In the final days of his earthly walk, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, berated, tortured and finally crucified on a wooden cross. Even as he hung there with blood trickling down his face, hands and feet, people stood jeering and mocking him. The Son of God, who had the power to call an army of angels to lift him from that rugged piece of wood, remained there, taking in every hate-filled word.
Here we are, more than 2,000 years later, and we still crucify him today. We do it through our words and actions. Yet Jesus reminds us:
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” — John 15:18 (NIV)
What we saw at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, a few months ago was pure hate. Authorities say one man faces hate crime charges for setting fire to the historic church on more than one occasion as well as slashing tires on church property and the surrounding area.
Growing up as a child of the 1960s and watching how race divided our nation then and continues to divide us now, I’m still taken aback by actions such as these. How can the color of someone’s skin cause so much hate? God commanded us to love one another, not pick and choose who we love.
Buildings can be replaced. Tires can be repaired or replaced. But the words and meaning associated with these actions pierce our very soul and we cry out to God and ask why.
This church, despite the actions of one, has a rich history of faith and service to its community. We are heartened by this congregation’s drive to keep loving, praying and working for the glory of God.
While on the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who were mocking and jeering him. MLK Community Presbyterian Church is doing the same. As its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Terrlyn Curry Avery, recently said, “We believe healing is possible, and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., only love can drive out hate. Thus, we will continue to spread love.”
Let this be an example for all of us to follow.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)