“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr. from Strength to Love
As the 2020 presidential race seems to have begun at the end of 2018, as the longest-ever partial government shutdown grinds on, as the Mueller probe continues, as hundreds of thousands of government workers go without paychecks, as a new governor and a new legislature begin in this state, and as the New England Patriots proceed to their third Super Bowl appearance in a row, this quote has relevance for us all. The source of our thoughts, feelings, and actions should not be hate; it must be love. Yet, we all too often allow hate to dominate us.
This new year will we yell at the television (either alone or in front of our children) when some political figure whom we loathe appears? Will we become cynical about our individual or collective ability to enact meaningful change? Will we choose to react to every headline that comes across a screen, a radio station, or a newspaper? Will we remain silent as vitriol, myopia, and tribalism spew fourth from various sources in our daily lives (and possibly from us, too)? Will we keep listening to, watching, and reading the same characters that belch bombast and deliver demagoguery?
If we’re so jaded, cynical, and biased, how can we fulfill Jesus’ command to love? Jesus, like all true prophets, was in tune with the culture around him. He knew how religion, politics, tribalism, and economics worked and how corrosive they can be when they are detached from love. While Jesus confronted toxic religion, politics, tribalism, and economics, he never became bitter, cynical, or emotionally detached. He never allowed hate to take up residence in his mind and heart space.
Yet, Jesus had to detox at times by getting away. While getting away, he would recharge his mind, body, and spirit. Like Jesus, we need to detox at times. We need to get away from all the toxic things that inundate us (or that we allow to inundate us). We have to recharge, refresh, and renew. Perhaps we should not look at that headline, not sign in to Facebook, unsubscribe from that e-mail list or podcast, not read that newspaper, not turn on the TV, and avoid certain friends/family members/work colleagues.
The Lent Challenge
Lent is the next large movement in the symphony that is the annual Christian Calendar. During this movement, we often select activities that have become ritualistic, or perhaps even idolatrous, and let go of them for a time in order to be released from their grasp so that we may embrace Christ more fully. What activities prevent us from loving the way Christ would have us love? What mindsets, politicians, and affiliations block the road toward “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-34)? Lent offers us a time to refresh, recharge, and renew so that we can become better lovers. Let us so love.