I saw a beautiful photograph this morning. In it, a wall of storm clouds descends on the Atlantic ocean. The clouds cover the sea and the sky; they show the raw, terrifying, yet beautiful power of nature. The internet can be a place to spread beauty, art, and light, but many times it is reflection of a scary world.
I’ve read some awful things lately. About you. About me. About all of us. Am I naive to think that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us? How dare we say these things to another human being? Another person with value and a soul?
In light of all of this, I find it amazing how God comes down and loves us– despite us. Despite our disparaging words to one another. Despite the hatred in our hearts. Despite the abhorrent ways we treat our brothers and sisters. Despite the wickedness we carelessly spew on social networks (things we wouldn’t dare speak to a person’s face). Despite the dark thoughts we harbor in the cobwebbed corners of our mind.
He forgives us, wraps us up in His Light, and that Light lives within us and changes us.
“God forgives us. Who am I not to forgive?” (Cry, the Beloved Country).
These might be the toughest verses to live:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also;if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:38-48).
Evil is real. Hatred is all too prevalent. But– to respond to hate with love. That is God with us.
Conflict can bring social change. It can be positive. But if we respond to conflict in fear instead of love it yields suffering. Take heart, Jesus said. I have overcome the world. Breathe grace. Speak peace. Be love. Forgive. Choose your words with wisdom: they have the power of life and death in them. When your words aren’t enough, take action. When action isn’t enough, repeat: breathe grace, speak peace, be love, forgive. Put yourself in another person’s shoes, said Atticus Finch. Take a walk around in them. Challenge your perceptions.
I’ve read some wonderful things lately, too. Strangers stopping to pray for each other. People stopping to listen: willing to admit differences, willing to talk it out. Forgiveness. Acts of mercy. Kindness like a wildfire: our hearts are the kindle. Let it ignite. Even in the smallest of ways. Say hi to your neighbor. Open a door. Carry a grocery bag. Plant some flowers. Cook a meal for someone. Spend some time volunteering for a charity. If you don’t have time, make a donation to a cause you care about. Send a text message, an email. Pray for someone who is hurting. Give thanks. Be gracious. Smile. Ask how someone is doing, and–listen. Because if one of us tries to make a difference, we can all try to make a difference. It seems a good place to start, at least.