on Facebook and learned the hard way that social media didn’t always bring out the best and wisest in people, I embarked on an ambitious plan to post a short reflection each day on a single verse of Proverbs, from chapters 10:1—22:16. Some of you may remember reading them (or least having to scroll past them). Each verse in that section of the book contains a single, self-contained proverb by King Solomon. I figured Wisdom Literature would be just the thing to counteract so much of the nastiness and nonsense that swirls around in cyberspace.
I thought of that project recently when I was trying to address some of the frustrations that can boil to the surface in stressful times. People can endure a lot, but time wears us down and uncertainty unsettles us. Nerves fray and tempers flare when frustration gets the best of us. Those are the very times when the Word of God can lead us to examine ourselves and drive us to the foot of the cross and the joyous new life of unconquerable love in Christ. One of the very shortest posts in that project happens to be about Prov. 10:12, so I’ve included it in italics below.
If you string together the synonyms used in the various translations, you get something like “Hatred stirs up strife/quarrels/dissension/contention/judgment/conflict, but love covers all offenses/transgressions/sins/wrongs/evil things.”
In both cases, something on the inside, an attitude of the heart and mind, transforms the outside in its own image. Hatred is simply enmity existing on the inside, which is made manifest in conflict on the outside. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes this point about hatred, anger, and lust—it isn’t just the outward action that the Law condemns, but the inner, sinful heart-source of that action.
Luther called original sin “self curved in on itself.” We’re supposed to be outwardly focused in love, like the God who made us in His image. But the essential self-centeredness of our sin makes the inner conflict between the self and others unavoidable. Lust, envy, hatred, revenge—they are simply the self-centered objectification of other people for the purposes of the self, which expresses itself in strife and conflict.
Love does the same thing in reverse, in a healing way. This is the lesson of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree or Beauty and the Beast—when an ugly, bad thing is loved anyway, which happens via forgiveness and charity—in time it can become beautiful and good. Love is inherently selfless and forgiving, which also makes it transformative. As the Psalm 32 says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
As this shut down continues, if at any time frustration, impatience, irritation, or hopelessness seem to overwhelm you, remember that such things comes from inside people and are part of the human condition always. More importantly, remember that you are blessed because you are forgiven. And in light of the Proverb, realize that such forgiveness from Christ calls and empowers you to be a force for Love in your home, community, and world. Your mission is not to get your way, vent, or put people in their place, but to bring peace where there is strife, joy where there is gloom, and comfort where there is hurt. Your old sinful nature won’t be inclined to do that, but Christ in you certainly will! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Act 7:58
Acts was written by Luke, who says (Lk. 1:1-4) that he carefully set out to write a history of Jesus and the early Church. And Luke was there with St. Paul at the very end of St. Paul’s life (II Tim. 4:11). Much of the information we have about St. Paul comes from Luke. So why does Luke seemingly go out of his way to condemn Paul (Saul) with this little aside about who was watching the coats at the stoning of Stephen? You’d think Luke would want to downplay, or at least not want to highlight such an embarrassing detail. But keep reading.
What Luke could have been teaching us it not to judge God’s ways, or lose heart prematurely. St. Stephen was beloved by the Church. His being unjustly stoned to death would have made many people wonder why God would allow such a thing. It made no sense. It was a huge loss to the Church. But we know that most of Acts ends up being about that very same Saul. He becomes a great Apostle. His story prior to his conversion laid the groundwork for his conversion and subsequent history. You just have to keep reading when it seems like everything has gone wrong.
When we encounter things that make no sense to us, such as when innocent people suffer, when death seemingly picks people at random, when government are unjust, when the Church suffers setbacks, we can begin to question God. We should know from our own Scriptures and from the name of our congregation that the story isn’t over. God is always going somewhere with this, no matter what “this” is or how terrible it may be. History isn’t over; we need to keep reading.
Since we know that time after time God had brought good out of evil, we should simply keep our eyes open for what the benefits of this strange, ongoing situation might be. Maybe it was necessary to shake you out of a spiritual lethargy. Maybe this will help our society re-prioritize. Maybe people are getting the training they need to fight some other virus in the future. Maybe all of those things and countless other good things are going on.
What is certain is that this Easter season we need never fear any kind of endings. Whether that ending is death, or of a career, or stage of family life, or anything dear to us, we look forward. We keep reading. The Christ who came out of the tomb is with us. The disease, injustice, or ravages of time that bring the things we love to an end do not have the final word, and are likely just the seeds of amore glorious, unforeseeable future. St. Paul has been on both side of a martyrdom—first helping to kill St. Stephen, then being unjustly executed himself for his faith. But the story of Christ and His Church goes on. St. Paul’s, Munster is a part of it. You are a part of it. It is full of endings that erupt into new chapters. Don’t be afraid, and don’t be surprised when it turns out God has been going somewhere with this. Keep reading.
Rev. Peter Speckhard, Senior Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church, Munster, Indiana