Letting God Heal Our Hate
Part Two: Loving Our Way to His Peace
(This is the second part of a two part series. The first part is available here)
It’s Sunday morning and I’m not getting ready to go to church. An unexpected conflict with a church member has turned sour, horribly so, and my goodness, I’m still at my house. I’m taking a church break, I explain to my husband, who gives me a look—but nods okay. He knows I’m rattled by this surprising trouble. In a lifetime of church membership, never have I experienced such a breach from a church—or such a break from my church family. Worse, I’m probably as responsible for it as anyone.
So, I feel terrible — sad, confused and conflicted. And now it’s Sunday morning. I have to get to a church and worship.
Checking my phone, I find a nearby congregation, pastored, in fact, by a colleague and friend. So my husband and I end up there, sitting in an unknown pew—the music sounding unfamiliar, the people looking like strangers, but my pastor friend’s message lands on point. Be God’s peace in the city. I hang onto every word, needing desperately to hear this prescription—knowing it’s what I need right now to get back in touch with God, my neighbor, myself. And perhaps with my longtime church?
Indeed, don’t be the problem. Be God’s peace. The message hits hard but well. Be His peace. But what does that look like? In a world torn by vindictive hate, often starting in our own close ties and homes, how can we heal the tension, suspicion, animosity and anger that divides even “loved” ones?
In this second part of “Letting God Heal Our Hate,” we’ll dig into such questions by exploring not the fact of our hate – but the healing of it that God alone achieves. Yes, by His ways, His path, His mandates, His example, His help to surrender our hate – as we turn to each other in peace.
A tough nut to crack? , it is. Turning isn’t easy. Two long years of Sundays passed before I could let the Lord pick my ego up off the ground and even visit our longtime church.
How did I get there? In truth, we don’t get anywhere on our own. Only God’s Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, through the work of our Christ on the Cross, enables and empowers us to let Him heal our deepest divides. And that’s true for every type of break – racial, family, political, religious, economic, gender-based, caste, creed, culture. Our lists of division can be long, look difficult, and feel complicated. How, then, do we turn to God, and to each other, and let Him heal us?
For answers, this second part of Letting God Heal Our Hate will examine a final three key steps (of seven) to following God to healing and peace. (To recap, steps one to four are: 1) Ask for His help; 2) Know our real enemy; See others as Christ does; 4) Obey God and love.) These, yes, are the Lord’s ways. Thus, we’ll look closely especially at our blessed Christ, exploring the ways of His miraculous Gospel healings. In them we see His power, but we also reacquaint ourselves with His healing grace – rediscovering ways He can reverse the sickness of hate in our hearts, returning us to Him, but also to each other.
Loving One Another?
That is what I noticed first when I walked into my pastor-friend’s church. People loving each other – yes, together — but across culture and color. “Red. Yellow. Black. Brown. White. And over 30 different nations” represented there, the pastor said. One of the largest multiracial churches in America, it looked to me something like heaven – where people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” will stand together before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
So it wasn’t just a black church. Not just a white church. And definitely not a perfect church. Still, the Holy Spirit of God is “bringing everybody together, because of the work of Jesus, into communion with God and with each other,” the pastor said on that Sunday I visited.
Here, therefore, I could see – in this place – a living example of the apostle Paul’s heartfelt plea to: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
I could see, indeed, in real time the Bible’s call to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:15 ESV).
This was stark contrast to the bitterness I was harboring. When watered with resentment and anger, it “springs up and causes trouble,” defiling loads of folks around it (Hebrews 12:15). Talk about unpeace.
Instead, the Lord was allowing me to see a fellowship committed to working beyond the biggest gulf in my own life — racial division — by serving the Lord. Yes, serving together.
Did arguments happen here? Probably. Did disagreements threaten the fellowship? I’m guessing they did. Yet here they all were. Together anyway. Here, the Lord was saying, take a look at what spiritual healing can look like when people allow Me to touch their hearts.
Thus, what about your heart, Patricia? I could hear that question, loud and clear, in my broken spirit.
God Himself, in fact, was the master key here. Thus, I considered how God loves. By forgiving. And how God heals. By looking past our faults. By granting us mercy. By seeing the best, not the worst, in us. By inviting us to follow Him into a life we couldn’t accomplish without Him. Then He restores us to each other.
And, oh the challenge of it. This “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18), as author Amy Julia Becker reflects, “is a ministry of bringing together that which seems irreparably torn apart.” Thus, she writes, “Jesus exhorted the Geresene demoniac to go back to his family after he was restored to himself. Jesus called out the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and pronounced her well in front of the entire crowd around Him (Luke 8:47-48).”
Adds Becker: “In our era of social divisions and identity politics, we need the healing power of God’s love if we are to find ways to mend the gaps and bind people together.” She is speaking, indeed, of “this healing that connects us to one another and to God, this healing that restores relationships and communities, this healing that saves our souls and equips us for God’s work in the world.”
As our Great Physician, Jesus Himself issues an uncompromising invitation to yield to Him our broken places. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 28: 30).Then how does He heal our hurting souls?
His grace-filled ways, when applied to the malady of hate, may surprise us.
Let’s continue to examine every step we dare take to our healing. (To explore Steps 1 through 4 see part one of Letting God Heal Our Hate.)
We’ll start, yes, by taking a brave step toward Christ. Now, what does He ask? Let’s study and be amazed.
Do something small. Yes, small. But good. Like give a smile. A wave. A hand up. A door held open. The “small” thing here, of course, is kindness. In the Greek, this kindness, meaning to do good – especially to those taxing our patience – invites us to open our hearts in simple ways that, while “small,” yield grand results – for all involved.
As a concept, simple kindness shows up in the Bible only a few times, but the mentions compel us to pay close attention.
In Joseph’s family, for example, his brothers “hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them” (Genesis 37:4). The result? “They couldn’t say a kind word to him.”
Imagine the tension in that household. It ended ultimately in the brothers’ betrayal of Joseph, throwing him into a deep, remote cistern to die. Then changing their minds, not wanting his blood on their hands, they sold him as a slave to Ishmaelite traders.
Years later, however, when Joseph had become ruler in Egypt, and those same brothers fearfully approached Joseph, terrified he would “pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” Joseph responded in the manner they’d refused to him.
“No, don’t be afraid,” he told them. “I will continue to take care of you and your children.” Thus, “he reassured them and spoke kindly to them’’’ (Genesis 50:21 nlt, italics mine).
Kind action is the very essence of God’s way. As Jeremiah declared, “This is what the Lord says…that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24). God moves, indeed, in kindness – and those who adopt kindness enjoy a healing reward. As Proverbs 11:17 says, “Those who are kind benefit themselves.”
Thus for today, for example, try this simple experiment in kindness: Surrender to God – yes, starting with today – any bitterness, resentment, anger or hurt you’re feeling about another person, co-worker, spouse, family member or ex-friend. Or, maybe it’s a politician, TV host, a culture, race, religion or group. Yep, that’s a lot of animus going around.
Yet, as with Joseph, do this small thing: Speak kindly to that person – or about that group. Then, as fervent 19th Century evangelist A.B. Simpson said, let the Holy Spirit “burn the true cross into our innermost life.” Yes, in both of you. And then what happens?
First, you’ll almost certainly just feel better. Relieved of trying to hold a grudge, fix, remake or take revenge on the other person, you’ll discover a beautiful big thing. You can breathe. Deeply. Yes, with much less effort. With all that weight off your chest, you feel, what, reborn?
Indeed. When I tried this experiment, allowing myself just one day to not fret or not stew over church hurt or other burdens – by giving it all to God in prayer – I felt almost as light as air. Refreshed and revived. Hopeful, too. My next task? To keep it going. If I can staunch bitterness today, I’m invited by His Spirit to do the same tomorrow. Yes, more easy breathing, indeed.
More important, however, what a beautiful witness for Christ to walk in this world with God-inspired kindness. The world will notice. No, not us – but Him in us. Our kindness matters that much. It’s not just to feel better and find relief from holding grudges, but to share Christ.
Even a nation can experience this benefit. In South Africa, for example, after the dismantling of anti-black apartheid, Nelson Mandela invited his white jailer to attend his inauguration as an honored guest, “the first of many gestures he would make in his spectacular way,” wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu in No Future Without Forgiveness. Showing “breathtaking” big-heartedness, Mandela became a potent agent for healing in a country desperate for recovery – and an example for peaceful hope throughout the world.
To be sure, as South Africans stood for hours in long lines, waiting to vote in that country’s first free elections, kindness oiled the historic day—helping South Africans “to find one another,” wrote Tutu. “People shared newspapers, sandwiches, umbrellas, and the scales began to fall from their eyes…they (saw) they shared a common humanity, (seeing) that race, ethnicity, skin color were really irrelevancies.”
In this same way, kindness can help heal the hate of a broken home – and even, yes, a hurting church. The apostle Peter spoke of its healing power in his second letter to early Christians of Asia Minor. Torn by false teaching, churches were urged by Peter to embrace such life gifts as self-control, patience, knowledge and godliness.
To those, however, Peter added “brotherly kindness” – which can sound soft and, to some, even shallow. Consider, however, that Peter was taking harsh aim at bold, arrogant, blasphemous, adulterous, lustful, greedy – are you still reading? – seducing and corrupt leaders. (You can find his entire uncompromising comments in 2 Peter 2).
To fight such harmful and hurting false teachers, Peter added “brotherly” kindness – to fellow believers, just for starters. “For if you possess these qualities…[and] and do these things, you will never fall” (2 Peter 1: 8, 10).
Jesus’ Healing Touch
Christ above all, however, offers the ultimate example of healing kindness, and how to apply it. Let’s recall the man who came to the Lord “covered with leprosy.” The dreaded skin disease was shunned as both a physical and spiritual ailment – leaving lepers cast out from even their own families.
Thus, calling to Jesus, the man fell on his face to the ground and pleaded: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Luke 5:12).
Jesus’ response was mercy-filled. Showing the essence of His grace, He “reached out his hand and touched the man.” Touched a man who likely hadn’t been touched in years.
Then Jesus told Him: “I am willing. ‘Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left. (Luke 5:13).
This miracle started, however, with the utter power of a kind touch. A small thing? Hardly. Kindness moves mountains! As the Lord sent the man to show himself to a priest, He knew he would be declared healed and, thus, restored to his family and community. Yes, to his life – and the sweet simplicity of it. Eating with family, talking with friends, giving and receiving hugs and affection.
Oh, the kind touch of Christ! When Peter was trying to walk on fear, but began sinking in fear, Jesus “reached out his hand and caught him,” saving Peter (Matthew 14:31). The power of kind touch can accomplish that – yes, to save us from ourselves
Ask the Lord’s kind touch to heal and enable you, and then apply it to someone else today. Yes, give a cup of cold water in His Name to someone you once despised. Then, look what happens. Together, you both will be healed. Yes, by Him.
“And great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Luke 5: 15 ESV
Do something big. Like forgive. Like forbear. Like putting down our arms. Like praying for our enemies, even listening to an enemy’s story. (Even if we don’t want to hear it.) Healing our hate always eventually comes to this – making room for the other person to be seen as a fellow human traveler.
Not ready for it, I have pushed back. I believed wrongly, for years, that forgiveness meant excusing those who have hurt me. Over time, I learned instead a life-giving truth: that forgiveness, which means “release,” first involves releasing our anger to God, allowing Him to heal both of us. Yet as the late Lewis Smedes explained so beautifully in The Art of Forgiving: “We do not forgive” – or release our hurt – “because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.”
The French have a term for such release, hor de combat. It means “out of the battle” or “outside the fight”—meaning to step back from a struggle, and not pick it up again. When we do this as a person of faith, giving our struggles to God, we let Him rule and reign. Gospel narratives—such as Jairus’ plea to Jesus to restore his dying daughter – remind us of the sheer power available when we take our worst defeat to the One who can treat it, as we let it go. Yes, release it. Is this true also for hate? Without a doubt.
I Forgive You
Thus, when an avowed white supremacist gunned down nine black church members at their Bible study in Charleston, SC, the victims’ relatives offered the releasing balm of forgiveness. “I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, the daughter of murdered 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at a bond hearing for the accused shooter, her voice breaking with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Such forgiveness shocked many. Yet as we see, forgiveness restores the hurting person’s relationship not always with the one who hurt them, but first and always with God.
I learned that the hard way. In struggles over my life to forgive racial pain, I begged God for help – but kept clawing my way back up the “rough side of the mountain,” as one gospel song says, relying on my own strength, and holding on to that pain.
Even now, as I stewed over the break with my church, I tied myself in emotional knots trying to solve my own problem. What should I do? Who should I talk to? What should I say?
The woman with the issue of blood, however, finally surrendered it all. Deemed unclean, she’d taken things into her own hands, suffering “a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had,” only getting worse (Mark 5:26). Expected to hide herself away, she would’ve endured 12 years of isolation and banishment.
Yet here she was in a crowd, doing something big and risky – defying religious law, cultural rules and common sense to seek Jesus. If anyone had noticed her, she could’ve been stoned or even killed. But something overrode that risk. She longed to be restored – to her community and to God. And, no, He hadn’t abandoned her.
But when we’re despoiled – in my case, by hate – we feel yanked apart from God. Even our seeking healing can draw barbs and stings. You want peace with “those” people? You want “them” in our church? You’d welcome “them” in our schools? You’d like “them” in our neighborhood?
We could ball up our fists, raging into a fight. Or we could put down our arms. Hors de combat. Turn from the battle. And give the fight up to God – surrendering to Him as this woman did.
Giving up her fight, she sought not even to speak to Jesus – too humbled to even look upon His face, as those in the crushing mob. Instead “she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak” (Mark 5: 27), barely reaching the hem. As she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Then right away?
Her bold, surrendered action led her to His healing. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked (Luke 8:45). Her seeking is hailed as great faith. Might we also see her faith as remarkable courage – yes, to surrender all? Here, Lord. Take my brokenness. Yes, take my sick body, but also my ailing soul?
Any anger or hate she might have felt about being ruled unclean and, thus, banished from community life would be healed along with her body. Yes, total healing. The Lord’s touch in our hearts can achieve this miracle. When it comes to hate, He alone, indeed, can wash us clean.
God the Healer
Over the months, with me, as I pondered my own misunderstanding in one situation, in particular, I could finally see my own role in it. If I hadn’t reacted, without thinking, with peevish anger and self-concern, the whole incident could’ve blown over in minutes.
If I hadn’t nursed my wounds, over and over – and over and over – and, instead, surrendered them to God, the entire thing could’ve resolved quickly.
Addressing those places where hate and rot can harbor, David finally accepted his role, too. Then He did the greater, deeper thing – exulting in the Lord’s ability to heal him. Yes, because God forgives. And God heals. And God saves. The Lord redeems our life “from the pit” and crowns us with love and compassion (Psalm 103: 3) – even if others won’t or don’t.
Yes, He does these great things. Surely, He “works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed,” David wrote. (vv. 6). He “is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (vv. 8). He “will not always accuse, nor will be harbor his anger forever (vv. 9).
Our surrender, however, activates His healing. Therefore, when we are weak, He is strong – conquering the hate that binds us, healing the hurt that confines us, lifting us to the Christ-like love we can’t achieve on our own.
Yes, before relationships are irretrievably broken, the Holy Spirit can inspire us to yield to what none of us can hardly imagine it. Yes, to respond not with division – but grandly and simply, with love.
Then, as the apostle Paul declared, we can “make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends” (Colossians 3:13). Added Paul, “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Above all, Paul said, “clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (vv. 14).
As with Joseph, we’re empowered, in Him, to let go of past disappointment and injustice, yielding those insults.
A big thing? It is, indeed. Even more, however, it is a God thing. Thus, in those places where we still hate, let us open our hearts today to the Healing Christ, letting Him gently touch our festering scars – soothing them like a balm. Lifting away pain.
When we do, putting down our arms – and turning from the fight, yielding our hearts – He takes them up with grand mercy. Can you hear His plea? Stop fighting, child. It’s time to be loved.
“When Jesus saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ As they left, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:14 Common English Bible
Go! Then love.
So go. Jesus said that astounding word again and again. According to one source, the word “go” appears about 150 times in Matthew’s gospel, and mostly spoken by Jesus. In the other gospels, says Answers.Com, we would find “almost a duplication of this.” Yes, to go.
It’s such a short word. But as Jesus speaks go, it is challenging, mind-altering, life-changing, uncompromising.
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
Go and be merciful. (Luke 10:37)
Go and drive out demons and cure diseases. (Luke 9: 1)
Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. (Luke 9:2)
Go and feed the hungry. (Luke 9:13).
Go and be reconciled to your brother. (Matthew 5:23-25)
From the lips of Christ, the word “go” isn’t an ordinary action word. His “go” is an order to love. Thus, to the 10 lepers, he said go and show yourselves to the priests, who would declare them clean. Then those healed men could return to their communities to be loved, and to love in return.
Thus, going wasn’t about just moving forward. It is going with a purpose – and in Christ, that purpose is to love.
Conquering Our Fear
I recall, indeed, when I was a child in an inner-city Denver neighborhood, as black families moved in, white families would soon flee. It was predictable – blacks in, whites out.
In her book, Waking Up White, author Debby Irving sheds light on this phenomenon, mentioning a real estate practice known as “blockbusting.” Alarming homeowners with warnings that black neighbors would send real estate values plummeting, some real estate agents sparked a pattern of white flight – built blatantly on fear.
Fear of loss. Fear of other people. Fear of being left behind. It was a twisty snarl of greed, lies, and alarm, and it worked by imparting one thing – panic. Those people will take what you have. Those people will despoil what you’ve earned. What will your people think, indeed, if you stay with those people?
In the Bible, the Army leader Naaman – another sufferer of leprosy – almost missed the chance to be cured, sadly because of his fear of what others might think. Standing outside with his fancy chariots and horses near the door of prophet Elisha’s house, Naaman leaped to offense when Elisha sent out a lowly messenger to tell Naaman to “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10).
With his pride wounded, Naaman refused. Angry, he asked, aren’t the rivers of Damascus “better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (vv. 12) So put off by Elisha’s simple instruction to go wash in the narrow and muddy Jordan, Naaman “turned and went off in a rage.”
Yes, boiling with hatred. Offended by Elisha and filled with resentment, Naaman was as sick with prideful hate as he was with leprosy.
Seeing this, Naaman’s servants went to him, saying, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (vv. 13). So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, “and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (vv. 14).
Such miraculous spiritual healing – of our own pride and hate – is available to all of us if we follow the Lord’s simple instructions. Go and be merciful. Go and be kind. Go and leave our hurt with him. Go and give love.
Since that’s too hard for mere humans, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to give us divine help. As Jesus promised on the Day of Pentecost:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Imagine the miracle of this! Struggling to love one another, we take our hate and hurt to God. At His feet, we ask Him to help us to go – yes, go with forgiving love. Failing, we ask His Holy Spirit to empower us. Then our enabled forgiveness becomes a witness for Christ. What started out as a snarl of hate, entrapping us, untangles in Christ – remaking us into witnesses for Him.
As one of the survivors of the Charleston church shooting, Daniel Simmons, said one year after the tragedy: “Everybody is doing something, whether it’s going back to school with their children, providing scholarships, whether it’s changing their lifestyles to have an opportunity to give back, to speak in different places, to travel to talk about their personal experiences, to sit down and do an interview with The New York Times. God chose the right place, the right families and the right individuals and most importantly the time.”
Another survivor, Felicia Sanders, the mother of 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders – who was killed – shielded her 11-year-old granddaughter from the assailant. Despite such trauma, she discovered that love can prevail. “I’ve met so many people within this year that I would have never met,” she told the New York Times. “So many people still coming giving their condolences. That’s unity right there. I see a lot more smiles.”
That doesn’t mean that “going and loving” is easy. Sander’s husband, Tyrone, has struggled. “I want to put on the record that I’m not there yet,” he told the Times. “I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive.”
His honesty is gripping, a clear picture of how tough, in real life, “going and loving” can be.
Could it be, however, that in Christ, the healing of hate and pain can still happen – if we’re willing to move toward what He alone can accomplish? Healing for us all? As the prophet Isaiah declared of the Lord:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
In Him, therefore, we can move out to love even when we’re overwhelmed and hurt. In Him, keep turning to love anyway.
Jesus Himself did exactly that, even when betrayed and facing arrest. His disciple Peter struck out by sword, cutting off the right ear of the servant of the high priest. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he “touched the man’s ear and healed him” (Luke 22:49-51).
His healing touch cools anger and heals!
His touch is available to each of when we go to Him with our nagging, hating, unresolved hates and hurts. Then in our going, we discover Him already waiting for us – the power of His Spirit living inside of us.
For “He Himself is our peace,” Paul exhorted discouraged new believers. Rejected by Jewish Christians with more status, they had lived “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Now in Christ, they’d been brought near to Him, but also to each other, by His blood. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (vv. 14).
Thus, in Charleston, South Carolina, when plans were unveiled for a memorial at Emanuel A.M.E. Church where the brutal shooting occurred, the city’s Mayor John Tecklenburg said the memorial will stand as a testament to the world “that love is stronger than hate.”
Perhaps that’s because the design, which features two “fellowship” benches facing each other across a gentle fountain, evolves into a narrow walkway that “symbolizes the path to forgiveness,” said a planning committee member, John Darby. As he told the Post and Courier newspaper, “As you come to the end, it’s an individual decision to forgive.” Indeed, the walkway at this particular memorial will be durable but “rough,” the designers said, alluding – in this case – to the rough passage of Africans to America, the hard road the church has walked throughout its history, and perhaps the hard road we all walk.
As we go, however, turning from hate to love. Jesus Himself calls us gently to Him, as He has called so many before us.
Healing Broken Families
Thus, to the blind beggar Bartimaeus, He called. Seeing the struggling man, begging for healing on the Jericho Road, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10: 51). And with that beautiful question, the Lord forever opened infinite possibility to all of us.
As blind Bartimaeus answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.” His answer is also ours. Wash our hate-filled eyes, O Lord, showing us the path from blind division and separation from You. What a brave plea for a broken world to finally ask. We’re broken, Lord. Show us the way back – yes, to each other, but first to You.
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately, then, Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus along the road (vv. 52).
Where was Bartimaeus going? Where will we go? Surely, first, back to our broken families, where so much hurt occurs. Consider, indeed, that Bartimaeus, “which means son of Timaeus” (vv. 47), must’ve been estranged from his family – since blindness was commonly believed to be a result of sin (John 9: 1-3), often credited to parents.
The father Timaeus, whose name means “to honor” – in seeing his son, now healed by God and having sight – would’ve rejoiced at learning how his son’s obedience honored the Lord.
Imagine your joy to be restored to your family (and other relationships) broken by personal divides – stirred, yes, by politics, religion, cultural shifts and more.
What an honor to God to let Him heal our divisions and breaks. We get restored, yes. More important, He is exalted. Let us rush, then to forgive – and to love – because love honors Him.
Thus, I sit this morning at my desk, reading about King Jehoshaphat. Yes, I’m a reading a war story. Thus, enemies abound –armies on every side. The Moabites, Ammonites, “and some of the Meunites” have come to wage war against this overwhelmed king (2 Chronicles 20: 1-25).
As the armies amass, Jehoshaphat is terrified. Fear steps in, yes, consuming him. Begging God for guidance, Jehoshaphat orders everyone in Judah to begin fasting. Standing before them, Jehoshaphat then prays. Yes, an amazing prayer. It’s an “O LORD!” prayer (vv. 6-12). Such a prayer we’ve prayed ourselves – in the midnight hour, when we’ve felt overwhelmed, feeling surrounded and hated by enemies, exactly as with Jehoshaphat.
As the men of Judah stand before the Lord, however – with their little ones, wives and children – and as Jehoshaphat prays, something remarkable happens.
The Spirit of the Lord arrives.
Reading this war story over my lifetime, multiple times, I confess with great regret that I have overlooked that. Indeed, that when the enemy of hate is amassed around us, terrifying us, or consuming us – leaving us fearful of strangers, and even of friends or family who conflict with us, and feel like enemies to us – our Help is at hand.
Thus, in this story:
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there” (vs. 14). He was Jahaziel, son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph.
Those are a lot of names, indeed. May we pay close attention, however, because the name Jahaziel means “God sees.” Or, says Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, it means “He Will Be Seen of God.”
Now, what about you? Feeling unseen in your battle as hate amasses? This war story assures us that God sees our struggles against hate, no matter its source. Even more:
“This is what the Lord says,” Jahaziel says. “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (vs. 15 nlt).
Sure, stand up to these enemies, in a show of godly strength. And then? Stand still – and “watch the Lord’s victory” (vs. 17).
He is with you, declares Jahaziel. He sees you. And He will fight for you. We can rejoice at the same stunning promise in Isaiah 41:10.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Running all over struggling to strengthen ourselves to battle hate in the world may seem like a solid plan. We see a far better way, however, in God’s Word. Let GOD handle it.
Let GOD heal our hate.
Let Him go before us. Let Him deal with enemies. No, this doesn’t mean we sit on our hands, just bemoaning the state of the world – its divisions, hurts and evil. When we put God before it all, however, we let Him guide what we do in these struggles. Abiding in His divine Presence, we can put down our arms, yielding, allowing Him to infuse all we do with Himself.
This is His work in the world, but first in us.
As scholar Jemar Tisby says, this Jesus, this Immanuel, “crossed every barrier between people, including the greatest barrier of all – the division between God and humankind. He is our peace, and because of his life, death, resurrection, and coming return, those who believe in Jesus not only have God’s presence with us but in us through the Holy Spirit.”
What results is His power, enabling us to give Him our hate – as He walks with us on this journey.
Or as the Lord told Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, italics mine).
When it comes to hate, therefore, we can stop our struggling. We have the power within us to let God heal and handle it.
With healed hearts, we then see one another with full humanity – giving each other enough grace to find each other as friends.
Thus, on a summer day in June, I returned to my former church.
Not to confront anyone – or for a meeting. Not to discuss – or to debate. Instead, I go to a wedding.
Therefore, Jesus is there.
It’s summer in Colorado, so the day is near perfect. Blue sky and sunshine, flowers and gifts, music and laughing, a beautiful bride and groom. And a loving touch.
I keep getting that from friends I haven’t seen in almost two years.
“Oh Pat! It’s so good to see you!”
I say the same things. I missed you. Love that dress. Love your hair!
The human species is social. So soon, without much effort, we’re all saying what matters most:
I love you.
True, it’s hard to say sometimes. When we’re battling in our own strength, saying these words, and meaning it, are flat-out impossible. But with Christ? Loving words are a good way to start. I see you. I miss you. I hear you. I love you. Then, the rest of the work is His.
I understand that now, seeking not the perfect ending – tied up in a pretty ribbon – with all of my own human complexity sorted out and resolved. Or even with my church membership figured out. Instead, in this life, the Lord simply says this: go and love.
So I went to a wedding. Jesus was there. He was more than enough. He always is. More than our confusion. More than our fear. More than our refusal to turn back to Him. More than our hate. Waiting in love, He welcomes us with His gentle touch. “Follow me,” He is calling. As we give up our hurt and hate to Him, may He grace our torn places with His healing.