We live in a world in which violence has become commonplace, when people’s first line of defense to resolve conflict is violence. Like most people, my heart is grieved about the Orlando mass shooting. My best friend, Anjiro lives in Orlando with her family. Although she was not directly affected by the tragedy, she has to live in a city in which fear may threaten to overwhelm its citizens and in which greater scrutiny and greater security measures will be implemented. My first thought was to reach out to her and let her know that my prayers go out to her and to the Orlando community. Affected people want to know that others care. They want to know that we stand in unity with them and against senseless violence. The only antidote to violence is love and respect. Webster’s Dictionary defines respect as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Love is defined as a strong feeling of affection rising from kinship or close friendship. Love, however is difficult when neither respect nor admiration is present. We can then turn to the Bible for answers. The Bible says that “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).” Violence, however, can be the result of intolerance, lack of love, or the result of negative life experience, but it can be overcome with love through the help of Jesus.
Many of us have both family and friends living lifestyles contrary to Christian doctrine, but we love them in spite of these differences. We ourselves, even as Christians, engage in behaviors contrary to the word of God, yet we want love and acceptance. We have to learn tolerance for behaviors and attitudes that are contrary to our own. We can not change anyone, but ourselves. I am not saying that everyone must accept behaviors with which one has a sharp philosophical and or religious disagreement. I am saying, however, that we have to learn to love others and solve conflict by talking about the things that are disturbing to us. Start a conversation about the differences and show love and respect. The Bible says to be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks for the reason for the hope that lies within you, but do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
The best way to promote love, is to teach it. As parents, we must teach our children to have respect for others. Parents must practice love toward others. Children tend to repeat the behaviors that they see practiced around them. But how do we teach our children, what we do not practice? Some parents teach their children to fight as a means of resolving conflict, resulting in perpetual violence throughout the world. Moreover, some parents abuse their children repeatedly when resolving conflict. I am not saying that one should never spank her kids, but that we must be cognizant of the long-term effect of exposure to violence. Educating ourselves and asking the Lord to help us show love and mercy to everyone is a start. None of us is perfect and without sin. Both patience and kindness are essential to making the world a better place. Demagoguery will not promote love, but hatred. How can we promote the cause of Christ if we are hatemongers?
Love in Action
Comforting other when they are hurting, in spite of our differences in culture or values, helps us show love and respect toward others. Today, my friend Merlene informed me of a quote from a nineteenth century Christian, Carl Heinrich Von Bogatzky and paraphrased by Corrie Ten Boom that says, “When God designs his people for extraordinary trials, He prepares them by extraordinary comforts.” But what happens when people suffer catastrophically without knowing Jesus Christ as their savior? What happens when they do not have anyone to turn to during their time of need? When people suffer physically and emotionally, what should our response be as Christians, as human beings? How do we reach out to believers and unbelievers during their time of need? We do not want to sound trite, by telling them that everything will be okay. Losing loved ones and friends can be devastating. Sometimes we can offer sincere prayers, kind words, cooked food, sympathy cards, biblical scriptures, and our company. Sometimes a hug comforts. Let’s not be afraid to experience difficulties because we can then comfort others with the comforts we have received. Today, be the extraordinary comfort that someone needs.
Live a life worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ, “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love (Ephesians 4:2).”
For edification read Ephesians 4.