What do these things have in common?
Sitting in high school waiting for the lunch wave to start
Starting off the week rushing to your 8 AM college class a few weeks before finals
Dancing the night away with your closest friends
Finishing morning lessons as a kindergartener, eager for the upcoming Christmas break
Gathering for church on a Sunday morning
Enjoying a road trip to a country music festival with your best friends
If you answered with mass shooting, you’d be correct. Since Columbine (1999, 13 victims), there have been many mass shootings, but the deadliest five are the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX (2017, 26 victims); The Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, NV (2017, 58 victims); Pulse Night Club in Orlando, FL (2016, 49 victims); Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT (2012, 27 victims); and Virginia Tech (2007, 32 victims). Notice something else about these dates? They are so so recent and so so close together. This may not be what you thought you were getting yourself into on a Monday morning, but neither did the students at Virginia Tech that day. Yet, here we are faced with our reality. Now more so than ever, this nation is hurting and is in need of a Savior.
No other modern-day leader could have said it better than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that…And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems.” King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1967. "Where Do We Go From Here?"
Annual Report Delivered at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 16, Atlanta, GA.
The fact that tragedies like those listed above have not diminished since Dr. King’s time prove that we will never be able to drive out the hatred and darkness from this world. Sure, we should advocate for what we believe is the answer, but we’ve got to do more. We must try to shout love far louder and greater than the cries of hatred. We must do what we can with what we have to extend little acts of mercy and kindness to strengthen the nation from within. It sounds like an impossible task, but far greater is He that is within you! This love and kindness is unreal, because it is the kind that is of God. Unreal, but not unattainable.
“15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but [e]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. [f]Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [g]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:15-21 (New American Standard)
Studying kindness, I realized that these verses piggy back off each other, giving a command and listing how to achieve that directive in the verse that follows. How can we be there for others during their times of sorrow and joy (verse 15)? By being of the same mind and not being wise in our own eyes (verse 16). How can we be at peace with everyone (verse 18)? By never taking our own revenge, having faith in God to exact His vengeance in due time (verse 19). The last two verses (20-21) parallel what God has said in scripture to what Dr. King said in his speech: we cannot be overcome by evil; we must overcome evil with good. We must spread love, happiness, and mercy to as many as we can for as long as we can, living out what it means to #loveANYWAY. And that is always a good message for a #happyMONDAY.