Love is stronger than hate | Clergy Corner
As a preacher, I am tired of saying “these are difficult times.” It’s a phrase I’ve said far too often in these past two years to the point where it is becoming trite. And so, I understand if you’re exhausted by the news. I am exhausted by the news.
But our tiredness and growing indifference to the pain in the world does not stop the tragedy. The grief and heartache and burnout that came from the shooting in Uvalde did not stop the senseless death at a Fourth of July parade in Illinois. Though we increasingly tune out the war in Ukraine as “background noise” it does not stop the terrible tragedy unfolding in their streets and countryside. There is this sickness of hatred in our world that persists.
And on a much smaller scale, but still deeply impactful, that illness of hatred came to our own town of Woodland when a group threatened, intimidated, and physically harassed a positive LGBTQ event celebrating the diversity of our city, and targeted one of our beloved local business, Mojo’s. While no one died, it was still unsettling to see images of our 1 st St with a large group of intimidating people threatening and yelling obscenities. We know that this hatred will not simply go away if we ignore it.
It is precisely this illness of hatred that makes authentic spirituality essential. As many Americans have figured out now, spirituality is something different from religion. It is richer and deeper. Good religion, helpful religion, is a guide from our ancestors to help us explore spirituality.
Spirituality is finding deep within yourself the strength to hold onto hope, joy, and peace in the face of despair, sorrow, and violence. Spirituality is the practices and rituals and daily habits you do that help you get outside of just your own self-interests so that you can reach out to help your neighbor, particularly when it is most scary to do so. Spirituality is to know the Divine in our own lives, particularly when they are challenging and discouraging.
And Jesus describes this encounter with the Divine, the inner strength that holds onto hope, as love. And that might seem too sentimental for our time. But remember, in Jesus’ day there were public crucifixions lining the streets into Jerusalem regularly. Jesus is as familiar as we are with public displays of brutality and hatred.
And so this love that Jesus speaks of is strong enough to see this hatred and not look away. It seeks to show compassion. Seeks to provide some kind of relief, or care, or help make a change happen. Love like this is active, it is engaged, it is reaching out into another person’s life to make a difference, no matter how small that difference might seem.
If we love in this way, then the news about shootings, and the news about Ukraine, and the news about the violence and intimidation in our own city would stir up a reaction in you. How can you care for those grieving the loss of loved ones and family? How can we care for refugees fleeing Ukraine? How do we reach out to the people in our community who are feeling so angry, lonely abandoned, and are in great pain? How can you advocate for the social changes in our common life we need to live in greater harmony?
It can feel daunting. Like the task is too large and the impact too small. But a place to find inspiration here in Woodland is the new Woodland Third Thursday Humanitarian Day. At 850 Pioneer Ave, there is a monthly gathering on the Third Thursday of each month from 1 – 9 pm where various humanitarian volunteer projects are available to serve and practice this kind of self-giving love. Things like assembly food boxes for those experiencing homelessness, preparing supplies for refugees being resettled, and supporting various local organizations like Fourth & Hope, Personal Care Pantry, Food Bank, and others.
Starting somewhere, and acting in community with others, is key to sustaining the practice of loving in the midst of hatred. And as we do that then love shall be stronger than hatred. For hatred may cause death. But love can always make something new out of the grave.