But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:27-31
Question: What do “Terrorist killings in Paris,” “My men’s Bible-study at WFPC,” and “10-degree (fahrenheit) temperatures in Wake Forest,” all have in common?
Answer: They have coalesced to help me think more creatively, and faithfully, and practically about how we can/must address the problem of evil in this world.
So here goes. Yesterday, in Paris, a particularly vicious and brutal terror attack shocked the world. It shocked us because A) it happened to educated Westerners in one of “our” cities, rather than nameless people in an obscure African – or Middle-Eastern – country we don’t really care about; and B) it was a direct attack on freedom of thought and expression, one of the most fundamental building blocks of the American way of life.
COLD: When I woke up this morning – troubled at the audacity of evil and a feeling of powerlessness to do anything constructive in response – I noticed how very cold it was. I love the winter here and the change of seasons, but 10-degrees is seriously cold for a recent Florida resident.
As I gently eased open the faucet, glad that I’d left a steady drip to keep the water moving, it occurred to me how interesting it is that simple movement – one small drip at a time – was enough to keep the water from freezing in the pipes.
Standing there at the kitchen window, thinking about the cold, I watched the dawn light begin to pour over the horizon and trickle into our garden. Just the smallest hint of light, and the darkness instantly retreated.
Neither cold nor darkness exist in their own right; we only experience them in response to reductions in heat and light. Absolute zero, for example (–459.67 degrees F on the Fahrenheit scale) does not measure cold, it simply states that all heat has gone.
And I wondered to myself if – maybe – evil is nothing more than the absence of goodness and light? What if the most effective way to fight evil were to introduce goodness? What if those who determine to fight evil with violence, and death, and destruction, and the infliction of more suffering – were/are 100% wrong? What if such an approach merely feeds the darkness by cutting off access to the light?
JESUS: What if Jesus was right? What if God meant it when he said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...”?
The third piece of this puzzle is the fact that I enjoyed such a powerful and encouraging experience at church Wednesday evening. I met with the mid-week men’s Bible-study covenant group, and I was overwhelmed with a sensation of gratitude and of hope and of love for this community.
That is when I remembered that one way to stop the water from freezing in the pipes is to keep it moving. It’s not enough to talk about love, and hope, and light, we must keep moving forward, actually doing something to make sure we don’t freeze in place.
THIS is what we need to be doing if we are to make this world a better place. We need to live the Gospel of Love; we need to live as children of light; we need to be more intentional in the way that we introduce light to dark places and warmth to cold hearts; we need to be the presence of Christ in the nitty-gritty details of what it means to be human beings.
In love, and because of love – DEREK