“Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”
Yesterday I had to travel to Pittsburgh (from where I live in central PA) for a couple of appointments. And while I was there driving through town, I passed by the Tree of Life Synagogue. For those who may not remember, the congregation was attacked during Shabbat services one Saturday morning in October 2018.
I was living in Southern Louisiana at the time and I clearly remember all of us gathering at the synagogues in our city the following weeks to show solidarity as they faced the intense realities of what the tragedy had meant and would mean for their community.
Five months later, when the Christchurch Mosque shooting occurred in New Zealand, we gathered on Friday evening at the Islamic Center in Baton Rouge. Many of us who were not of the Muslim faith covered our heads in solidarity. And the congregation there told us it was their first candlelight vigil as they handed out the candles. But the most powerful moment that night was when members of the Jewish synagogues, who had been supported only months before, ended their services early so that they could be there for their brothers and sisters.
Because the truth is this: we are better together.
When we find the place that we care as much about our brothers’ and sisters’ safety (no matter who they are) as our own, then we are beginning to understand who God truly is. Throughout history and in nearly all the major world religions, God has proven God’s self to be about caring for people, creatures, and the creation. As Joachin Phoenix said, when he quoted his brother the other night, if you focus on love, peace will follow.
An important thing to remember here is that the love to which I am referring is not the romantic type we will celebrate later this week. It is instead the compassionate, merciful, emancipating, empowering force of nature that is God’s own self. That is the love we are meant to seek with every fiber of our being.
That means we do stand together when trouble comes, no matter where we come from. That means that we seek to befriend those who are different than us. That means that though we may tolerate other humans in their God-created bodies, we have no tolerance for hatred, injustice, and oppression.
For make no mistake: hatred is unacceptable.
We are all entitled to our opinions until that moment when our opinion harms another. Be it bigotry, sexism, racism, classism, ageism, or judging someone for their religion – none of them are acceptable. We cannot simply be non-racist, or non-ageist, or non-sexist. We who follow the God who is love must be anti-all of those things. Actively. It is a choice we must make multiple times every day, because it is that important.
So, this Valentine’s Day, reach out and get to know your neighbor. And not just the ones who look like, sound like, or think like you. Be God’s love to whoever needs it. Then, just maybe, we’ll start finding a way forward. Together.