A Call to Love in a Culture of Hate

Shootings

I went to bed Saturday night after having read the news of the shooting in El Paso, Texas.  I awoke Sunday morning to news about another shooting in Dayton, Ohio. As a pastor, I felt a responsibility and an urge to talk with the Sunday morning congregation about the events. It wasn’t planned.  It wasn’t part of the “order of service” that had already been set and sent out to the team.  

 

But neither had we planned on these shootings.

 

So, before I arrived at Sunday Morning Venues, I wrote these thoughts and then shared them during our services:   

 

Today we mourn over our country that has once again witnessed the evil of hate. 

We grieve over the state of our land. 

We humbly open ourselves to the real possibility that we have ignited  the flames of hate. As James writes, “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.  A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell”  (James 3:5-6).

We confess our sin. 

We long for the day seen by the prophet Isaiah and fulfilled in the Christ we see in Jesus, when, “Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there (Isaiah 60:18).

We express our hope.

As children of God we accept the call to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).

We renounce every expression of violence.  

Violence of the tongue.  Violence of the gun.  

Violence in the heart.  Violence with the hand.  

Violence with a post.  Violence with a text.  

Instead, today, our mouths will speak blessings not cursings;  love not hate. (James 3:9-10).  

Today, …our feet will move to spread the good news of peace (Isaiah 52:7). 

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“A Kinder-Gentler Nation and Person”

bush-service-dog-casket-today-main-181203_9de5b5e8b8fb1b3fdd67537267a2cc5a.1200;630;7;70;2The above pic is of Sully, the service dog who belonged to President George H.W. Bush.

 

On August 19, 1988, George H.W. Bush received the Republican party’s nomination for President of the United States.  In his acceptance speech, he called for a “kinder, gentler, nation.”

On November 30, 2018, “43” (George W. Bush), in a phone call, said to his dad, “41,”  “I love you.”  And President George H.W. Bush replied, “I love you, too.” And those were the last words he ever spoke. 

Our 41st President led the country, led his family, led his own life, with kindness.  Sure, there were moments of unkindness.  In the final days of the 1992 campaign, President Bush, running for re-election,  unleased this remark against candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate Al Gore, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”  

The voters didn’t buy it.  Clinton beat Bush 43% to 37%.  Third-party candidate Ross Perot swung the election with 19% of the vote.  

But kindness prevailed.  In a handwritten note to Clinton dated January 20, 1993, Bush wrote, “You will be our President when you read this note.  I wish you well.  I wish your family well.  Your success is now our country’s success.  I am rooting hard for you.  Good Luck – George”

Kindness and humility.  General Colin Powell said of President Bush (41), “…He was a man of great humility.  He was humble.”  “Bush,” he added, “was a product of his parents, who told him, you know, ‘Don’t show off George; just always remember, you’re humble, you work for people, you serve people.’”  

His parents’ teaching  took.  Bush was so self-effacing that he hated to use the personal pronoun. “Don’t be talking about yourself,” his mother instructed him.  

Maybe humility and kindness are teammates.  Maybe my failure or refusal to show kindness reflects the pride in my  heart – a sense that I’m better than others and that they deserve to be treated unkindly.  I mean if they didn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t treat them unkindly, would I? At least that’s how we justify our unkindness.  Unkindness and put downs go hand in hand.  

“Kindness” is a spiritual trait.  It is used over and over again in the New Testament:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the children  of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil” (Luke 6:35).

“…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32).

“clothes yourselves with kindness…” (Colossians 3:12).  

“Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Jesus’ yoke is called “chrestos” (the Greek word for “kind”), in Matthew 11:30:  “For my yoke is easy (kind)…”  It does not chafe. It does not irritate.  No splinters, no callouses from Jesus’ yoke.  

W.E. Vine defines “chrestos” as “mild, pleasant, in contrast to what is harsh, sharp, bitter.”  

Kindness needs to be the calling-card for Christ-followers. 

Kindness, though, crosses all religions.  Kindness knows no race, religion or gender.  

It is universal.  It is internal.  

Christians call this the indwelling of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  

Buddhists call this maitri – a kindness to oneself that then leads to a kindness toward others.

Take a close look at rude, unkind people.  What we might see behind their bullying behavior is a deeply insecure person.  People with low self-esteem often hide their own insecurities behind a mask of superiority and meanness. 

Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves before we are kind to others?  

Meditation helps me do this.  In meditation, I can sense God’s love and kindness to me (In Loving-kindness Jesus Came).

From that place of kindness within my spirit, I can embrace in concentric circles, in ripples of kindness, those that I love dearly and deeply, casual friends, strangers, then finally, I can let that ripple include someone who has hurt me.  

All can be objects of the kindness that resides in the spirit within – in my true self.

It’s Christmas time.  The season of giving and all of that.  If you’re looking for ideas on what to give, here’s one: 

“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.”  

Thank you President Bush 41 for the ripple of kindness.  

Is Racism Still a Thing?

racism

 

“Why do you talk about racism?”  That’s the question I was asked by a man who had told me he was looking around for another church.

“Racism may have been a problem in your day, but we’re over it today,” the 30-something claimed.

“In your day” is kind of an “ouch” phrase, but I appreciate it.  I don’t want to be guilty of bringing into the present the problems of the past.

But, is racism an ancient problem of days gone by?  Oftentimes when I talk about racism, I get some push back:

“No one owns slaves.”

“I never see racism.”

“What I see is discrimination against whites.”

“We had a black President!”

What do you think?

Before you answer, read what happened to me last week.

I was at Sam’s Club in the fresh fruit section.   A food sampling stand made the aisle really narrow and crowded.  A narrow aisle and a wide cart.  And, I didn’t park my cart very well.  It was  sticking out into the aisle a bit.    Two African American ladies, maybe mother and daughter, were pushing their cart toward me.  I smiled at them and said, “Hey, how ya doing?” while pulling my cart closer to the fruit display to make room for them to get through.

You need to know that in the section of the cart where we used to set our kids, I now set my “man-bag.” Yes, I carry one.  That’s a topic for another post.

Another shopper passed by, leaned over to me, and said, “You were smart to protect your purse,” and kept right on walking.

I was stunned.

“Did I hear that right?”

“Did she really just say that?”
“Did she call my Man-Bag a purse?”
“Did she think I moved my cart out of fear that the two black ladies would steal my bag?”

Moving my cart, to her, was “smart?”  Really?

That’s why I talk about racism.

Racism is not a thing of yesterday.  It’s a thing today.

When I got home I told Denise about the experience.  “Did you say something to the lady?” she asked.  “No,” I answered, “I was too shocked.  By the time I came back to my senses, she was gone.”

Let’s be shocked by the labeling we see and the labeling we do.

Whenever we’re labeling, we’re not seeing.

Let’s come to our senses.

Let’s challenge ourselves and others.

Our youth choir at Forest Park Baptist Church, Joplin MO, used to sing a song called “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

“Let there be peace on earth,  

And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth,

The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,

Brothers all are we.

Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.”

Yes, that was “back in the day” – 1970 or 1971.

We needed it then.  We need it now.