The morning before the Manchester bombing happened, I was speaking at a church in Houston about what it means to be a person of love — which, essentially, is loving the world enough to take action, and do something about it.
This morning, the morning after the Manchester bombing, I woke up thinking about what I talked about on Sunday. There aren’t words to strongly enough condemn the evil that took place yesterday in England — and continues to take place in Syria. And the Sudan. And Somalia. And the Ukraine. And in so many other places.
The acts of evil that are being committed are so heinous and pointless and unjust that limiting them to the verbs and adjectives I know is to do a disservice to the victims who have suffered, and lost their lives.
But one thing I do know is that the words I spoke about love on Sunday are just as true now as they were then. In the face of evil, Love becomes more true. And more necessary.
When it comes to practicing love in the face of pain and brokenness and evil, here’s what we have to believe in order to do love well.
First, we have to believe that we are not living competing narratives with people in our families, our churches, our country, or around the world.
There is no “US” and “THEM.” The boundaries, borders, categories and labels we’ve created are just that — man-created. God never told us to draw lines, create political parties, build walls or fracture into tens of thousands of denominations. God never told us to use cynicism and anger and self-righteousness to heal the world. He told us to love. Even — no, especially — to love and bless and pray for our enemies.
Second, we have to realize that or world is changed and healed by each of us doing simple, small, faithful acts of compassion and kindness.
It may not seem like picking trash up off the sidewalk, or having tea with an elderly neighbor, or providing free childcare for a single working mom, or picking up the tab for a stranger’s dinner, or teaching a refugee to read, or….(fill in the blanks with whatever small acts of kindness you’re led to do)….is enough. It doesn’t seem world-changing to do something simple, local or small. But if each one of us did this — if each one of us took care of our neighbors — soon, the whole world would get taken care of.
Third, we have to recognize that our motivation for loving our neighbors is not because social justice is trendy right now, or so we can assuage the guilt we feel about the comforts and luxuries we have, but because out of gratitude and humility, we live out the story that God lives for us.
We see invisible people because God saw us. We love our enemies because God loved (and continues to love) us even when we do things against him and each other. With each act of kindness and compassion we do, we remind ourselves and each other about the God who loves the world.
Fourth, we have to remember that love is not a cistern; it’s a well.
When we engage with broken people and broken places, when we wake up to find that yet again, evil has reared its ugly head, it’s tempting to become discouraged, and to give in to despair. It’s easy to believe that what we’re doing doesn’t matter, that it’s not worth the effort or energy, that doing nothing is preferable to trying and (at least, for now) not succeeding. But we have to remember that we are not cisterns that run dry; we are vessels filled with the living water of God’s Love that never gives up, never runs out, never goes dry.
And lastly, we have to remember that brokenness is not the end of our story.
Evil doesn’t win. In the end, LOVE does. Death doesn’t win. In the end, LOVE does. Pain doesn’t win. In the end, LOVE does. Pope John Paul II said, “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song!”
We continue to pray for our enemies, to give our resources and energy, to see invisible people, to practice faithful acts of kindness and compassion because we are not living in despair; we are living in the light of the resurrection. We are overflowing with Love that doesn’t end. We are on our way to a world that brims with goodness and life.
So, my friends, the morning after Manchester, we grieve the painful loss of innocent life. We steel ourselves against evil and injustice. We pray for God to change the hearts of our enemies who practice these atrocious acts.
And we commit ourselves once more to being people who insist, with our words and acts and lives, that Love will save the world.