I remember watching an old episode of The Cosby Show when I was a kid. In it a young Rudy reads her parents a story that she wrote about a happy land where its residents were taken prisoner by an evil king. The mayor was honest, the families were selfless, the buildings were stable and the crops were plentiful. Laughter and joy were among the residents' favorite pastime. However, when the king and his people invaded their land, the residents who were used to kindness and living in peace were met with cruelty and hate. They were resistant to it at first, completely appalled at the evils which invaded their happy land. Eventually those evils left some residents hopeless and despondent while others began to join the corruption. The town's flower girl had enough. One day as the evil people were having a party, she marched right up to them and simply told them to stop. That was where the story ended. Rudy explained to her parents that after the flower girl said that, everything went back to normal. I wish life were that simple.
Tragically, as a nation we are met with yet another mass murder that has taken the lives of 49 innocent human beings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Among the confusion and anger are selfless others offering support in the form of prayers, financial contributions and blood donations among other things. As usual I've taken to social media to get updates and see people's responses.
"We just need to stop all of this hatred and love more."
"Let's all try and get rid of the hatred and violence."
"Let's do our best to spread love."
"Stop the hate."
I wish it were all this simple as much as I wish I could walk out into the world and say "stop it" just like the flower girl did in that fairytale episode of The Cosby Show. I'm not sure any of us really has a grasp on what it means to stop hating as much as I'm not sure we know what it means to spread love. Is spreading love as simple as being nice? What would that entail exactly? While there is something commonsensical about respecting another human being, I don't think any of us realizes the task that's ahead of us to combat hatred within ourselves simply because it goes against our human nature. In the Bible, this passage in Romans Ch. 7 illustrates this inner tension.
"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it."
Our intentions may be one thing, but we have to acknowledge that there is a tension that many of us wrestle with daily that contradicts the very harmony we desire to live in. And it's a daily struggle that's going to take intentionality, self-examination and accountability to reframe. I just don't think it's enough to say we've got to be nicer people, because while ideal, there's an evil pervading our world that is far stronger than everyday niceness. I am still foolish enough to believe that light can overcome darkness. I still believe that we can overcome evil with good. But I also believe that in order to do that, we have got to commit to more than clichéd phrases. We've got to sit down with our residents, our families our churches our communities and ask:
- What does it mean for us to love and how can we come up with an action plan to live that out?
- How are we contributing to an environment of hate?
- What can we do to end that?
It has become more than evident that evil has a strategy and a plan to carry evil out. So why don't we?