By J. Hogan
There’s a one hit wonder – with a one-word title – from the 1990s by a woman named Meredith Brooks that starts, “I hate the world today.”
Some days that sentiment resonates with me more than I like to acknowledge. So many things are difficult from inflation to war to social and political divisions that scream the truth that we seem to have forgotten how to live and let live and accept that everyone’s not alike… and all of that eats at me.
I don’t like to acknowledge it because my job is to not get sucked into the fray. My Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, and Rescuer – who also happens to be my hero – looked down from the Roman Cross upon which the very people he came to save had seen to His execution and said as He died “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
The world was upside down and mad when He arrived on the scene. Jerusalem, the City of Peace – as ironically named as our modern day City of Brotherly Love, known locally as “Killadelphia” – was conquered and under the violent thumb of Caesar.
Executions were commonly used as a way to keep the people in line and in fear, and within the city’s walls spies and traitors popped up like spring dandelions as shady people sought the good graces of the Romans at the expense of their neighbors.
In my lifetime that same fearful betrayal was a key to the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, where telling the man at the corner shop you disagreed with the war in Afghanistan could have you awakened at night by jackbooted thugs sent to drag you off to a Siberian work camp for a decade or so.
When the Soviets took over Russia under Trotsky and Lenin during the Bolshevik Revolution, the first thing they did, after killing the Czar and his family, was outlaw religion. They understood that a faithless people get in line and stay in line much easier than a people whose allegiances are to a higher authority, and some people of faith would dig in and refuse to go along with the cold and immoral administration of people like herded cattle.
We’re paying a price in America as more and more people drift away from faith, in ways predictable and other ways only coming to light as the consequences of such manifest.
The brilliant Benjamin Franklin said at the time of our country’s founding “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” We’ve become more corrupt and vicious, more adrift in a sea of outcomes we neither like nor desire to change ourselves to cease reaping… and we neither want masters. So we inch closer to chaos.
Again, I don’t like it.
But it’s my job to love the people. To look beyond the mess and share hope. To honor my Lord by looking into the face of it all and begging our Father to have mercy and forgive us, to give us another day to labor and hope and pray and reach out with His message of love and redemption.
I said goodbye to my friend John Force this past week. The cigarettes got him in the end. When I met him, he was a feisty, fighting, uncouth man filled with anger… and over the course of several years he came to know Jesus and I watched him change and grow.
Did that make him perfect while he was with us? No. But it showed that loving an unlikable person, looking beyond his shortcomings and hoping on his behalf could open a door to something spectacular. He was a few years into a transformation that was a miracle in itself, and now I trust he’s experiencing the spectacular and we’ll see him again someday.
Even as I mourn his being gone from us, preparing for his memorial service reminds me that we can all, like the song says, “Hate the world today”… but it’s our place to love the people. God can do really amazing things with that.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.