Everybody hates something about the world. At least, if you’re paying attention you do.
Recently it seems that we have lots of things to hate. Election season always brings new caricatures for everyone to hate. We find the political face to place at the center of our proverbial dartboard and then we throw our verbal darts. Actually, we light our darts on fire and throw them really hard, again and again. Everything we fear and hate becomes a candidate’s name.
More seriously, we watch the news and we hate what we see. The Villains of the world bring violence and bloodshed and fear. ISIS/Daesh plot these awful, bloody scenes of destruction in the Middle East and Europe. Innocent people about the business of their lives are ripped to shreds and blood spills pursuing fiery, unattainable dream. Our future feels murkier because of them and we hate them for it.
We hate hatred in the world. We hate the easy racism of our day that clothes itself in self-righteous assurance that no racism can be found close to home. We hate disease that takes kids, parents, and our beloved. We hate natural disasters that wipe aside whole swathes of people.
We hate hate hate all that.
And when we’re not distracted, our hateful gaze turns inward. And we shudder under our own gaze.
We see things about ourselves that we despise. For some of us, we hate the way we look. We hate our fleshiness, the persistent folds of our skin that will not shrink and stretch taught. We hate the scars. We hate our disproportionate smallness or tallness. In all of this, we hate that biology and culture has conspired to deem our faces unacceptable and unlovely. Unchangeably, unspeakably unlovely.
We look past our skin and peer deeper still to the things about our innermost lives that disgust us. Some of us are unstoppably lazy, every moment dragged through the syrup of distraction or obsessive need for ease. Some of us are insatiable workaholics, simultaneously generating and incinerating meaning with obsessive, ever-lengthening task lists. Many of us, single or married or dating, have sexual appetites that ravenously consume more and more and more, a hunger that cannot be fulfilled. Many of us crave comfort and security, so we bend our thoughts on worrying about what threatens us or hoarding what we estimate to be our best defense against danger. We binge, we purge, we drink, we rage, we quake, we spend, we save, we earn, we hate hate hate hate these darkest portions of who we are. We don’t necessarily hate ourselves. But we hate that one thing about ourselves. Or those two things. Or three. And we are tempted to fill out the list and hate ourselves entirely. We hate the darkness we cannot shake.
The darkness that seeps from the inside out and the outside in. The darkness that shrouds our vision when we let ourselves look too long or look too deeply at anything around us. We want to work our way, change our way, educate our way away from this darkness, but we, the most educated people in history, have not scribbled our way away from the darkness that has plagued us from before we were writing down our stories.
We want to be free. We think that hate is the problem, so we try to be free of hate. We hate hate. Let’s scrub it from our stories.
But there is a special kind of hate that comes only with love. There is a kind of hate that love demands. You may think yourself above hate, but when you have a child, imagine how you would feel if your child was threatened, imperiled, abused. The rage, the hate that flows through your veins is telling you some truth about love: it hates whatever destroys your Love.
And this is why Good Friday is so good.
Many of the things that we hate in the world and the things that we hate in ourselves are not hate-worthy because of personal injury or because you happen to hate them. They are hate-worthy because they are objectively terrible. They are flaws in the painting, fissures in the stained glass window. Good Friday, though, tells us that God is on our side. That he too sees those things and, because he loves what and who he has made, he hates them.
And because he hates, he brings wrath.
God’s wrath is not uncontrollable rage. It is not blind emotionalism. It is God’s love crying out in hatred of what has marred what he loves. It is his justice expressed. Some people, Christians and non-Christians alike, squirm uncomfortably at the Cross and the theology of atonement, as if Jesus is being abused or God is out of control in his rage.
But the Cross is telling us that we are right about what we see. That evil in the world, the evil in us is real and really does fracture and destroy. The Cross tells us that God agrees with our judgment and, in fact, judges it more clearly and effectively than our pitiful disgust. We hate our sin, this evil as both victim and participant. God hates this evil as Father, as the offended party. So in his compassion, in his love, he seeks to destroy what destroys his Beloved.
The God of the Cross is a God of wrath is a God of love. There is no grisly, scary caricature of a petty god on the Cross. There is only the God who is love, loving his people, hating what enslaves them. His hatred is not for us, whom he loves, but for the evil that we give ourselves over to, both willingly and without thought. We hate these things about ourselves that we cannot change. And God hates them more. And instead of consuming us because we keep giving ourselves over to thing that destroys us, God drops the gavel and puts his own neck under the executioners axe.
This, Jesus did willingly. Obediently, yes. But willingly. Because Father, Son, Spirit, the 3-in-1 God is loving by his nature. Jesus offers himself for the rescue of us all. Because he hates. Because he loves.
We want evil to die. We want ISIS and injustice and plague and unfair definitions of beauty and laziness and insatiable sexual appetite and workaholism…. we want it all to die. And the only way we see the death of what we hate is to allow the hate of God to bring him death. Love opens the door to freedom by letting the lid of the coffin fall on Love embodied.
On Good Friday, we are not afraid of the darkness. We are not afraid of the wrath. We tremble, yes. We tremble at the sight of wrath’s holy power. We are in awe at wrath’s terrible justice. But we know that Love is there, wielding wrath. And so Good Friday is awful. It is terrible.
And it is our salvation. Wrath, then, is lovely. It is Love unleashed.