"A new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
Please bear with me. I have stuff to say, but it's not going to be flowing or terribly coherent.
I have a tattoo on my left wrist that says "love one another." Originally, I was going to get all of verse 34 (above) on my wrist, but decided that those three words were enough and it would be a succinct reminder of the rest of those two verses.
I hope that those three words are written in my mind and on my heart so that I remember them in everything I say or do. In reality, I know I still need to work on how I talk and act. Having those three words written on my wrist is a visual reminder when my heart is too hurt or my mind too angry to stop me from doing or saying something stupid and unkind.
I'm not telling you this to convince you that I'm perfect and loving all the time. Far from it. But I don't understand hatred. There are some people I strongly dislike in this world, but I deal with it by not thinking about them at all instead of stewing about how strongly I dislike them. I don't understand utter loathing and stewing about it. I try to remember that love isn't always a feeling; in fact, love is usually a way we act. I use the definition of love from 1 Cor. 13:4-7 as my guide so that even if I'm not feeling loving towards someone, I can still act loving by being patient, kind, trusting, and hopeful (among other things). The kindest thing we can do is forgive people who hurt us. Failing that, the kindest thing we can do is to not think about certain people at all. It's better to not think about them than to stew in your hatred.
So I don't understand why people are so horrible to other people. I don't understand how you can hate someone because of the way they look, the color of their skin, who they're attracted to, who they love, or who they worship or don't worship. I don't understand wanting to harm someone because they're different from me. I don't understand wishing a whole group of people would die because of the way they've chosen to live their lives (if those choices don't hurt anyone else). There are some ways people choose to live their lives that I don't understand and would never do myself, but if what they're doing isn't hurting themselves or anyone else, then why is it any of my business?
So I don't understand why the individuals who have committed acts of terrorism in the United States over the last several years have done so.
I don't understand how someone can hate the members of a whole community because of one thing. Because they're gay. Because they're transgender. Because they're African-American or Chinese or Indian or Latino or Jewish. Because they're Muslim or atheist or pagan or another Christian denomination. Because they wear turbans or burqas or all black or dresses. Because they're women.
What kind of hatred must you have in your heart that the sight of two men kissing incites you to pick up a gun and kill people at a gay club?
This upsets me on two levels. On a general level, I wonder how someone can have that much hatred for any individual and that much more hatred for a whole community. On a more personal level it upsets me because I've lost a sibling to cancer and my very best friend in the whole world, who is practically my sister, is a member of the LGBTQ community.
How many people lost siblings yesterday at The Pulse, and what if it had been this woman I love as a sister?
As a person who has lost a sibling and a person who loves someone in the LGBTQ community, this is just a nightmare. And it didn't even happen to me.
Tonight there are people grieving because some guy hated homosexuals. Tonight there are people, like my sister-friend, who are living in fear because other people, who also hate homosexuals, are calling the shootings yesterday "God's will."
And I don't understand because the God I worship loves everyone so much that He sent His only Son to earth. And I don't understand because that Son, Jesus, told us to love God and love our neighbor. And this Jesus told us to love one another. And I don't understand how people can think that this same God hates certain people when the Bible says He loves everyone so fiercely.
I don't understand and my heart is broken for all the parents weeping for children they lost and all the siblings who are in shock because their brother or sister isn't ever coming home and for all the people living in fear because they're gay, transgender, African-American, Muslim, Jewish, a girl, or anything else that might make them the victim of bigotry and violence.
I asked my sister-friend yesterday what I could do to help her besides pray. She said "Keep speaking up and standing out."
So this is me speaking out. Condemning the hatred and violence in this world. Encouraging others to remember that God wants us to love one another and not hate.
And it starts here, with me, and this little reminder I have on my left wrist that simply says, "love one another."