Proverbs 10:12   Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (NIV)

Most of us were saddened by yesterday’s shooting at Austin East High School. Since the beginning of this year, four High School students in our city have been shot dead. We have a growing problem of gun violence in our area, as well as a culture of indifference. It’s as if we’ve come to expect these brutal events, say a couple of prayers, and get over it until the next slaying occurs. We never really tackle the problems of male aggression, fear, and dominance behind these attacks. And when we add the reality of permit-less possession and concealed carrying of weapons, we’re just asking for more trouble. The more irresponsible we become, the more violent deaths will occur – human history repeatedly tells us this, but we’re just not listening.

Hatred is at the heart of all of this – hatred for one another, hatred of differences, hatred of being told what to do, and a hatred of personal accountability. People talk about their love of freedom, but what they are really saying is that they love their own conception of freedom and they hate anyone who contradicts it, so we have folks who love standing for the flag but who hate those who kneel before it, and those who kneel having contempt for those who insist that they stand, instead of both groups loving the true freedom of speech that is actually being expressed by all. In the same way, we have kids who love their gangs and hate all others, who are willing to prove their loyalty by using guns to express their hate and convey their contempt for one another.

Today’s Bible verse tells us that hatred stirs up strife and that love covers all offenses, so how can we apply love in situations like this? How can we truly love one another and avoid hating each other? If we repeatedly say that we are one nation under God with liberty and justice for all, then our kids are never going to believe it until we prove that we mean it by truly accepting our differences – racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and political – and seeing each other simply as God’s children. It will be the hardest thing we have ever done – we have to stop feeding hatred with contempt for one another and start nurturing love by encouraging each other.

Prayer is a good place to start, but it needs to be practiced – we can’t keep asking God to heal our community and to restore us if we do nothing ourselves – that’s a bit like watching a house on fire and praying to God that the firemen will come, but nobody calls 911. If we want things to change, we have to become the change-makers instead of leaving it to someone else.

Q: What should I be doing?

Prayer: Lord, help us to be the help that is needed. Amen.

Pastor John Stuart