2020 – a year no one will forget!
We have been inundated for months with “facts” about the virus and the protests. The hatred that seems to be growing daily on every side, no matter what the argument is about, is deafening. That can be frightening…but…we must remember that fear is the ultimate goal of extremists. Fear can have the power to darken and obliterate the very meaning and purpose of our existence if we allow it to.
As I read and try to understand the depth of so many issues we are facing now, there is one that I feel is critical for our future, our children’s future, and America’s future, and it is so basic it should not even be in question – but it is: If I call myself a Believer (it doesn’t matter of what tradition) in the God of all creation, then loving my neighbor is not optional and there should be no place for hatred in my heart.
How about this for a reality check: 1 John 4:20 should thump us all on our hard heads, “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, HE IS A LIAR (emphasis mine and most likely God’s too). If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?” (The Message). If we continue to pull away from that ONE TRUTH to create our own, we will have lost our way, and, God help us, our children will suffer the consequences.
We will all be called to account for how we choose to live in this world, and it’s pretty likely that for most of us, myself included, it ain’t gonna be pretty. We are messy, selfish, demanding, unforgiving, broken humans – full of ourselves and pumped with ego, with the tiniest bit of empty space for God to squeeze into. Somehow he does. Somehow he continues to love us in spite of ourselves. And somehow, miraculously, he pats me on the head with the greatest of love, mercy, grace, and compassion and says, “Linda, you screwed up again, but I forgive you and long for you to do the same. I love you and long for you to do the same. Like Jesus, you were created to take my light into the darkness. There should be no room for hate in your heart.”
Love is more powerful than hate if we truly believe what we profess! And, that, my friends, is the TRUTH.
You don’t have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe you see him as a stand-out Prophet, a great role model, or the most you can muster is a wink and a nod to “Buddy Jesus”.
We know enough about Jesus’ life to know he didn’t stand behind a bullhorn and threaten hell and damnation for anyone who didn’t do what God expected them to. He led by example. He could have jumped on the bandwagon of the powerful leaders of his day and would probably have had a pretty cushy life, retired with a great pension, and lived into old age. But, that scenario wasn’t going to play out because his love and compassion for those who suffered guided his every thought and action, as it should ours. Are we afraid to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” when confronted with a moment that challenges our moral fortitude because, deep down, we already know the answer? Ponder that one for a while.
We may not be marched up to a hanging tree, but, we surely should speak and live as fully as we are called to, no matter the consequences. You do realize God is counting on us to do just that, right? I will leave you with these words from Archibald MacLeish’s sermon on Job.
MacLeish asks why God allowed Satan to tear Job’s life apart. He says, “Because God believes it will be demonstrated that Job loves and fears God because He is God and not because Job is prosperous…that Job will still love God and fear Him in adversity, in the worst of misfortunes, in spite of everything. God stakes His supremacy as God upon man’s fortitude and love….Where the nature of man is in question, God has need of man. Only Job can prove that Job is capable of the love of God, not as quid pro quo but for love’s sake, for God’s sake, in spite of everything – in spite even of injustice, even God’s injustice. Only man can prove that man loves God. Man depends on God for all things: God depends on man for one. Without man’s love, God does not exist as God…love is the one thing no one, not even God Himself, can command. It is a free gift, or it is nothing. And it is most itself, most free, when it is offered in spite of suffering, of injustice, and of death. It is in man’s love that God exists and triumphs, in man’s love that life is beautiful, in man’s love that the world’s injustice is resolved. To hold together in one thought those terrible opposites of good and evil which struggle in the world is to be capable of life, and only love will hold them so.”