Friday, November 20, 2015

Love in the Face of Violence

I wrote this recently for JustUs, a joint project between the Wellspring Foundation and the Elevation Project.  Find the original post here:

This past week or so has been a dark one for humanity.  Everyone has heard about the devastation that rocked Paris this weekend, and everyone has mourned for France.  The response and compassion for those injured in the terrorist attacks have been overwhelming.  Social Media is flooded with the hashtag #prayforparis, with pictures of national monuments lit up with the colours of the French flag, with cries of outrage for those affected by the attacks.

Yet there were many other devastations around the world that didn’t make it to the World stage.  The bombing in Beirut, an attack in Kenya, the continued war in Syria, and the escalation of violence in Burundi.  No one changed their Facebook status to #prayforbeirut, or wrote about how they stood in solidarity with Burundians. The people who suffered loss and injuries in these tragedies weren’t deemed by the western world as important as those in France.

This week we held the International Day for Tolerance.  But as I sifted through Facebook posts and news articles, I couldn’t help but realize that, though the attacks in Paris led to a lot of compassion for the French, the responses that really stood out to me were of fear, hate, and intolerance.  

The reason only a few voices were heard crying about the plights in these other countries is because, the sad truth is, the vast majority of people aren’t tolerant.  We’re not tolerant of those who look different from us, have different cultural values, or practise different religions.

Generally speaking, we live in a tolerant world.  Most people have no problem with how you live your life, as long as it doesn’t affect theirs.  But I think many people’s response to the terrorism in Paris was fear, which led to intolerance, and in many cases, hate.  I was shocked to see people calling for our new Prime Minister to close our borders to Syrian refugees, because people were frightened it would let in terrorists.  I read status updates about how Canadian safety is more important than Syrians seeking refuge, as if geographical proximity to you makes someone’s life worth more than another’s.  

I saw these responses and I mourned.

When did the world forget that we’re all human?  We all have hearts pumping blood through our veins.  We all experience fear, anger, and joy.  We’re all the same.  At what point did we forget this, and learn to think of those who have the same skin, hair and eye colour as us as somehow more deserving of our love and compassion?

So today, I ask you, no, I beg you: In the face of fear, remain tolerant.  In fact, take it a step further and love.  Don’t just tolerate those who are different from you, but love them deeply.  In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus gives us a new commandment: “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God has created each of us in His image.  His Son, Jesus Christ, shed his blood for each of us on the cross.  Who are we to decide that some are more important than others?  

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18.  Rather than react to what’s going on in the world with fear, which leads to hate, let’s choose to love as Jesus did.

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