This past week my heart was broken yet again by another act of violence in this country. This time a young man sat through most of prayer service, pulled out a gun and murdered nine church going persons. As the week unfolded we learned more about the nature of this crime. The immediate report was that this was a hate crime. I honestly prayed that it wasn’t. I prayed that this young man had some other issue besides racism in his heart. As more information poured in and his alleged manifesto was revealed online I was beside myself.
Here we are fifty years removed. Yes, that is fifty, half of a century removed from the Civil Rights Movements in this country. And in some ways it feels like we are right back where we started. The animosity seems to be at the highest point since I was born. (I was born in the late 70s.) It seems like around every corner I am watching acts of hatred spew forth. And what frightens me most is that hatred is not something you are born with, it is something that is learned. This means that this young man has been taught by someone. Perhaps parents, perhaps a teacher, perhaps a friend (I simply don’t know) but someone taught this young man to hate. This hatred moved him to act. He convinced himself that he had to do something.
And in the midst of this hatred, unexpected loving act took place. Many of the families forgave this young man. My initial reaction was shock. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My second reaction was shame. I didn’t know if I could do the same. I didn’t know if I could show up to services and worship my God only to have a visitor gun down my family. I don’t know if I could show him love in that moment. Therein lays the problem in my heart. And the sad thing is that this problem isn’t just in my heart. It sits in many so called Christians’ hearts. Love is not our chief motivator.
By love I do not at all mean that live and let live, tolerance laden form of love that is being constantly spewed out there by those that incorrectly quote scriptures like, “the bible says judge not lest you be judged” and “the bible says love your neighbor.” (Thus loving our neighbor is to never judge them). By love, I mean that type of love that moved Jesus, while hanging from the cross to say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I mean that type of love that moved Stephen, while he was being stoned to death to say, “Do not hold this sin against them.” Not once did either of those men ignore their behavior. They did not say what they did was okay. They did not “tolerate” their religious beliefs. What they did was basically say, “Even though what you believe and what you are doing is wrong I am not going to hate you for it. Instead, I am going to love you.”
This is what this world needs more of. It needs more people looking at those that hate them and saying, “I will love you still.” It needs more people looking at those that despitefully use them and saying, “I will love you still.” It needs more people acting like those families in Charleston, SC. I am not saying that they were perfect, but I know this… this past week they showed us all the perfect way to deal with the broken world we live in. The answer to our world’s woes is not more laws. The answer to our world’s woes is not more gun control. The answer to our world’s woes is love. Genuine Love. Divine Love.