In last week’s post, I spoke of remembering the beginnings of this blog because of where I was. This week I’m remembering because of another succession of violence. Not shootings or actual physical violence but verbal violence and the threat of physical violence. In a news broadcast late last week, there were two stories: one in which a mother, in a public meeting, says that if the school leadership requires her children to wear masks that she would show up at school with all of her guns; and another one in which a man, in an official court document, says that those who don’t support greater voting restrictions should be ‘exterminated.’
We come together in grief and pain when there is an act of physical violence in shooting incidents, cars ramming through parades, attacks on business owners and public transportation riders, but are we outraged at violent words? Are we shocked by them? Do we even notice them anymore. Words matter. God spoke all of creation into being. Words have the power to create, and to destroy.
Physical acts of violence begin with words. When we use words and statements that devalue the life of another, we cause damage to our own soul. Jesus says even if we think of hurting someone we have caused harm because it affects how we see that person.
From the beginning of my public writing I’ve said the answer to the violence in this world is compassion and that we all need to continuously work on our compassion ‘muscles’. Just as we are intentional with our physical wellbeing, we need to be intentional with our spiritual wellbeing. We are told by the writers of the Good News story that Jesus was often moved with compassion when he encountered crowds of hungry folks. Compassion is what takes us beyond sympathy or empathy to working together to alleviate the suffering and pain of others. Jesus didn’t just acknowledge their hunger, he worked to alleviate it. Jesus gave both physical and spiritual nourishment. And he calls us to do the same.
Human life is the most valuable thing in all of creation. Human beings all have the image of God at their very core. This is how Jesus teaches us to see the world (those who have eyes to see). I do believe that the reason some people place so little value on other’s lives is that deep down they see no value in their own. It was no accident that Jesus says we are to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES. When we truly accept God’s love for us we cannot help but love others in the same way. So, to the two individuals I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, please know that God loves you. And to each of you reading this, know you are God’s beloved child. Sit with that thought for a few minutes. Feel it. Let it nourish your compassion muscles.
The antidote to the lack of love in this world is more love, active love that sees the image of God in everyone and treats others with the dignity and honor due God’s beloved children. When we hear others voicing violence, let’s counter it with loving words. Voicing violence isn’t just making threats, it is also calling others names that make them less human, it is belittling their actions instead of seeing with eyes of compassion. Voicing violence is any thought our words that diminish another’s worth as a human being. When we hear ourselves voicing violence, let’s stop and remind ourselves that the person we are speaking against is also a beloved child of God, created in God’s own image, just as we are. It will heal our souls and help alleviate the suffering and pain of violence in this world.
Let’s follow Jesus in the Revolution.