I’m not usually a current events writer, but something about the riots in Charlottesville this past weekend stuck with me and I can’t let it go. The term torch-bearers kept rolling around in my mind. What seemed to be an innocuous term now has violence and hatred associated with it. And rightfully so. The people that were bearing those torches are evil. I can’t think of a better word. What they stand for and what they believe and what they do is so against the Bible, it can only be called evil.
I believe that its important to publicly condemn these people. Its important to say the words and put on the labels. But what I really thought about this weekend is, how can I actually change the world? I don’t have an internationally read blog, so its not like saying anything here is going to change people’s minds. A Facebook or Instagram post doesn’t change the world, and honestly, did a fight on twitter ever help anyone?
So, then what do we do? Do we stay silent? Pretend that it was an isolated incident? That it has nothing to do with us?
No. Staying silent is not the right answer. But we can’t fight hatred with hatred. As a Christian, I believe that the best way I can change the world, is one person at a time. Some people have huge platforms and God has called them to a public life. But most of us are just like me – a regular person leading a regular life, yet called to do something extraordinary. Love people the way God would love them.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the book of Job these past few months. You probably know the story – a man who is going through the worst time of his life. And he has terrible friends. Friends who tell him that he must be doing something wrong. That if he would only repent, things would get better. They assume they know the ins and outs of the situation. They assume they know the depth of his grief. And worst of all, they assume they know the reason for Job’s trials and that they have all the answers. Sounds like a lot of words being spoken these days.
In chapter 16 Job tells his friends just how it is – “miserable comforters are ye all”. And he goes on to tell them three things he wishes for from his friends. I think when someone in pain speaks up and tells us what they need, its a good time to listen closely.
“I would strengthen you with my mouth” The words we use when speaking to others matter. When so many words of hatred are spewing out on the streets and on the internet, words of love stand out. Words that strengthen are not the norm anymore. May we always look for those who are hurting and use words that strengthen them, build them up, help them to feel the love of God through us.
“the moving of my lips should asswage your grief” Asswage is an old word that means to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses). Do our words bring healing? Do they lessen grief? Or do they add to it? I know that I am guilty of that sometimes. I think the biggest point of this is that in order to asswage someone’s grief, we first have to listen for a long time to understand it. We can’t be afraid of people’s stories, of their opinions, of their grief.
“ O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!” The last thing Job says at the end of the chapter is that he really needs them to pray for him. And not just pray, but plead with God. The most important thing we can do for those who are hurting, those in our little circle of influence, is to pray for them. We desperately need prayer for our countries, our cities, our friends, our homes, our governments. Its scary out there and people are hurting. We are called to be the light of the world, to shine God’s love to each and every person out there. To strengthen, to asswage grief, to pray. But we can’t do that in our own strength. It is a mission that only God can give us the strength to do.
May we go out tomorrow with determination to shine God’s love to each person that we can and change the world in a small way.