It’s amazing how much hate love has inspired over the last 2000 years of Christianity. Our readings this Sunday reflect some of that. While they all send the message “God is love,” as Jesus says in our gospel reading (Jn 15:9-17), “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The sad thing is, most of Jesus’s disciples proved his statement. Eventually almost all of them were martyred for love of God and man—as exemplified by their preaching the gospel.
Their mission started with their spiritual rebirth and eventually ended with the last breath of their earthly lives. Listening to people preach God’s love has never been a popular pastime among those on the receiving end who were without love. In fact it’s threatening to those whose god is fear and who use that fear to control others.
As John writes in our second reading (1 Jn 4:7-10), “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”
But it’s the first reading from Acts (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48) that implies an “us” vs. “them” attitude, especially among the new community of believers. The “them” in this case are the gentiles, the black sheep God wanted to add to his flock so they could feed on his good news.
“The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God,” this passage reads. Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”
Gentiles were considered unclean, like animals, among those who considered themselves “chosen people.” And among the leaders of that and succeeding ages, Christianity was a threat because it siphoned allegiance away from them. Crucifixion was used to address that problem then. Today beheadings are the sanction of choice for those who despise and fear the love of God.
Nevertheless, Christianity is stronger than ever—and hated as ever in some parts of the world. Love is strong because love is God. To keep love in your heart, all you need is the courage that faith gives you. Hate needs the power of lies to keep it alive. When you bring the truth of God’s love into people’s lives, pray that hate will run out—or die trying.