When you become a parent, a whole new world of fears is opened up to you. Fear of this world and all of the dangers it can pose to your child. There is the fear of illness, the fear of injury, the fear of emotional trauma. There are rational and irrational fears, but you find a way, day in and day out, to face them and try and give your child the best that you can, and pray that it will be enough.
People will tell you that we live in a violent world. And yes, yes we do. Is it increasingly violent? I don’t necessarily think so. I’m not much of a history scholar, but I know that violence is part of our past, our present, and unfortunately, our future. It’s one of those things from which we can only try to protect ourselves and our children. But I don’t think violence is our greatest threat.
I do think fear is a threat. I know people that are consumed with fear about violent harm coming to themselves or the ones they love. And I have been awakened myself by nightmares involving terrible things, of which to speak would give too much reality to those possibilities. And that’s sort of the way with fear – once you speak of it, it is either recognized as irrational, or it becomes more real, more crippling. But living in fear and paranoia isn’t living at all.
I think indifference and apathy are threats. We see so much violence and negativity in the mainstream media that we have become numb to the idea that real people are really hurting, all over the world, every day. People take up causes on social media, all the time, every day. We all know somebody who is dealing with something hard, but if we don’t know them, a lot of times, we just don’t care.
Do you ever wonder at Christ’s greatest commandment? To love one another? It seems like such a simple statement, but when you really embrace the scope of it…..it’s more than a pretty tall order. It’s downright overwhelming.
Love is a decision. It’s not an emotion, it’s not even an action. We have the power to decide that we’re either going to love someone, or we’re not.
We can’t always control our fears, our emotions, but we can control our decisions. And I think that’s why so many people turn to apathy over concern – because we know the greatest commandment, and we know how short we’re going to fall of it.
We don’t want to have to embrace everything that that command encompasses. If we love our neighbor, that means everyone. Even the ones we don’t like, the ones we don’t agree with, the ones who scare us, the ones that hurt us, and the ones that aren’t going to ever love us back or care about anything other than themselves.
People say that if people are terrified, then we give terrorists a victory. I don’t think their victory comes in making people terrified. I’ll tell you what terrorists are trying to do, and what they succeed at every time: division. Because they know the more they divide our people, the weaker we will be. You can be armed to the teeth, or as all about peace as you please, the terrorist becomes victorious when they widen the chasm between my neighbor and myself. And that chasm becomes wider all the time. Because people do not care about what doesn’t concern them.
I don’t pretend to have solutions to problems as wide and complex as national security or gun control or anything of the sort, but I do know the worst thing I can do is to allow fear to dictate my decisions.
A few nights ago, I got a Facebook alert on a page that was set up for “neighborhood crime watch”. There was a man, shirtless, with a backpack, seen on other people’s property throughout my community where I live. There had been no reports of break-ins, or attempted break-ins, and every time someone saw this man, he ran. Was he up to no good? Possibly. Is he homeless? Probably. Is he a threat? Well, the fact that he ran when people saw him indicates to me that he’s probably not. Should he be trespassing? No. But trespassing is not a violent crime, and to be perfectly honest, if he’s not hurting anything or damaging property or stealing, then it’s a pretty victimless crime. There were people talking about “locking and loading” and I just had to turn off the screen. This is what our world has become. Let me first show you that I could kill you if necessary before I show you any kind of compassion.
When Christ was arrested, Peter took up a sword. He felt threatened and decided to take up violent action. He was rebuked for it, too. By the One He was “protecting”. I find it interesting. Poor, impetuous Peter, just doing what came naturally – protecting someone he loved, but really just making the situation worse. Resorting to unnecessary violence.
I don’t think we live in an increasingly violent world. I think we live in an increasingly selfish world. One where our own agendas, beliefs, and desires lead to what may be more dangerous than weapons – fear, apathy and indifference.
Some people were more disheartened by the killing of innocents in Paris than in the killing of innocents in Orlando. Why? Because the people in Orlando were gay. They were at a club. There must have been great sin amongst them. Much like when the AIDS epidemic became front page news, people will say, “This was God’s wrath.”
No, my brothers and sisters. This was the result of hate. Pure and simple. As are all acts of violence. But as I said, there are more dangerous things than assault rifles. The selfishness of our hearts. Selfishness leads to the idea that we, our ideas, our beliefs, are the only ones that matter. We cannot identify with someone other than ourselves when we are self-focused.
I have gay friends. Not people I kinda know that are gay. Friends. People I love and tremendously care about. Likewise, I have some extremely conservative friends and family for whom I would do anything in the world. I love them all. They are not all always easy to love. I decide to love them.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I only have the energy for one level of activism. And that is to always, always, always, err on the side of love and mercy. Because if I don’t make that daily decision that I’m going to love Trump supporters, that I’m going to love Hillary supporters, that I’m going to love straight people and gay people and black people and white people and evangelical people and atheist people – if I stop making the conscious, total and complete commitment to really, sincerely love my neighbor as Christ loves me, then it would take me about a nanosecond to succumb to fear and/or indifference.
Peace on earth will not happen in my lifetime. I am not blind to the dangers of this world. But as a Christian, my first order of business it to obey the command that came straight from the mouth of Christ. Love. One. Another.
So each day, before I decide what I’m going to be afraid of, or what I’m going to consciously ignore, I’m going to decide to love. I’m going to ask God to give me His eyes to see the ones around me. And then I’m going to love them.
Because not only am I trying to live my life as a living sacrifice to God, I am trying to raise my daughter to have compassion, be slow to anger, and teach her the necessity of making love decisions every day.