Listen

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On a still morning, I can hear it.

We don’t have many still mornings. Gun shots, people begging to breathe, threats. So many threats.

Screaming and yelling, continuous arguments. I feel them echo in me even when I shut out their source.

Am I their source?

Accuse. Accuse and attack again. Why are they so threatened? Why does good news sound bad to them?

It’s so bad. It’s funny bad. It’s laughing-hysterically-“can-this-get-any-worse?” bad.

Now it’s worse.

“Forgive me.”

“All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything.”

“You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”

It’s worse.

I can’t bring back this child. I can’t save the next child.

The screaming is so loud.

It’s worse.

How can you be arguing still? How can you pretend not to see? Are you pretending? Can you really not see this?

Seriously?

I don’t understand. I just don’t understand.

But here are some things I know.

It’s been bad for a long time.

It was never going to get better quietly.

In one sense, this isn’t first about “us versus them.” It’s about me versus me. Will I choose a pretend truce, the relief that comes from agreeing to look away again? Will I dig in harder and confront the ugliest parts of myself?

In another sense, it is about us versus them, but I can only fight that battle when I’ve taken on me.

I have to face myself and stop being what I’m trying to oppose.

I have to face myself and stop being the hatred, the indifference, and the passive beneficiary of evil I’m trying to oppose.

They don’t want to change. I know that. And make no mistake, they have to change, one way or the other. I’m not spinning some fairytale here. I’m not suggesting that if we just feel love in our hearts, their hearts will suddenly open and bloom.

But I know I–and we–have to fight them empowered by love and not hate.

Here’s the difference: if i fight driven by hate, all i want is to destroy them. If I fight powered by love, I want to confront the evil in them–as I’ve confronted the evil in me–and open the way for them to be part of us.

I’m also not pretending there are two right, roughly equal sides that just disagree over fine points. We’re not talking about taste in music or ice cream. If you refuse to see the racism and sexism that degrade and endanger people, you have chosen a side. The wrong side.

But I don’t believe we have good and evil people. We have people, people who choose good and evil, all of whom are beloved by God and need grace. If I want to destroy those people made in the image of God, hate will work just fine. If I want to offer those people grace while challenging their choices for evil, I must commit to radical love, the love Jesus offers me, the same love that calls out–and burns away–the gross, nasty, hateful ooze in me.

That’s why I had to take on me before I could take on them. I can’t offer love that I haven’t first accepted. I can’t look at hate-filled people with compassion until I’ve received compassion for being hate-filled…until I’ve stopped justifying my hatred…until I’ve decided I prefer the anguish love costs me over the (imagined) protection that hatred and bitterness offer.

But I’m describing all of this as linear and orderly. It isn’t. It won’t be. I have to make continuous choices to love. I’ll make some of those wrong. I’ll deceive myself. I’ll let hate seep in and turn my heart cold and hard while I tell myself the other person deserves it. “Deserves.” Then grace will break through again, because that’s what Jesus does, and I’ll grow a bit more in humility and empathy. Again.

Change is coming. Statues are coming down. People who have been blind to their own racism are starting to see. Some who had stayed quiet have found their voice. More will as we speak up and press forward. Do your part now. Don’t wait any longer. Choose.

Christians who have followed lies and power instead of Jesus are repenting. Not as many as I’d hope, yet, but some. Change is coming. It has to. People have to make their choices, but the moral arc of the universe is bending toward justice, a justice driven by love.

Gods’ kingdom is coming.

And I can hear it.

Can you?

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