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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

10 Things I Hate About Me

2014-06-06 Romans 7:15-25a

“10 Things I Hate About Me”


“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Nobody here has this problem, right? Oh, thank goodness. We can all go home early.

But before we all go slipping out the back door, the Apostle Paul’s gonna grab us by the collar and drag us back in. “Not so fast, there,” he says. That’s one of the things I hate about Paul. He’s always using himself as an example, even of the bad stuff. I mean, this is the Bible. Not Facebook. It’s supposed to give us good examples. Paul uses bad language and he’s not good at all with punctuation. Moses gave us 10 Commandments, but Paul gives us at least 10 things he hates about himself. In other scriptures he also gives us at least 10 things he hates about other people, but that’s another sermon. Like a lot of us, Paul loved going off on a good rant, even if he was the target. He probably hated that about himself, too.




They say that the things you hate most in other people are really the things you hate most about yourself. That is SO wrong. Like, when you’re hustling into Kroger to pick up one thing and the person in front of you stops dead right on the other side of the Starship Enterprise sliding doors. Gazing around as if they’ve never been in a supermarket this magnificent before. “Look at all the checkout aisles! But strangely only two have their lights on.” I hate that.


Those online quizzes about “Which Disney Character Are You?” They make me grumpy. I hate those too.


I’m always courteous to people in the grocery store. And even if I did wonder which Disney Princess I am, I wouldn’t share it with the world.


OK, maybe hate’s too strong a word for this stuff. Naaah. The annoyances build up, don’t they? They build up to where there’s this sense of righteous loathing and Dr. Phil says it’s unhealthy to keep those feelings bottled up.


So let’s get it out. Let’s do an exercise. Don’t worry, it’s not physical exercise because I hate that, too. On the back of your bulletin, in that nifty new “Notes” section, if you haven’t already filled it up, draw a line down the middle.


On the left side, think of some things that you really hate when people do. Just whatever comes off the top of your head. Doesn’t have to be world-shaking, just you-shaking. What makes your insides quiver and boil? Nobody will see this except for the person who empties the Recycle Basket in the hallway.


Now, let’s move on to Part B of this little exercise. And you knew this was coming. On the right-hand side of the page, list some things that you do that you really wish you didn’t. Maybe something that you’ve been told by someone who lives in your home is kind of, occasionally, maybe a little annoying. If you’re really self-aware, you might list something deep and awful that you really do hate about yourself. Don’t put your name on these. Or, you could put someone else’s name.


So, after you get finished, think about both sides. Is there a connection between what you hate in other people and what you hate in yourself? Or, maybe what you hate in other people and what you’re AFRAID of in yourself. Like, if you really hate it when you see someone pick their nose, is it because you’re afraid someone’s gonna see you even though your car windows are rolled up?


Maybe it’s true. Maybe the things we hate in others are the things we secretly hate most about ourselves. Maybe there’s no difference. Maybe the hatred is what we have in common. That would be sad.




Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.”


Do you remember the cartoons where the character has the little angel version of himself on one shoulder, and the little devil version on the other? And they’re both whispering to him?


“Shoot the wabbit! Shoot the wabbit!”

“Shoot the duck! Shoot the duck!”


Some people believe that angels and demons are physically around them and within them, fighting battles for their soul. Other people will say that using MRIs and experiments we can prove that different sides of our brains, or different parts really can and do believe different things.


Logically, we know that eating that last piece of pizza before bedtime is not good for us. We know that. We know it’s going to negate the exercise we did after work. But it looks sooooo good. And it would take up space in the refrigerator. And you’d have to use plastic wrap to cover it, which is bad for the environment. So, for the good of the planet….


God gave us these amazing, rational minds, that can rationalize just about any bad behavior. “The devil made me do it!” No. You chose to do it.


And back in just slightly AD, the Apostle Paul was in tune enough, and honest enough about his own addictions that he could write what to one degree or another all of us can say.


He said, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”


Like somebody in AA, confessing her addiction to substances, Paul confesses his addiction. Only the substance he’s addicted to is sin. He confesses he’s under the power of sin, sin that takes what is good and twists even his best efforts into contorted shadows of his intentions. Sin that is the abuser of our personal substance. Wretched men, wretched women that we are, who will rescue us from this body, this nature, this infection of thought and action?




Now. I know this is veering dangerously close to the Children’s Sermon Question Zone, where the right answer is always, “Jesus.” Just believe in Jesus and everything will be OK.


I ran across this quote last week by, of all people, Louis C.K. If you don’t know Louie, he’s kind of like this generation’s George Carlin. He’s funny because he’s painfully honest. And he said this:


“I have a lot of beliefs and I live by none of ‘em. That’s just the way I am. They’re just my beliefs. I just like believing them. I like that part.”


I’d like to think Louie and Paul would have been friends. Because they say kind of the same thing. Nobody had stronger faith in Jesus than the Apostle Paul. He believed so strongly that he made it into the Bible. But Paul also knew very well that a lot of times his beliefs were exactly that, beliefs, that he liked believing, and owning. His beliefs were like hypothetical position papers. He felt good about having beliefs. He clung to them. He was clingy that way. He couldn’t let his beliefs run free into his actions, no matter how he tried. Not because he was the victim of some sort of spiritual warfare, and not because his brain had too many sections, but because that’s just the way he was. And Paul knew it was the same for pretty much everybody.


Trying to figure out WHY we do exactly what we don’t want to do is OK, up to a point. It can be helpful. But even the best figuring is shaded by our selfish interests. Figuring out why can be helpful, but in the end does it really matter? We spend so much time figuring. Maybe we should spend a little more confessing. Just confessing. Confessing that we’ve got a problem. Confessing we’ve got a problem and we can’t fix it, or out-figure it, without the help of a higher power, or – as we say here in church – THE higher power, the HIGHEST power, that comes through Jesus Christ.


“Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”


Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord, who suffered death. Christ suffered death NOT as penalty for doing the things he hated, but because he did good for people who hated him. For breaking the power of sin by doing what is right, even at the cost of his life.




Do one more thing for me. Look back at those lists you made in the Notes section. That list with the line down the middle of the page. Now, do this. Or if you don’t have quick access to a pencil, imagine this. Maybe take the list with you and do this part at home.


See that line in the middle? About maybe a third of the way down from the top of that line, make a horizontal line across it. Not a long line, maybe half the size of the first one. What do you have now?


A cross.


In the middle of all the things you hate, hate about other people, and hate about yourself, in the middle of all that ugliness, right there, that’s where God puts the cross of Christ. God doesn’t plant the cross in some beautiful field, or on a peaceful mountaintop. God forms the cross smack in the middle of the ugliest, most hateful parts of ourselves. Because that’s where we need it. We need that cross in the worst places. We need that cross in our heart’s darkest corners, because that’s where we need light of Christ the most.


Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who takes the ten or two hundred things we hate the most, and plants between them the cross of salvation as a sign and assurance that even our most messed up parts are redeemed through the love and hope of Christ.


This week when something or someone on your list starts to royally tick you off, think on that cross. Think on that cross and offer up Paul’s honest prayer.


“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”