I was stopped at a red light yesterday, and I saw a sign on the corner. It simply stated, “Why not try kindness?” I’ll admit, I applauded in my car. Over the past week, I have gone through each day with a heavy heart. As if the pandemic and shut down were not enough to bear, we had to witness the brutal death of a handcuffed man at the hands of someone who was meant to be his and all of our protectors. Sadly, this type of deadly violence is far too normalized in our society, whether it be in our entertainment or in our actions against each other, and so when I read that simple sign, “Why not try kindness?” I was just happy to see that someone shared my feelings on how this type of horror can be put to an end. I wanted to share that simple message. It’s as simple as the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” But in thinking that, and in considering the current atmosphere, I began to realize that kindness might not be enough right now.
John 1:5 beautifully states, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” In times like these in which we are so surrounded by darkness, it can be difficult to remember this essential fact. All of our hope and faith rests on the fact that God has overcome the devil, good has overcome evil, love has conquered hate, and light has overcome the darkness. God asks us to be part of that light. Jesus tells us that we “are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:14-16)
Our light is born out of love. The love of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are to try kindness, we can only do so out of love. Love is the source of all good, with kindness being only one manifestation. But what is love? Is love simply a feeling? Does loving someone mean you quietly wish them well, give them a kind smile, and go about your business? Sure, that’s part of it, but is that all it is?
God answered this question in no uncertain terms. He sent His Son, a part of Himself, and that Son was willing to give everything, even His life, out of love for us. And “us,” is everyone – Jew, Greek, Gentile, every nation, every nationality, every ethnicity, and every race. Jesus said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
According to Jesus, according to God, love is more than a feeling. It is more than a silent wishing for someone’s well-being. Love is interest. Love is being willing to give of ourselves for the sake of another. Love is being willing to sacrifice, hopefully not our lives as Jesus has already given His so that we, through His grace and sacrifice could overcome sin. Love means caring about our brothers and sisters, as if they are exactly that – our brothers and sisters, because as God’s children, everyone is.
This brings me to George Floyd and the ongoing issues of race and violence that we see in our country today. I know just those words likely trigger people and will make them stop reading and possibly fire back with a dismissive or angry comment. I implore you, if you consider yourself a Christian, please bear with me.
The video of the death of George Floyd is one of the most deeply disturbing things I have ever seen. As I watched this defenseless man pinned to the ground, begging for his life, my heart broke. I hoped as I watched that the man with his knee in his neck would relent, and instead, he mercilessly pressed on. Right there on video, we see a man’s life slowly drain from his body until his life was lost. This was not a split-second decision made amidst chaos. This was different. This was a man who had decided over the course of over six minutes to keep his knee pressed into a man’s neck as he was permanently silenced. And then, he still pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes more.
The pain of seeing this happen to one of God’s children is unbearable. I could not finish watching the video. If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we have to recognize that all people are our brothers and sisters. As I looked into the eyes of George Floyd, eyes that turned from desperate to empty, I thought about him and his life. He had lived over forty years. Each breath in his life was a miracle provided by God. I call him a brother as a Christian, but I think of his earthly family. He was once a precious baby held in loving hands. He has a mother and father. What dreams did they have for his life? Perhaps he had brothers and sisters. Maybe he had a wife. Maybe he had children.
Now, I think of myself. If I were to put myself in George Floyd’s place, I think of my family. What incredible terror would my wife have to endure in receiving the news of my death, and then having to watch that horrible video of how it happened. She would have to explain to our children why they would never see their father again, when all it would have taken to prevent it was a second of mercy in over eight minutes of violence. My father, who nurtured me, loved me, dreamed for me, would have to see all those dreams reduced to a eight-minute segment of terror and death. It is horrifying.
If we are to call ourselves Christians, if we are to say that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and vow to treat them as such, if we are to call all people our brothers and sisters, if we are to say we love everyone, then we must not stand idly by. If our love does not compel us to action, then I don’t believe that our love exists.
So, what is the action? I have thought long and hard about this, and I do not know. I wish I did. What I do know is at the very least, as Christians, we need to raise our hands and say we are ready and willing to move into a future devoid of this hatred and violence. We need to be the light. We must not hide our lamps under our bushel baskets, and we must be the city shining on the hill. I know the only way this will happen is if we learn to look at all people, regardless of their skin color, beliefs, politics, or any other divisive element, as our brothers and sisters. We need to stand in solidarity with the downtrodden. We need to hear their cries. We need to listen with open hearts and open minds. And, if we are ever to truly hear their cries, we first must in humility take a long, uncomfortable look in the mirror at the prejudices and sins that live in our own hearts.
Elie Wiesel is often quoted as saying, “the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” As Christians, we cannot be Christian and be indifferent to the suffering of another human being. By definition, it is the opposite of the essence of God (“God is love.” -1 John 4:8)
We may not have a solution to the problem, but we must love our brothers and sisters enough to listen, to care, and to try.