Responding Like Jesus

In the space of four days, a right-wing political extremist murdered 22 people in El Paso, a left-wing political extremist murdered10 people in Dayton, and 4 people were murdered in a two city crime and stabbing spree in California. We could add to this list: the 309 people killed in Chicago, 179 killed in New York, and 155 in Los Angeles so far in 2019. This list could go on and on with every city in the USA included.
The hate and pathology that are present in this world is depressing, and I have got to say that I am at a loss when reflecting on what can be done. Some say what we need are more armed and trained citizens who can respond to threats when they arise; others say we need to remove guns from our society so that access is denied to those who want to do harm to others. I am not sure either approach will “solve” the problem.
I say this because at the core of all this murderous violence is evil in the hearts of those who feel a need to harm other people. As someone raised to believe in the God given gift of life, it is shocking to see someone willing to take another person’s life. And yet, as long as there have been humans, there has been evil and murderous intent. I am reminded of Cain in Genesis 4 who murdered his brother Abel out of jealousy, or King David who arranged the death of Uriah the Hittite to cover up David’s sin of adultery. I also think of the violence and oppression of Rome against its citizens in the first century. I recall the constant clashes between Christians and Muslims during the years of the Crusades. In the 1500’s there was the violent upheaval surrounding the protestant reformation. In the Twentieth Century, we were witness to the violence between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the rise of militant Islamic terrorism that came to a head in the 21st Century.
As much as we want to find something to “fix” this problem, I am not sure that, short of the return of Jesus, anything can. This is not to say that we have to accept it as normal or do nothing to try to prevent this kind of violence from happening in the future; but it is saying that ultimately it is a heart and soul problem.
As I have thought about how followers of Jesus should respond, I think we would do well to model how Jesus related to the world around him.
He loved, he listened, and he strove to see the best in people rather than the worst.
He loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him.
He forgave, and he shared his peace.
So perhaps we can help heal people’s hearts and souls by working harder to listen to them
and try to understand the life experience of those with whom we disagree. We can strive to see the best in people rather than the worst. We can forgive, we can pray, and most importantly we can love. Perhaps if all Christians committed themselves to living out these words from Paul, we might see evil be overcome with love:
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-10,14-18, 21
This is my hope and prayer.
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee