As I spent most of the day yesterday watching the tweets, live streams, and news reports role in I found myself in shock over what I saw going on in my own country. It’s hard to come up with any response that seems fitting when confronted with such hate and violence. For some reason I couldn’t stop going back to Mary Magdalene. Mary has been called the “patron saint of just showing up.” I wondered if Mary were here today what would she have to say? What could she teach us in the face of such atrocities?
Mary was said to have had seven demons cast from her. After being freed from demons I believe she would have showed up yesterday to name the demons for exactly what they were. The demon of hatred, the demon of Racism, the demon of violence. Mary would not have been afraid to call out these evils for exactly what they were. Mary wouldn’t have shied away and neither should we.
But, as someone who knew what it was like to be freed from her own demons I think Mary would’ve reminded us that the racist, the white supremacist, and even the the Nazis we saw yesterday, are also beloved children of God who desperately need to be freed from their own demons. I think that’s what Mary has to teach us, or at least me this morning. That through all of this it’s easy to become filled with hate toward the white supremacist & the hate groups we saw on the news or in person. Its easy to blame them as the problem, and act as if they would just go away everything would be fine. It’s easy, but it’s not gospel. To hate the haters is to give ourselves over to the same demons, and to depart from the way of Jesus who said,
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
This seems like a nice idea on a Sunday morning, but impossible on a Saturday night where a girl is dead and many more are injured just because they had the audacity to peacefully proclaim that hate had no place in Virginia or anywhere else. It seems impossible that when confronted with hate proudly marching through the streets that I’m seriously supposed to feel anything that even remotely resembles love. Jesus surely wasn’t talking about these people was he? Where’s the escape clause so I can feel justified that these people are the exception? Sadly, Jesus doesn’t give us that easy option. Instead, Jesus doubles down on this message.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Luke 6:32
And again in verse 35
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Just as this start to seem like too much. I’m reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say:”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
We must love. Even when it seems impossible, we must love. Even when it feels like we have to fake it, we must love. Not because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s even the Christian thing to do, but because love is the only thing powerful enough to overcome their hate. Love is the only thing powerful enough to free us from our own demons while simultaneously freeing the haters from theirs. So hatred be damned we will love you anyway.