This morning on the drive to work I was listening to the local news station on the radio. It was full of updates on the recent mass shootings in our country, along with reports of how pretty much every politician, celebrity, and public figure has been responding to these horrific acts of violence. And as is usually the case with these types of national tragedies, a lot of the comments and conversation were about why this happened, who is to blame, and how it can be stopped from happening again. And again, as is usually the case with these tragedies, most of the conversation was focused on placing blame on political opponents, or external circumstances, or current laws. The result was that I ended up turning off the radio after only a few minutes of listening, feeling discouraged by the lack of serious conversation about how we can each, individually address these problems.
After I turned off the radio, I had a few minutes of quiet to process what I had heard, and it was then that the Lord reminded me of Proverbs 10:12, which tells us, “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.” As I thought about what this proverb tells us, I realized that in this passage God has given us an answer for how we can each begin to address the current culture of anger and division in which we live, because this proverb tells us that there are basically two different ways that we can respond to the people around us - we can either “hate” them, or “love” them. Either way, what we choose will have consequences.
The first choice is “hatred”, and that's a strong word that many of us probably feel we can't relate to. However, in the original Hebrew, the word used in Psalm 10:12 is “sin’ah”, which means “to have a strong dislike for another person”, which is a sentiment more of us can connect with. So simply put, what the Psalmist is telling us is that the more we dislike a person, the more likely we are to have conflict with them - conflict which can grow in to hatred - which can lead to violence. And that’s the culture and social climate that we’re experiencing in our country right now, as too many of us have chosen hatred.
The other choice God gives us is “love” - and if we choose this option, Psalm 10:12 tells us that it will “make up” for what we don’t like about someone. And what’s interesting about this particular passage is that the Hebrew word for the phrase “make up” comes from the same word for “forgive”. So it’s like forgiving a wrong, or letting go of an offense. And the consequence for choosing this response, is less conflict, less anger, and less hatred. And it's in this contrast between how we treat others that we find the answer to how we can have less conflict in our lives, and in our world . . . we choose to love rather than hate.
The reality is that, with every conflict in our lives, we face a crossroads – a decision about whether or not to act in love. More often than not, it’s a difficult choice for us, because choosing to love usually costs us personally, and so it goes against our natural impulse. But for believers, the choice to love is the path to maturity in our walk with God, because it’s the path God calls us to walk down. John 13:35 puts it this way, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” And it’s through this choice of love for others - no matter who they are, or what they believe, or how they act - that we can each become part of the process of healing the deep wounds that currently exist in our country.
So today, let's choose to help answer the problem of violence and anger and hatred in our world by choosing to love those around us. Let's ask God to help us overlook offenses, ignore mistreatment, look deeper than differences of opinion, and instead choose to respond with love so that the world will know that we are His disciples.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!