I am writing this in the extreme heat of this third week of August. It is the hottest temperatures we have had this summer. High school football begins in Houston County this Friday night. The news is filled with the events in Missouri and the death of a teenager at the hands of a police officer. I will not attempt to analyze the situation and decide what happened. I don’t know what actually happened and we may never truly know. I do know that there still exists a divide between people, divides of skin color, divides of nation of origin, divides of social status, and divides of hope.
We can read in several places in our Bible that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are honestly loving each other as we love ourselves, we must truly hate ourselves. Rather than working together as communities, as a state, as a nation, we seem to prefer drawing lines of those on “our” side and everyone else. Those who oppose us deserve our ridicule, scorn, and even our hatred. This does not fit with the call to love one another. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to love one another, as long as they are like me. We are especially challenged to love those who are the least like me.
Fear seems to be the primary motivating factor of our world since September 11, 2001. Yes, it was tragic. Yes, it was terrible. But, let us remember how people responded in the first days after that attack. People volunteered to assist in recovery, to provide support for workers in DC and New York. Money was raised to support families and to help with recovery. We rallied as a nation. Color was not an issue; nationality was set aside except for some misguided people who decided that vengeance was theirs to pay out, even if it was directed at innocent people.
We have let fear take over since those days. We have turned to violence toward each other, both physical and verbal. We have turned from finding security in God’s presence and sought the security of weapons. We gather on Sundays and read aloud words such as “God is my rock and my redeemer”, and “A mighty fortress is my God”. But then we turn from them and rely on strength of arms.
We are set apart. We are to be a royal priesthood, servants of an almighty God. The followers of Jesus, who stood up to the violence of Roman occupation died only to defeat that power through God and His gift of resurrection. Rome said violence was the answer. God said “You are wrong. Love is mightier”. Do we still believe this, or are we turning from God and relying on human strength? Are we followers of Christ, or hedging our bets about an afterlife by paying lip service on Sunday mornings?
I dare you to live the faith that we claim by calling ourselves Christian. Trust the love of God more than the might of human beings. We can only begin the healing in Ferguson, MO, or Israel and Palestine, or Iraq and Afghanistan, or in Washington DC, when we set aside our distrust and begin to work for solutions rather than picking fights because it will get us better coverage on the evening news. Leave the violent responses to those on the extremes. We need to build community. We need to build wholeness. We are called by God to share Shalom.