OPERATION Love Your Neighbor
Taking the offensive against hate one neighborhood at a time
Syrian refugees flee Isis atrocities
Clashes with police leave Minneapolis man dead
Dallas sniper kills multiple officers
Isis terrorists attack in Paris
Attack on America! 9-11
The news is full of these headlines. Everyday we seem to wake up to a new atrocity, a new expression of the age-old force of hate. It brings up intense feelings in us. Sorrow, confusion, suspicion, fear, and the desire for justice or at its worse, revenge. This blog is not intended to make a political statement about national security and immigration – but rather explore a deeper issue concerning humanity.
Yesterday, a terrorist attack aimed at a crowd of innocent French people celebrating Bastille Day, left 84 people dead and many more injured. This coward mowed down fellow human beings using a giant truck as his weapon, plowing through and crushing men, women, and children before he was finally shot dead. My heart cries out, “Death was too good for him! He should have suffered a thousand times over what pain he inflicted on his victims.” And so the hate he sowed, takes root in my soul, just as the Enemy had purposed all along.
But who is my enemy? The Muslims? The NRA? The politicians? The Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos? Anyone who thinks, looks, acts different than me?
Think on this scripture:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
The war machine pours billions of dollars into eradicating our flesh and blood enemies. And perhaps for a season, we live in a false sense of security that we “won” and are now “safe.” And then, hate rears its ugly head again in unsuspecting places killing more innocent lives and leaving the survivors in a paralyzed state of shock.
War and hate have been in the fabric of our existence since the beginning of mankind, yet the worst kind of violence is that which is done in the name of God. Right now the Christian world is heaving from the senseless attacks at the hands of the extremist group – Islamic State. But we only have to go back into our own history to find agendas of religious based violence; the Christian Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, African slavery, witch hunts, persecution of the Jews, clashes in Northern Ireland to name a few.
On a recent airline trip I sat next to a gentleman and we struck up a conversation that lasted for the entire 3-hour flight. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for a good story and I’ve found the best ones come from the nitty-gritty realities in an individual person’s life. Nazim’s story was one of harrowing escape as a teenager from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He and his family escaped with nothing except the clothes on their backs and walked by night for two weeks over the border into India where they took asylum. After receiving his higher education in India, he immigrated to America 30 years ago and runs a successful consulting business for the American military teaching personnel bound for Afghanistan about the culture, language and people of that country. He values peace, tolerance, generosity, and patriotism and raises his family to aspire to seek love instead of hate. His heart overflows with gratitude for the opportunities America has given him and for God who worked all things for good in his life. He has a sign on his desk at work, “God bless America.”
And he is Muslim.
We couldn’t have been cut from a more different fabric yet we found common ground on the most important rock-solid foundation – love. The most powerful weapon against the Enemy and his agenda of hate and destruction. So powerful in fact, that Jesus himself said that it was the most important commandment of all. Love God, and love your neighbor.
But exactly WHO is my neighbor? According to Jesus, it’s anyone in need – loved one or stranger. (Luke 10:25-37)
Our highest calling, our pinnacle of evolution, our most effective weapon against hate is to love others. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna-sit-around-the-campfire-singing Kumbayah type of love. I’m talking about a radical, counterintuitive, selfless love that isn’t afraid to engage with the lovable and the unlovable. Especially the unlovable. (Luke 6:32-36)
If we answer hate with hate then all we get is more hate. And worse, we give hate power over us. Lose-lose. Succumbing to fear by lashing out in hate makes us no better than those who hurt us in the first place. Hate is cowardice.
Still, we see atrocities all around us and our hearts cry out, “Do something, God!” And He answers, “I am. Through you.”
“But what can I do?”
“First, fight the temptation to lash out in your words and/or deeds. And then start small. If the intention is unconditional love, then it will grow into something big.”
“But I’m an introvert.”
“It doesn’t matter. Even introverts know how to love.”
“But I’m just one person.”
“So was Jesus. Follow His lead.”
And so, OPERATION Love Your Neighbor is born in my home; reaching out to and serving my literal neighbors. I live on a dead end street in a rural mountain setting and have roughly six houses relatively close in my neighborhood. I have a good relationship with two of my neighbors because we have a lot in common. It’s easy to love them. The other four I either avoid because they grate on me or they don’t seem interested.
But everyone has a story. And it’s time I search out that neighbor or neighbors who I don’t really know. I may have a door slammed in my face. But then again, maybe someone may reach out to their neighbors and beyond, and who knows what the ripple effect might be.
The next time I read a “Headline of Hate” I will resist the temptation to react in fear and replace it with the intention to act in love.
One neighbor at a time.
Where will you be brave enough to love today?