By Joel A. Hess –
Recently, our former president, with good intentions I’m sure, tweeted a Nelson Mandela quote, “No one is born hating another person because of his race, background, or religion….” It has quickly become one of the most liked tweets of all time. At first glance, it’s easy to like and retweet. Just look at a cute baby! They don’t know anything about race or hate. Just ask them!
Yet, have you ever watched two toddlers play together? I have a of couple kids of my own, and I work at a place that teaches and cares for lots of kids. I have yet to see these mythical children who love everyone! I have seen toddlers beat, bite, steal, ignore, and tattle tale on each other. I suppose we can teach them to be cleverer at it.
Beyond this empirical evidence that all people are born self-centered and combative against everyone else, Holy Scripture states the same.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul quotes a variety of old testament sources writing,
There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Whether he meant to or not, David Bowie says it well in his song Blackstar: “We were born upside down, born the wrong way ‘round.”
Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their kids have been made in their rebellious image. This doesn’t just mean rebellion against the creator, but against one another.
Can you, should you teach people not to hate each other? To some degree, God has set up governments to do just that. Laws in most societies curb murder, stealing, etc. Can you remove it from peoples’ hearts through education? Well, that’s a whole other matter. There have been a lot of really smart people throughout the years who have done a whole lot of murdering of people they didn’t like. They are doing it today in clean and civilized medical offices.
Rightfully, we have laws that protect people from being murdered or robbed, and we teach against this in school whether religious or not.
But we are still going to have robbers, murderers, and racists because the robbers, murderers, and racists are in all our hearts—mine included, and probably yours.
Even Bruce Springsteen mentions this obvious truth as he describes what he likes about one of his favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, “She got to the heart of some part of meanness that she never spelled out, because if she spelled it out you wouldn’t be getting it. It was always at the core of every one of her stories– the way that she’d left that hole there, that hole that’s inside of everybody. There was some dark thing—a component of spirituality—that I sensed in her stories, and that set me off exploring characters of my own. She knew original sin—she knew how to give it the flesh of the story.” Will Percy, “Rock and Ready: Will Percy Interviews Bruce Springsteen,” Doubletake No. 12, 1999.
As in O’Connor’s writings, you can’t just teach away this meanness. You have to kill it. I’m not talking about Normandy or Gettysburg, virtuous endeavors for sure. I’m talking about an altogether different more permanent killing.
You can’t teach this meanness away. It needs to die. Sin and sinner need to die! Therefore, the only one who was not racist, sexist, or a bigot was killed. Jesus. He wasn’t killed as martyr for a cause. He took the bullet, the needle, the hangman’s noose, the cross on purpose. Upon Him, all our meanness was laid. He bore all our hate and sin.
While indeed our Lord teaches us how to love and whom to love in His Word, He does better than that. He gives us love by killing away our sins in Baptism and giving us His Spirit to see the world as He sees it: sinners in need of a savior, haters in need of a lover.