"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." - Romans 12:9-13
Last week was a very dark one in the world.
With massive bombings in Iraq, plus two racially-charged shootings and an attack on police officers in the U.S., it almost feels like we can't escape the darkness.
I'll admit, it's getting more and more difficult to write messages of hope just days after another violent and tragic event occurs. The news shows images of hatred. The internet erupts with messages of vengeance. Confusion and disillusionment abound. Where is the light in these things?
Moreover, how should a Jesus-follower respond to all of this?
As much as I may personally struggle to comprehend the purpose of these tragedies, I believe the apostle Paul had an inclination towards a proper response. Paul faced multiple tragedies and injustices throughout his life, many of them quite personal. (For a quick summary of his trials, check out 2 Corinthians 11:21-33).
In his letter to the churches in Rome, specifically Chapter 12, Paul pens a beautiful passage of spirit-filled wisdom on how to respond to darkness (vs. 9-13 are above).
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:14-21
Read it again. Does God tell us through Paul that we should just give up hope for all of humanity? Does he write that we should give in to depression and fear revolving around the state of the world's affairs? Does he write that we should apathetically ignore those who are hurting and suffering as if their plight doesn't affect us? Does he write that we should lash out with angry rhetoric against those who perpetrate the violence, or even fight back with more violence?
No, no, no. Those are not the things that God graciously tells us through Paul's instruction. The message is something completely backwards to our natural human tendencies.
Because of the love and mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are free to respond to darkness differently.
He writes that we should respond with blessings. He writes that we should respond with sympathy, love, and care for those who are mourning and suffering great injustice. He writes that we should be peace-makers in every facet of our journey, even if we are wronged by someone. He writes that we should not seek revenge, but should instead trust God to make all things right.
If we express fear, hatred, and viciousness in response to the darkness, we simply become a part of it. Quite frankly, that's exactly what darkness seeks--to draw in more darkness.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted in saying, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
The only response of true light is to express the love of Christ. May we seek to show it to those around us, and pray for those who are hurting right now.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director @ IDES.