I never expected to have to speak on this matter. But I can’t stay silent. Our country is full of division and strife. People are rioting in the streets, destroying people's businesses and livelihoods all in revenge for a tragic death. They try to justify their actions saying they are paying back those who perpetrated a crime. I agree that taking a life is never right. As human beings made in the image of God, we all are endowed by our Creator with value.
But we don’t need to try to take the law into our own hands. Violence only leads to more violence, and vengeance leads to more vengeance. Because if you hurt me, then I must respond with anger and lash back. Then because I've caused you pain, you take vengeance on me. The hate cycle never ends. Two wrongs don’t make a right. God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” Let God do His job.
The only way to get off the crazy bus of hate is to choose love. Choose that enough is enough. Choose to forgive. For those who believe that they have been oppressed for a very long time, perhaps they believe that they have held their peace long enough. That now is the time to rise up and fight back. I see how they could think that. However, I don’t understand how any one expects to endear someone to their cause through violence. My momma always told me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. People are attracted to kindness in the same way that hate repels people. We need an overflow of human kindness.
Some may not feel ready to show kindness. Some say that people must pay for the sins of their ancestors. While there are certainly many historic wrongs that we have experienced in our country, sadly, we cannot undo the past. We can only move forward. Fortunately, the sins of the fathers don't have to be the sins of the sons. Each of us can choose to start a new path forward towards reconciliation and relationship.
It starts with us. It starts with a choice. We must choose to be the change in our world. For things to continue as they have is not good enough. For true reconciliation and forgiveness, we need to stop and listen. Not just let the words go in one ear and out the other, but listen to understand and empathize. To sit with another human and feel their pain. And it can't be approached with either side saying "I'm right and you're wrong." It must be a learning opportunity on both sides. So much can be solved if people were willing to share a cup of coffee and really listen when they ask "so, tell me about yourself."
The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. In our ever-shrinking world, our neighbors not only live next door, but also are our fellow humans inhabiting the planet. Most people typically do not seek to harm themselves. Usually, people care for themselves, by eating, drinking, and working to pay the bills. When we see each person as possessing the dignity to be treated with respect, when we show kindness the way we'd like to receive it, then the world will be a different place. We wouldn't have an abundance of hate, but an abundance of grace as each person would try to outdo the next in sharing love with everyone.
But sometimes it is hard to love other people. Jesus even said to love our enemies. How is that even possible? The way we learn to love our enemies is when we experience God’s love for us. God loves us despite our broken, sinful natures. Jesus died to restore relationship with us when we were still His enemies. That’s some kind of love. When we receive God’s love, He give us His ability to love others. Even our enemies.
What will you do to bring peace to our planet? Will you choose to break the cycle of hate and love your neighbor as yourself? Will you buy a cup of coffee for someone who doesn't look or act like you to listen to their story? As one person after another chooses to forgive, God's love will abound in our hearts, and we will live in peace. Be the change in the world. It's time to forget hate and remember love. A little kindness goes a long way. Start showing some love today.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.