One year. 365 days since the news ricocheted around the world: nine innocent victims gunned down in their church by a deranged gunman because of their race. Nine people massacred in the act of showing the love of Jesus to someone different than them.
Now, a year later in the wake of yet another horrific shooting, I look back at the thoughts that poured out of my heart at the time. And despite it all, I’m more convinced than ever of the truth impressed on me that day: love is the only force powerful enough to overcome the chaos we see all around us. Love is the moral order of the universe.
Not a “sunshine and flowers” kind of love, but the kind of difficult, soul-changing commitment to love the unlovely, the different, even the hateful. The love demonstrated by the families of the victims, who stared unimaginable evil in the face…and chose to forgive.
At times it feels like the world is coming apart around us and we are helpless in its ebb and flow. But as individuals, we can each choose love: sharing a meal with a neighbor, being a helper to those in need, serving in our local churches and civic organizations, engaging those who are different than us with kindness, remembering that they are fellow-image bearers of our Creator.
This week, Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox shared some powerful thoughts on the shooting in Orlando:
“…just because an easy solution doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The greatest generations in the history of the world were never innately great. They became great because of how they responded in the face of evil. Their humanity is measured by their response to hate and terror.
I truly believe that this is the defining issue of our generation. Can we be brave? Can we be strong? Can we be kind and, perhaps, even happy, in the face of atrocious acts of hate and terrorism? Do we find a way to unite? Or do these atrocities further corrode and divide our torn nation? Can we, the citizens of the great state of Utah, lead the nation with love in the face of adversity? Can WE become a greatest generation?
I promise we can. But I also promise it will never happen if we leave it to the politicians. Ultimately, there is only one way for us to come together. It must happen at a personal level. We must learn to truly love one another.”
Our generation can – and must – rise to the existential challenges of our time. It will not be easy. It will require personal sacrifice and setting aside political dogmas on both sides of the aisle. But one year later, this eternal truth still demands our attention and must compel our actions:
“As Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully expressed from his Birmingham jail cell, ‘…by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.’ Unless we put this truth into action in every realm of our community life, this Charleston shooting will be just one more tragedy in the cycle of destruction and mistrust that is ripping our communities apart.
As we remember the victims in the Charleston shooting and pray for their loved ones, let’s also pray for leaders with the heart to speak truth and the courage to lead us toward a better way.”
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
The Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
The Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59