Lately, my prayers have been filled with phases that start “Holy Spirit, I don’t know how you are going to do this.” My spirit has been grieved for the recent shootings that have rocked communities — the two most recent being in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado. In total, just from those two, 18 people are dead. El Paso has also had its experience with a hateful shooting. These acts of violence are awful and show that there are truly broken people out there.
There are a couple of thoughts that I have when things like this happen. One is a kind of numbness. A thought, “That’s just how the world is. People are always going to be messed up and there is nothing we can do about it.” Another thought is anger: “How dare these people take an innocent life. They deserve to die for their actions.” The strongest thought is of sadness: “Why does this have to happen? How can we make it better?” I think it’s easy for us to get stuck in any one of these thought processes when we see examples of the brokenness of the world.
As I have sat and prayed and meditated on this, I’ve been led back to 1 Corinthians 13. The chapter is well known as the love chapter. It is often read at weddings and such events, but can we read it in the face of hate and brokenness. Can we look at the news article and read the number of people killed? Can we look at people rioting? Can we look at ever-spreading sickness and say, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
That last line is especially hard to concentrate on. Jesus asks me to love. I know that loving someone doesn’t make what they did right, but Jesus still asks me to do it, to think of a broken person who shoots at people with love and compassion. It is one of the hardest things to think. It would be easier to just not think about it, but love is active and ongoing. “Love never ends.”
I can’t change the past events that have happened. I can only grieve and pray for the people hurt by them, but I can do something for the future. I can love actively. I can practice all the 1 Corinthians 13 aspects of love with the people around me, and maybe, just maybe a broken person who is considering violence can feel a little bit of Jesus’ love and change their heart. We should think like this. We should plan our lives around loving those around us. I know it’s easier said than done and that it won’t fix everything, but it’s a hope. Through the Holy Spirit, I cling to the hope that actively loving people can change the world.
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