The human response to sin is to hate, to hurt. The divine response is to love. As people of God, we are called through Christ to alter our response away from the sinful inclination which continues the cycle of suffering and evil in order to embrace the way of the Lord: loving in spite of the pain and anger. God moves beyond the demand for retribution to offer all humankind grace, a way to grow beyond our wrongs. In order to embody Christ we must do likewise. That is a tall order, a difficult task without parallel. So it is that Christ sent the Holy Spirit, to equip us and strengthen us. Fortified with the presence of God, we can resist the temptation to respond in kind to a wrong. We don’t have to sacrifice our righteousness to an earthly notion of justice, which encourages us to hurt as we have been hurt, to hate those who sin against us.
The hard truth about sin is that even experiencing the ramifications of someone else’s sin can degenerate our moral state. It quickly tears down our defenses against evil, and we find ourselves all too ready to cross the line into our own sin and manifested evil. We witness this in the escalation of violence, as well as the war of words opposing groups engage in all around us. Yesterday I had the abhorrent experience of witnessing it in my own son. Feeling like another child was being mean to him, he responded with his own written brand of meanness. Yes, this is why we teach our children to write, so they can more readily sin, right? As I got down on his eye level and made him recount the events that led to that moment, I recall asking him if he wanted someone to write awful things about him. His immediate and adamant reply was no. “So why do it to someone else?” That question rings in the forgiveness of the cross: Why keep sinning as others sin against us? We have been forgiven by God, granted grace for every single sin, yet we demand restitution often in the form of suffering, pain, and humiliation when we have been wronged. Restitution becomes perverted by our sinful response into retribution and that belongs to God alone.
I was filled with such sorrow at the actions of my son. My beloved had hurt someone else. Yes, he had been hurt too, even hurt first, but his participation in the sinful response of humanity just left my heart aching, my spirit downtrodden. I want more for him as well as from him. I want him to live out the grace which he was born into, because Jesus Christ died on the cross almost two thousand years before my son was born. The grace has been ours ever since that day on Golgotha. I suspect strongly that this is a taste of what God feels for us, God’s own spiritual children, adopted through Christ. I think that God feels the same emotional hurt at our sin, each time we lash out at another. So God plants seeds of love through us, the willing disciples of Christ. We love in the midst of hate. We forgive in the midst of the cries for blood. We set aside our desires for God’s will. Little by little the love wins the battle for space in a world of hate. Slowly but surely holy healing expands in a world of hurt and vengeance. Our role is to ask where we can be the light of love in the midst of hateful darkness today.