I woke up this morning, like any other, and checked my twitter feed. My heart broke as I read each tweet regarding the tragic shooting that had happened overnight in Charleston, SC. I can’t even begin to imagine the grief that has overcome the community and the parishioners of Emmanuel AME church. I also can’t imagine why anyone would want to step inside a church during prayer meeting and Bible study, or a school on a typical Tuesday, or a movie theatre on opening night, and open fire and kill innocent people.
But, understand it or not, there is evil in this world, there is hate in this world.
It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s a passive aggressive, or just plain aggressive, comment. Sometimes it’s a judgmental stare. Sometimes its behind the back whispers. Sometimes its pointed at an individual and sometimes its directed at policy, or belief, or generalizations and we forget there are still people on the end of it. And sometimes it’s holding a gun.
Whatever evil looks like the only way to defeat it is to not play by its rules. Evil wants us to return the favor. It wants to use its seed of hate to breed hate in us.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr described it this way, “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”
Dr. King also said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Whenever I read that familiar quote I think of Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Hate grows because we fight people instead of fighting evil. But evil is a real thing that pervades. It grows in the hearts of men if left unchecked and seeks to destroy them as they destroy those around them.
I’m not saying that those who commit acts of hate or violence should not be held responsible. There is evil in this world but they choose to let it grow in their hearts and minds. What I am saying is we shouldn’t let their act of hate allow it to take root in our own hearts.
We can protest, we can write our congressmen, we can take part in social media banter, we can get angry and shake our fists, we can shake our heads in defeat. Or…we can love.
Maybe we should be doing both. Maybe we should march down streets but instead of with high fists its with held hands. Maybe our anger over such an atrocity should lead us to our knees, burdening our hearts for our communities and our world instead of to screaming in the streets. Maybe we should become voices of love and grace in these times rather than calling out a system we all already know is broken. We are all broken and love is the answer. But not just any love, the kind that comes from a life transformed by the Creator and Exemplifier of perfect love.
The world cannot change without Jesus and I cannot truly love without Jesus.
Until the end there will be evil in this world, there will be hate. It only wins if we allow it to spread. Let’s let love win. Not just in the rallying prayers of today or this week but in the small acts of everyday. Choose encouraging words. Choose grace. Choose smiles. Choose acts of kindness where you get nothing in return. Choose to help a neighbor, or a stranger. Choose to look for the good instead of always focusing on the bad. Choose to pray. Choose to preach with words founded on actions. Choose to love like Jesus loves.