After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses says to the nation: “I set before you blessings and curses, Life and death. Now choose life, so that you and your descendants might live”. (Duet 30) Life emerges (as a blessing) when we as individuals and together in community adhere to the covenant. We do not enter the Biblical Covenant alone, we enter with God and each other. God’s ancient vision calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to do justice, practice mercy, and to treat the resident immigrant as one of us. This ancient covenant invests justice within a community, inside a series of laws. The blessings of Justice are not found in mob violence or isolated individual righteousness. Like Love, Justice is systemic. Jesus brings the Good News of the kin-dom of God. God’s Love comes to all to warm individual hearts, but God’s Love is not isolated inside personal faith or individual practise-Love is expressed in collective community action: loving neighbors and strangers as we love our own kinfolks.
Amazingly, Christ pushes the boundaries of our love by calling us to extend love even to our enemies. This love is not a warm fuzzy feeling towards evil-doers. Dr King describes such sentimentality as “emotional Bosh”! Love is a deep sense of redemptive goodwill, demonstrated in ethics and equality, which we must extend to all people. Wesley said even to the enemies of God.
So when something as accursed, violent, and destructive as an explosion seeks to disrupt life and destroy community, we must resist that evil with strong ethics, equality and collective action. We must root our responses in love for our neighbors, those who come to us as strangers, and to even the perpetrators and “their” people.
The Golden Rule moves us out of tribalism and asks us: How would I respond if one of “my” people (my kindred, party, race or ideology ) perpetrated this terrible act? Racism and many politicians thrive on blame. But, “Know this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slower to grow angry. An angry person doesn’t produce righteousness” or build community! (James 1) A slow response requires spiritual maturity. We want to rush in and confirm or even insert our biases. Blame once cast is not so easily retracted. Hate only tears down- it rebuilds nothing. Blame allows us to live without self-examination. Blame deceives us into believing that we can live outside of community: “we” Blame “them”. Blame acquits “our” people without a trial. Our black and brown siblings know that one individual’s action can unleash a tidal wave of retribution, racism, and retaliation upon an innocent community for years. Conversely, the white majority sees white violence against our black or brown siblings as isolated individual actions not tied to “them”. Love refuses such non-systematic understandings of justice or community.
To truly Live, we must come to mourn all losses together, render aid together, and collectively rebuild. Let us celebrate all our heroes and helpers. Let us pray for all wounded in heart or body by the Nashville explosion and injustices everywhere. Let us ask ourselves: “Lord, how can I bring healing- how can I help build community? Lord, do my words bring harm or healing? Lord, am I listening? Jesus, what does love, equality, justice, and community require of me?”