By Fr. Erik Esparza
The First Letter of John challenges us to understand what it means to truly love God and others: “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (4:19-21)
It is very sad to hear when individuals who profess a belief in and love for God decide that hate filled words and violent actions towards others are in some way justifiable. This is not of God. To hear repulsive rhetoric or to witness appalling behavior will indeed create within us feelings that provoke frustration, irritation, and anger. However, when we allow these emotions to get the best of us and begin to move us towards the use of similar hateful words and violent actions, we become no better than the response we condemn. Will others do things that are hateful and wrong? Yes, this will unfortunately happen and when it does, it is always wrong! Yet, as Christians, our response cannot be the same. You can never fight evil with evil. Our response must always be love. This is not a love that pretends the wrong never happened, but a love that rises above. A love that differentiates a person from his or her actions and chooses to address the wrong not with hateful speech or actions, but with true concern for the soul of the other and the common good of all.
We must be willing to rise above any wrong and stay true to who we are as followers of Christ. Don’t jump into the mud with everyone else. The only thing that comes from jumping in the mud is that we all become filthy. At the same time, we cannot run away from the problems that beset our world. We must be willing to confront the challenges before us and seek real solutions that build up our world, not tear it down.
Hate is the easy way out! Love is much harder work. In the end, love is the only thing that leads us closer to God who is love. If you can’t differentiate a wrong act from the person, how can we expect God to do the same with us? There will be those who will make their choices and it won’t be of God. They will have to answer for their choices, but so will we. Be mindful of your words and actions. Be attentive on how you address any wrong. Always choose to first respond with love for others. When you take this step, it is only then that your love for God becomes authentic and real!
“Words, which do not give the light of Christ, increase the darkness.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino and Priest Moderator of The Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Redlands.