Last Sunday morning somewhere in deep east Texas a momma came into her son's room and said, "Sonny, it’s time to get up. Time to go to church." He rolled over in bed and said, "I ain't going. I don't want to go to church." She said, "Sonny, we go through this every Sunday. Get up! It's time to go to church." He said, “Maw, I ain't going - you can't make me! Tell me two good reasons why I should go to that church. I’ll tell you what, those people at that church hate me and I hate them. Give me two good reasons why I should go to that church.” She said, "Sonny, okay. One, you're forty-five years old and two, you're the pastor of that church. You gotta go!” Poor guy. He thought everybody hated him and he hated those folks.
Do you remember the first time you ever hated or perhaps were the object of someone's hate? I have a vivid memory of the first time I ever hated. I was about six years old. We came home from a family vacation, pulled up in the driveway, the car door flew open, and I ran to the backyard to see my dog, Princess. Princess was an ADHD wire haired terrier. I’m not sure that’s an actual breed but that was what I was told she was. When I got to the backyard Princess wasn't there. I ran around looking for Princess, but couldn't find her. A few minutes later my sister's twelve year old friend, who had been taking care of Princess, came over and she was crying uncontrollably. Come to find out, someone had poisoned Princess while we were gone on vacation. We all assumed it was the guy who lived behind us, who always griped and complained because Princess barking so much. We assumed he did it, although I never knew for sure. I can vividly remember sitting in my window with my elbows up, looking through the backyard at this guy's house, crying and sobbing uncontrollably. I remember screaming out "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" To my knowledge, he was the first person I ever hated. And after I was saying "I hate you! I hate you," I starting crying out, "Bring her back. Bring her back. God, please bring her back." First two people (or divine being) I ever hated, to my knowledge, were the person who poisoned my dog and God for letting it happen. I apparently had a pretty good theology of God’s omnipotence but I was questioning His judgment in letting people do as they please.
Later on in life, I was going to meet a guy for lunch to talk about taking over the high school Sunday school class. So I had this spiritual meeting to go to, at a restaurant in a part of Houston I had never been to. I had directions. So I am driving down the Gulf freeway looking for the Wayside exit and I am looking at my directions. Local Christian radio is playing. I have it turned up real loud and I'm singing along with B.J Thomas to his song, The Old Rugged Cross. I have it turned up real loud so I can't hear myself (that's the way I prefer to sing). I'm driving along and I'm looking. There's South Wayside. There's a one way, I can't turn left so I go right through an intersection and I hit an elderly couple from Alvin. There was this one traffic apparatus I failed to see. It was the thing that has three different colored lights and at the time the particular light was a red hue. I drove through it and I ran right straight into them. I totaled my car and was pinned in it until the EMT'S arrived and started talking to me. During that time I learned there was a coffee mug of some sort in the couple’s car. The mug flew around and hit the women in the forehead. Her face was bleeding badly and her husband came over to my car while I’m still pinned in it. He asked me, “Why did you run that red light?” You could see the contempt and disgust in his eyes just looking at me. And with tears in my eyes, I said, "I am so sorry." And he said, "You sure are," and he turned and walked off. I had no doubt in my mind that he hated me and quite frankly, I agreed with him.
Once while in college, I was following a bus on Sunday morning that picked up kids to take them to Sunday school and this bus was called the Joy Bus. I pulled up behind them and the sign on the back of it said, "Follow the Joy Bus to Sweet Home Baptist Church." As I looked up in the window and there were two boys slapping and hitting another boy and I thought, “This is not the Joy Bus.” That is some other kind of bus and I am hoping that when the Joy Bus arrives at Sweet Home he has a better experience. But unfortunately he is not on the Joy Bus. That bus, I would suggest to you, is more like the hate bus or the family violence bus, but it is not the Joy Bus.
I think when we are young, we're driving along through life - things happen to us, we cross people's paths and we hate them. And we have this bus we call the hate bus. When we hate somebody, when they offend us, when they sin against us, or hurt us in some way, we throw them on our hate bus. Get on there. Take your seat. Find your place. We're driving along, someone else comes along, and we throw them on the hate bus. Now we are young adults, or older adults, and we may have a bus load of people on our hate bus.
Everybody has a bus like this. I mean everybody. No one is immune. We get a hate bus driver’s license while we are quite young and we drive that thing till we become quite good at it. Being a hate bus driver and a follower of Christ is really problematic for our faith. Not to mention it creates a great deal of emotional problems related to resentment and bitterness. It also presents an incredibly confusing picture to a world that wonders if believing in Christ is even relevant or not. Non-Christian onlookers call this hypocrisy because most of them know it’s not the way of Jesus.
I John 2:9...Anyone who claims to be in the light, but hates his brother is still in the darkness.
Mark Twain said, "If Jesus were to come back, there is one thing he wouldn't be and that is a Christian." Bertrand Russell, an English scholar and an atheist said, "I would be a Christian if it weren't for the fact I've met so many of them." Gandhi said, "I would be a Christian but I have never met one who lived out the Sermon on the Mount." One of my favorite surveys was done several years ago by the Texas Department of Corrections, in which eighty percent of the inmates claimed to be Baptists. Perhaps for years one of the things you raised up as an obstacle to coming to Christ or coming back to Christ at this time was the fact that so many of us are hypocrites. On behalf of myself and all my close friends, I just want to say to you, you are absolutely right. You're accurate. We struggle with hypocrisy in our lives, we really do. We struggle with wanting to hate people who poison our puppies and also at the same time wanting to worship and love God. It's a difficult thing, sometimes a very difficult thing.
Think about your hate bus. Who’s on it? When did you throw them on? I have a friend who said her bus is the size of Dallas. That’s a big bus but it’s not that unusual. Have you grown fatigued of living the life of a Christ follower while simultaneously driving a big ‘ole hate bus around? Hypocrisy is a difficult way to live. It shows up in all kinds of ways (usually as a symptom of a different problem). Start developing the picture of your hate bus and its occupants. I’ll spend the next few blogs sharing the process of pulling the bus over and emptying the riders off on the curb. My prayer is that you’ll become dissatisfied with being the hate bus driver.
God bless. I welcome your comments. Matt.