In this sermon, Rev. Murray talks about anger as a natural product of struggle and human relationships. He reminds his congregation that even when you are broken or empty, God is always there. And when you do succeed, stay humble and do not take advantage of the situation.
During his 27 years as the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods. After the 1992 civil unrest, FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the church, brought more than $400 million in investments to L.A.’s minority and low-income neighborhoods. Rev. Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
The Murray Archive preserves Rev. Murray‘s sermons and interviews in order to inspire the next generation of pastors, activists and scholars.
Following is a lightly edited transcript of the above sermon. To quote from the sermon, please provide credit to: Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Murray Archives, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
“Hating Me Until You Need Me”
October 14, 1998
Everybody, come on and say, “Catch the fire! Catch the fire, catch the fire.”
Don’t let the fire of hatred burn you up. Hatred destroys the one hating. Come on and complete this sentence, “What goes around…”
Hate is going around. Everywhere you go, you run into hate. I hope none is here in your seat, in your lobby here, in the pulpit, in the choir stand. What goes around? The person who hates you will end up coming back to you. Judges 11, verse seven: But Jephthah said to them, “Why do you come to me when you hate me, and have driven me out of my father’s house?”
Why come now, when you in trouble? Let’s talk on the subject: hating me until you need me.
In this world, in this world, there are users. There are people who will use you. If you ever been used, raise your hand. In this world, oh my Lord, there are the users, and there are the used. Now, if you’re gonna be used, don’t feel too badly. Don’t feel too badly. Just make sure you’re being used by God. But don’t you become a user just because you are used. Jephthah is used. Jephthah is the son of a prostitute, and his half-brothers despise him because of that. They call him a son-of-a-whore. They blame him for his mother, and this seems so unfair, and so ridiculous. I thought the mother was responsible for the son, not the son for the mother. I didn’t think you had anything to do with how you got here. I didn’t know anybody who had anything to do with who their mother was, or who their father was. That’s why I heard God say, “When your mother and your father forsake you, then the Lord will take you in.”
They called him an outside child. Somebody here has been called an outside child. Somebody here’s mother wasn’t all that you would’ve wanted your mother to be. But you ought to hear the point, saying for God, “Though his beginnings be but poor and low, thank God almighty, a man can grow!
When you look at the Book of Judges, and the judges were the ones who ruled Israel before they started having kings. The judges were the chief people in the nation. Jephthah goes on to become preeminent among the judges, but for right now, Jephthah is a nobody. The community elders, the wise people of the village, the wise people of the nation, call him “a nobody.” They ostracize him, they put him out of the communities. They say, “You are a nobody.” But let you learn something this morning from the Holy Spirit of almighty God. With God, nobody is a nobody!
Tomorrow we will eulogize the son of a sharecropper, who became the first Black mayor of a major city in the United States of America. Somebody here knows what it is to be the grandson or granddaughter of a sharecropper. Somebody here knows what it is to be the great grandson, the great granddaughter of a slave people. Somebody here knows what they are talking about when they say, “With God, nobody is nobody.” Everybody is somebody. Everybody is somebody.
I love you whether you wearing chains or not. I love you whether you are hungry or not. I love you whether you sin or not. Nobody is a nobody. I’m a child of the King! With Jesus, my Savior, I’m a child of the King! Call me anything you want to. Call me an outside child, but I’m inside the love of God. It’s not where you’re coming from that counts. Its where you’re going to that counts.
Don’t cry because of where you’re coming from. Rejoice in where you’re going! Jephthah was almost going crazy. You know people can run you out your mind picking on you. Why do you think God’s people are so angry all the time? ‘Cause we get tired of being called outsiders! We get tired of being picked on all the time. In the counseling chambers I stay on the sisters. Sisters, don’t become a sapphire. Sisters, don’t let that anger eat you up. Sister, don’t go around with a frown on your face all the time. I can look at it, though, and understand why. If you’ve been mistreated ever since you were 15 years old, that’s bound to make you angry. If you can’t get a job ’cause you a woman, and a Black woman, that’s bound to make you angry.
I want to tell you you’ve been rebuked and scorned, but I know somebody who loves you this morning. God is on your side.
Jephthah praised Him! He goes into the streets, and because he has such natural strengths, he becomes preeminent in the streets. We are wasting a lot of material by labeling them and putting them on the outside. If you can make it on the streets, you can make it anywhere.
They called his people he was running with, in Hebrew, they called them “the empty people.” They called them “the broken people.” Jephthah becomes the leader of “the empty people,” of “the broken people.” But Jephthah in this place, this morning, will tell you and me, don’t ever call anybody empty, because no matter how empty you are, God can fill you! No matter how broken you are, God can mend the pieces! God just says, “Bring me the pieces. Bring me the pieces. I’ll fix them up. Bring me your load. I’ll bear it. I’ll share it. If you only bring it to me. And when you’re empty, there is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s vein.”
Is anybody here empty this morning? Is anybody here broken this morning? Don’t give up! God can fix you up. Nurse complains to the chaplain, “Patients at times take advantage of me. Chaplain, they talk to me as if I’m a dog. I don’t know if I can stand it much longer, the way these patients treat me!”
Chaplain said, “They treat you poorly? Yes, praise be to God! Praise be to God! Glory be to God!”
Nurse says, “Chaplain, I tell you the people treat me badly, and you said glory be to God. Why?”
“Well, it’s like you were carrying a vessel, and this vessel was filled with liquid. And somebody bumped into you, brushed into you. You can only spill out what’s on the inside in the first place. When people bump into you, you can only spill out what’s on the inside in the first place! When your importunity comes, your importunity is God’s opportunity.”
So that you carry this vessel through life. You ought to pray somebody bumps into you! You can’t spill out moonshine if on the inside you’ve got sunshine. Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy! You dare to hurt me on the outside if God is on the inside? God is on the inside!
Your importunity is God’s opportunity. God don’t always provide you an opportunity when somebody treats you poorly. The Ammonites attacked the Israelites, and the Ammonites are a powerful force. The Ammonites take no prisoners, and Israel is trembling. Those same elders, the council of elders that put Jephthah out, come to Jephthah: “We want you to be our captain. We want you to lead us. We want you to take charge of every blade of grass.”
And Jephthah asked them, in the words of our Scripture, “Why do you come to me now? You put me out. You ostracized me. You called me the son-of-a-whore. You said I was a nobody. Why do you come to me now, when you in trouble?”
And they’re honest enough to say, “We come to you now because we are in trouble! We have nobody with the strength of Jephthah. We have nobody with the charisma of Jephthah. We want you to be our captain!”
And Jephthah says, “You want me only for a season and a reason. And then when we shall have won the war, you’re going to abandon me.”
And they said, “Oh, no! Even after the war, you’re going to be the chief of our judges. God will make a way somehow.”
Jephthah accepts the commendation. Jephthah wins the victory. I want to tell you that if you’re right, He’ll be fighting your battles. I want to tell you this morning, God is your strength and your shield. God will make your enemies your footstool. God will wake you up when it’s time for battle. God will pin a medal in your chest!
Well, Jephthah told me to tell you some things this morning. Jephthah told me to tell you when your enemies hurt you, don’t you hurt them. Don’t you give an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, an insult for an insult. Jephthah told me to tell you, when somebody’s mean to you, don’t you be mean back to them. God says, “Be still, and I’ll make your enemies your footstool.”
Jephthah told me to tell you something else: When you have advantage, don’t take advantage! When you get a little power, don’t let power get you! When they put a crown on your head, don’t let your head get too high. When you have advantage, don’t take advantage. Remember when you were out there with the empty and the broken. Jephthah told me another thing: Oh, be very careful! Don’t make an enemy, when you may after have to go to that enemy and make a friend. Then Jephthah told me, “Tell them, don’t waste their time hating!”
Life is too short to hate! Somebody here is 50 years old, carrying a grudge. You look around, you gonna be 70 years old. And your teeth gonna fall out. Everything’s gonna be wrong with you, and you gonna ask yourself, “Why did I waste my time hating that crazy-in-the-head clown? They didn’t have no sense! Why am I going crazy?”
Dave Thomas. For 42 years, Dave leaves a note under the door of Rachel Jones, who stays next door. Every day for 42 years, Dave leaves a love note to Rachel. They split up when both of them were 32 years of age. They had a lover’s quarrel, and they were so immature. They didn’t understand that you can’t have a relationship without getting mad sometimes. You can’t stay together without fighting a little bit. And she took the note every day and tore it up and threw it out the window.
One day he got enough courage to go and knock on the door: “Rachel, I love you and I want you to marry me!” She said yes, and both of them were married on the day they were 74 years old. How you can waste your time? How you can waste your time? How you can waste your love, hating somebody? What goes around, comes around! Hatred is going around, but get out of my way, hatred! Love is going around! Come on, love! Come around, love! Come around, love. Come around, love. Come around!