The recent events in our country make me sad. They even make me angry. For over 35 years, I have tried to teach youth about love. The one Bible verse that more people know than any other is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Right there, in a nutshell, is the message of our God. He love us. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die for us. Any parent knows what a sacrifice that is. To know that your child is going to suffer because of someone else’s sin, and yet to allow it – that has to be the hardest thing in the world. But it speaks volumes about love. If God had not done that, we would all be “perishing” because of our sin.
Based on that type of love, we, as Christians, are also commanded to love others. 1 John 4:7-8: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
These are the things I have tried to share with all the teenagers I have encountered in my ministry: God love us, and we are to love Him and love other people. I have helped them to brainstorm about ways to show love; I have fussed at them whenever thoughtlessly racist names or remarks come from their mouths; I have taught lessons, showed videos, and lead Bible studies dealing with what it means to love our fellow human beings.
In my heart, I have hoped that our country and our world was moving forward and progressing in understanding one another, and that some of the racist attitudes and actions of the past were put behind us. I have joyously worshipped and studied with people of all races, and I have disdained groups and organizations that perpetuated hatred and violence. Despite the publicized stories to the contrary, I have steadfastly continued to believe that our society is moving in the right direction in terms of unity and fellowship.
This past week has sorely tested that belief. It saddens me to know that there are still people who look at another person and hate them just because of how they look. (Whether it is race, body type, tattoos, hair style, obvious mental or physical disabilities, or economic status) It makes me angry to know that some of these people will do intentional bodily harm to those who are different, and believe that it is their right to do so. It angers me to the point that I myself am perilously close to hating those people.
When I find myself thinking about someone and wishing them harm, I know I have crossed a line. In my times of prayer these last few days, God has reminded me that we are to be about love. NO, I do not love the actions or attitudes of those who spew hate and do violence. NO, I do not love the wedge of division that these people attempt to drive between us as human beings. But, I will pray for them. I will continue to do all I can to spread the message of love in the face of all the hate we are being subjected to. For, I believe that if anyone accepts the love of God that has been freely offered, that love has the power to change a person – both attitudes and actions. So, as sad as I am, and yes, even as angry as I am, I will continue to preach the message of love. I pray to God that more people will hear it!