Last week, two men on a MAX train in Portland stepped in to defend two Muslim girls from a man who was verbally attacking them. It’s the same train where I met the Somali girls and their mom in 2010.
My encounter with Muslim refugees on the MAX led to a beautiful relationship and a book, The Invisible Girls, that details the story and raises money for the girls to go to college.
Last week on the MAX, the story didn’t go so well. The two men who intervened — Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and John Best — were stabbed to death.
They gave their lives to protect and defend vulnerable victims.
They gave their lives to love their neighbors as themselves.
They gave their lives on behalf of goodness and justice and selflessness and love.
Yesterday, Memorial Day, we remembered soldiers who also gave their lives to protect and defend us. They made the ultimate sacrifice because they, too, courageously believed in goodness and justice and selflessness and love.
I’ve traveled a lot since the book came out, speaking to thousands and thousands of people about what it means to practice compassion.
Often, the language we use about love and compassion make these values seem soft — or even weak.
We talk about having hearts that are tender and soft and warm.
But what I’ve learned, especially from practicing medicine in the developing world, living in primitive conditions, giving up lots of income and contracting malaria — is that yes, your heart needs to be tender in order to practice love, but the rest of you needs to be tough as nails.
In order to persevere against evil and injustice, we need to be steeled, firm, committed, resilient, determined. Even fierce.
Love isn’t about feeling gentle, safe, pleasant emotions. Love isn’t content to feel, think or believe the right things.
Love laces up its combat boots and walks into the fray. Love stares evil down and doesn’t look away. Love puts itself between victims and their violators.
Love doesn’t give in. Love doesn’t give up. Love doesn’t dissolve into sentimental, insipid, powerless mush.
In order to love the world the way God does, in order to make a tangible difference in the world around us, we need to love the way Jesus did.
Loving the world enough to do something about it — even if it costs us our lives.