Although no one marched through my sleepy Maine town last week, carrying torches and hate, I recoiled as I witnessed the images broadcast from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. One photo, captured by resident Jill Mumie, shows a black police officer, head bowed and hands clasped, standing in front of a barricade as Klansmen wave a Confederate flat and raise their hands in a Nazi salute behind him.
How do we respond to such evil?
Like those who ignore or propagate it? Like the Virginia governor who told the protesters, “Go home. You are not wanted.” Or like the Gospel, which says that God wants all people everywhere to turn away from hate and wickedness and to embrace his love and righteousness?
No sin too ugly.
No scar too deep.
For those who wreak violence and break the law, there are the courts. Thank God we live in a country that condemns bigotry and murder and upholds the rights of all citizens to live in peace and pursue their purpose in harmony. And yet, how radically short we fall when it comes to providing real-life opportunities, protection, and justice for our most vulnerable, including people of color. How lacking are our hearts in love.
And so how should we respond when a young woman’s life is cut short by a car driven into a crowd? How to respond when angry fists pummel the peacemakers? And hate parades through our streets?
When I was growing up on our Oregon farm, my mom taught me a song, based on the apostle John’s words in I John 4:7 (NASB), “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.”
Yet love is easy to talk about and hard to live. I am so ready to condemn the hateful actions and words of others and so reluctant to confront the sin in myself. The bitter places. The unforgiving places. The places where I want what I want no matter who I hurt.
Yet, this is exactly what the Gospel calls us to do. To examine our lives. To think of others as better than ourselves. To walk “with humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Can we share a little of that here? Not only when the marchers come with their weapons and words of hate. But every day. This is how we respond to evil: to turn away from hate and wickedness and to embrace God’s love and righteousness right where we are.
Meadow Rue Merrill is the author of the recently released memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores (Hendrickson Publishers, 2017). Part travel adventure, part family drama, part spiritual memoir, it reveals how God wants to bless hurting and broken people through us, even though we too are hurt and broken. A former newspaper reporter and mom of six, Meadow writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.
Even though we’re pretty sheltered here in Maine, the truth is that we are also called to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute, etc. When I look at my own difficulty with that, it’s easier for me to see that this issue is more complex than it seems from this great distance. Thanks for taking it on here, Meadow.
Yes, I was thinking a Gospel response in the face of evil may be to hand out sandwiches, water, and offers of prayer.