Mark Twain, Jesus, and MLK on Love and Hate
“Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.”
I have been silent for days, praying for wisdom. I feel like the messy grace guy should have something to say in regards to the murders that fill the current news cycle. But what can I possibly say?
I don’t think there’s anything anyone can truly say to make any of this better. I certainly have no power to stop senseless killings or to change hardened hearts.
Here’s the truth: I am angry with you. I am discouraged, too. Like many of you, I want to bury my head in the sand or stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes and just scream. I want all of this to go away. I don’t want it to be true.
But friends, it is true. And it isn’t going away.
During weeks when senseless murder has city centers and the news cycle locked down, I wonder if Mr. Twain was correct. Maybe we’d all be better if Noah’s boat had sprung a leak.
It seems that since the time of Cain and Abel, death and destruction have come to stay. Brother against brother. That truth sounds incredibly disheartening, but here’s what I know:
- My grandparents were in Alabama and Georgia during the lynchings and other unspeakable tragedies of the race war. Crosses in yards may not be quite as common, but we still have as much hatred today as we did back then.
- My Mama grew up in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement. While we are now legally desegregated, culturally, we remain worlds apart.
- I was a child during the Rodney King beating and nothing has changed.
Look at these words from The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society...when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
I have no wisdom that has not already been spoken. I have no comfort that has not already been given.
Look at the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister without cause will be subject to judgment.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus challenged us to be perfect.
I'm no Bible scholar, but I think I know enough about Jesus to remind us that he wasn’t talking about flawless adherence to religious regulations. He wasn’t commanding us to be sanctified, sanitized, or morally polished. Jesus was talking about love. Perfect love. And do you remember what love does?
Perfect love goes to the other side of the tracks.
Hatred segregates. Love gathers.
Hatred destroys. Love gives life.
Hatred breeds further ignorance. Love celebrates our differences.
Perfect love casts out fear.
So may we perfect our love today. In our speech and our actions, each time we see blue lights in our rearview mirror, whenever we see people protesting, and every single time we have the opportunity to greet someone who doesn’t look like us, may we perfect our love.
Because we have been loved perfectly. We have been accepted and approved, loved without condition by a perfect God. We belong.
And we belong together.
Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Gay lives matter. Every life matters.
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