If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Let’s not just talk about love, let’s practice real love. – exerts from John’s letter to the early church
The past few weeks have been a trying time for us as a nation, it makes me wonder how parents are responding and preparing their children for the world around them. This has become front and center in my household as we’ve been dealing with our own clash in ideology from within, my nieces are staying with us for the summer. They bring with them a different set of values and life experiences, and we’ve had a number of moments where conflict has arisen simply because of our differences.
Last night was another moment, where the youngest niece (14) convinced my 6 and 4 year old to sneak out of their rooms to have a slumber party. My wife and I found all three of them cozied up and knocked out together in bed in the guest room. Harmless right? Except for the fact that everybody has to get up early in the morning for camps, and we’ve already explicitly crossed this bridge before telling folks, no sleepovers unless on the weekend because we have things to do during the week and we all need our rest. Our daughters, are used to rules and structures. Our nieces, not so much. So you can imagine my outrage when I found out about the “plot” mid-evening before all of this even went down (grandma heard the girls whispering about it, planning their escape).
Again, in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. It’s fun to hang out with cousins, I get it. However, the little deal that ultimately does become bigger is the deception, defiance, and utimately bad pattern of decision making that can grow out of this (that’s partly why the nieces themselves are here with us). So, while I’ve been trying to figure out what their punishment will be, this morning during my quiet time it dawned on me that perhaps I’m too harsh about this. I went to bed demonizing my niece for potentially ruining my kids judgement, making her out to be the villain when truth of the matter is, they made their own choice (and they’ll have to live with the natural consequences of being tired today).
Also, it dawned on me that this is exactly what we do to each other in society. Instead of viewing those we disagree with as still an equally valuable human being, someone created by God for a unique purpose in this world, we vilify them for being or thinking differently. Essentially the question becomes, how can you love what seems to be unloveable? (notice I said seems, because I believe there is no such thing as truly an unlovable person). For believers, the answer is found in our own spiritual relationships. We believe and have hope in the fact that God loves us the same at our best and at our worst. We also believe that we’re called to return the same love to one another, no matter how angry or hurt they make us.
Remember hurt people, hurt people. That’s what I’m reminding myself as a parent, with new hurting people in our home. Our response has to measured around hurt folks. What they need more than anything else is love. Perhaps the lack of empathy they themselves have received has led to their behavior of denigrating and devaluing others lives. Who knows. Either what, what I know today is that when we do practice real love, everybody wins. It’s hard, until it becomes easy. It has to become our reflexive nature to respond with love when hate or anger wants to be our natural response because we’re concerned about protecting ourselves or our loved ones. I was angry because I wanted to protect my daughters from bad influences. But there’s a bigger picture here. This is also our opportunity to demonstrate and model true love. Just like what our nation needs right now from true believers. I hope we all take advantage of the moment to do the right thing.