I awoke this morning to two very different bits of news.
The first was on CNN about another senseless and seemingly random murder…this time in my own city. We’ve finally made the top story on CNN. Unfortunately, it was for reprehensible reasons. Two teens beat a World War II vet to death yesterday not far from my home. An 88-year-old man! This is immediately on the heels of the similar senseless shooting of an Australian youth living and going to school in Oklahoma by 3 other teens, apparently because they were “bored.” Although, there does seem to be some race motive behind that act. Many in Australian at this point are measuring whether coming to the U.S. is a reasonable venture because of fear of this type of violence. There is even gestures of a “Boycott” of the U.S.
Honestly, I am taken aback by the motiveless anger and violence that these two events represent. I was saying to Robi this morning that for the first time as an adult I feel like my own land is incredibly unsafe. I know violence has been present forever. I know that. I don’t live in a cave. You can also say that I am over reacting, but MY feelings are real. An aside: Isn’t that what the goal of terrorism is? To create fear?
The other bit of news I received this morning was on a site that I listen to often while laying in bed – Pray as you go. The message this morning was from Matthew where a Lawyer questions Jesus about the greatest of all commandments.
Here it is:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus is in essence saying that the most important thing His follower can think or do is love! Love God and love others. Unrestrained, unafraid, intentionally love.
Talk about a dichotomy of messages: Random hatred and unmitigated love!
Two things come to my mind:
- How do I love when the world seems like it is reeling the opposite direction? I honestly feel like I want to move toward retribution, not love. I want justice, not mercy. I even sometimes feel like it would be best (and justified) just to return the favor and kill the perpetrators of the original act. You know…Eye for an eye stuff. How do you process those feelings?
- I also have this emerging feeling that we are moving toward a time when some of Jesus’ words will make a great deal more sense in our land. Sayings like, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” When you think of these sayings, you get the feeling that Christians are to be a contrast people…counter-cultural in our ethic and responses (unfortunately, many Christians I know opt toward actuating the feelings I described in my first point – “just kill em”). Well, today, maybe more than ever in recent years, a response of loving will create a great contrast. In the historic moralistic setting Americans exist in where “civil religion” has reigned, being “salty” and “lighty” sometimes gets blurry with all the nationalistic and quasi-religious overtones. I am moved by the idea that this is THE opportune time to display the grand Kingdom of our Lord, Jesus!
Can we love when treated poorly? What does that even look like?
Can we respond with kindness, instead of vengeance?
Can we step fearlessly toward others, who are wounded and hurt...and violent with something other than retribution?
Will we hide out in superficially safe environments to avoid the people that Jesus died for because of love?Could it be that this is the time for the church, Christ's followers to rise and provide the only remedy for the emptiness and hurt in the world that is behind these acts?
Is it possible that the very symbol Jesus challenges us to display will be what we are actually known for?
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16