No amount of laws can change a hardness of heart. No law can overcome the abyss created by hate, a hate that threatens our humanity, our existence. No amount of hand-wringing or committees or speeches can bring forth what is truly needed to bring about a fundamental and lasting change of how we treat others. No law, except one – “Love others.” The only thing that will stem the tide of hatred towards others is changing how we see others – not as different or enemies but as the same as us. That change in perspective comes from love.
But that requires us as members of the human family to go far beyond our comfortable borders. We think “if we just bar the doors, shutter the windows and stuff cotton in our ears we can keep the wolves outside while we remain safe inside.” We delude ourselves into thinking either the crisis doesn’t really exist or worse – that someone else will handle this mess. “A boat is safe in the harbor but that is not the purpose of a boat.” – Paolo Coelho. There is no one else!! The crisis is here, now, and it is not going away unless we each do our part in some small way.
As a Christian I am called to be like Christ, a follower of Christ. His early command was simple – “Follow Me.” But what does that mean? Here’s what I feel it means for me. It doesn’t mean to just walk behind Him, to be shielded by Him (although there are times when I need that shield). “Follow Me” was a calling to live like Him, do like Him and love like Him. It was a simple instruction on a way of life. Do as I do … this is how to live a whole, healthy, connected life with God and each other. Love God, love others … without exception!
Aahh, if only it were that simple, right? Loving others is easy if the “other” thinks like me, looks like me and believes like me. It gets real up here when I am confronted with “others” who are different from me. That asks us to take risks, to live on the fringes not because it is comfortable but because that is where the need is. That’s where the hurt is. That’s where the war is. That’s where the sickness is. That’s where the fear and desperation are. That is where our neighbor is.
Is it easy? Hell no, it is not easy but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. “But I am only a small, insignificant force. What can I possibly accomplish?” I used to believe that rubbish, too. I used to think the problems of the world were too big for one person to tackle and perhaps they are – for one person. However, when I try to make a difference I notice that there are lots of other “insignificant forces” doing the same thing and together a new world can be forged. I just have to look back on history to see a long, long line of “heroes” – both ordinary and extraordinary – who refused to remain silent, refused to shutter their eyes, ears and hearts, refused to allow evil to go unchallenged. Go ahead, think back yourself and you’ll see them too.
Perhaps if we can manage to remember that we are all made in the image of God, we can remember those tragedies are happening not in some distant land. Those horrors are not happening to some faceless, nameless stranger. The brutality and tears and desperation are those of our neighbors, our family, our friends … and it’s happening right here in our neighborhood. Perhaps then we’d be a little less fearful and more courageous in righting wrongs. Perhaps then we’d pause before committing acts of violence against others in our homes, in our schools, at our jobs. Perhaps we’ll pause and see them as our brother, our sister, our pets and perhaps we’ll think twice.
Maybe what really scares us more than the differences is facing the possibility that we don’t really “believe” what we say we believe. Because now we have to apply those beliefs (political, religious, spiritual and otherwise) not in the comfort of our hymns on a Sunday morning, bathed in stain-glass colored light; not in the comfort of the insulated halls of justice or government. Rather, those beliefs get tested by fire in the trenches, in the back alleys with the addict, in the refugee camps, in the homeless shelters, in the Ebola wards, in the orphanages. “Follow Me.”
If we don’t, we’ll have to face the uncomfortable, ugly truth – maybe we don’t believe the Gospel! Yikes!! We modify it to fit our comfort zones. “Jesus didn’t really mean for me comfort the dying in the hospital. He didn’t mean for me to open my home to refugees. He really didn’t mean I had to feed the hungry at a soup kitchen.” Really, He did.
35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. – Matthew 25:35-36
The only way to combat the plague of hate and darkness of soul is through the light of love, without exception. Will you do your part to chase the darkness? Will you help make this world a little nicer, a little kinder? There is no such thing as a small act of kindness, a small demonstration of love for even one small match will chase out the darkness.