My wife and I both moved to Algona from St. Louis and while it isn’t where I grew up, it is a city that I’ve come to love. It’s a great place with many things to do and see. The food is great too. Since my wife’s family all lives there we make it back to visit on a somewhat regular basis. Last week we packed up the car and drove down so that all of the extended family could meet our new daughter, Abby.
The first night we were in town we were having dinner with some friends who told us that an event that they were supposed to attend the next night had been cancelled. We asked why, and they said they city was preparing for a verdict to be announced the next day in the case of another police officer involved shooting.
Now if you’ve been paying attention to the news, you probably know how this turned out. A white police officer was found not guilty of murder in a case where he shot and killed a black man during a traffic stop.
Protests began in the city shortly after the verdict was announced and continued throughout the weekend. As we sat and watched the news, I recalled living in St. Louis during the protests and rioting in Ferguson following a similar incident a few years go. It’s incredibly sad to watch a community that I love struggle with this conflict, hatred, and tensions.
Watching the situation unfold reignited something I’ve been thinking more and more about recently as our country experiences conflict after conflict unfold before us. Before the St. Louis protests there was the violent clash between a group that was reminiscent of the KKK and counter protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia. Before that there is a nearly endless list of conflicts and clashes, protests and violence.
“All you need is love…” or so the Beatles once said. It’s the same refrain that I hear over and over again as people try to make sense of all of the hatred, racism, and violence. Friends in my newsfeed post news articles about these terrible event and offer accompanying comments wondering why there is so much hate in the world and imploring people to love each other more. Commentators on 24 hour news stations offer similar advice. “Love more” is the refrain after every terrible act of violence, hate, or racism that happens
It is horrifying to see these things happen and the constant conflict can be overwhelming and make a person feel like it’s impossible for anyone to love anyone else anymore.
Yet we constantly implore people to dig deeper inside of themselves. Find that good inside of you and love and care for your fellow humans. It’s true, we should love and care for each other, if for no other reason than for a common sense of decency and respect.
But have you noticed that the more we tell people to dig down inside of themselves and find love instead of hate to share with the rest of the world, the worse things get? The more we tell people, “You need to be nice” or “We all just need to love each other” or “No hate, just love” The more hate we see. The more division we see. The more violence we see.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. In fact, I know it isn’t a coincidence. You see, I know that there is nothing good inside of me when I’m left to my own devices. There is nothing good in any human being. We’re all filled with sin, death, and destruction. That makes us selfish, it makes us lazy, it makes us hateful, it makes us violent.
The more we tell people to just dig into themselves, what are they going to find? More sin! More hate! More conflict. Saint Paul tells us this in Romans 7, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So what are we to do? How do we make things better? Can we make things better? Our key to resolving all of the hate and conflict and violence and terrible things that keep happening isn’t to tell people to look further inside of themselves hoping to find love.
Instead it is to look to Jesus. He is love in the flesh. He loves you and showed that love by coming and living here on earth. He showed that love by dying on the cross to forgive your sins and mine. He showed that love by rising from the dead and continuing to live and be in charge of everything.
John tells us this in chapter 3 of his gospel, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
It’s when we look outside of ourselves, when we experience Jesus’ love that we’re truly able to love others no matter who that other person is or what they have done. We are able to love because Jesus first loved us, not because we were able to dig down deep and find some special love inside of ourselves.
So I hope you will look to Jesus. Experience his love. When you do, turn around and share it with as many people as you can. I think it would be pretty awesome to see Jesus’ love reflected in our cities and states across the country because his love drives out hate, selfishness, and violence and replaces it with a peace that the world so desperately needs.
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.