How do we solve the problem of violence and contention in our society?
The blood spilled in our streets and the tempers raised in our debates.
How do we find peace, and civility?
By remembering who we are, and why we are here.
We are children – all of us – of a loving Father in heaven. We are each known to him, and intensely loved by him. We were made in his image – men and woman, of every race and configuration – and his love for us is so great that he sent his son, our brother, Jesus Christ, into this world to pay the price of our sins and die for us on the cross.
That is true for us all collectively, and for each of us individually.
And Jesus, while walking this earth, taught us what God asks of us. He said that the two great commandments were to love the Lord with all our heart, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Certainly, there are other commandments and directives, but all of those arise from the application of these two: Love the Lord with all our heart, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
And that’s the answer.
That’s how we stem the horrific violence sweeping our streets, and the caustic animosity that permeates discussions ranging from race to covid to who you voted for in the last election.
By loving God, and by loving others.
It is the bleach that wipes out evil, it is the vaccination against the darkness of the world, it is the only true curative of a cankered human soul. It is the only hope American society has of fixing itself – now or ever.
Because our problems are spiritual.
In the daily doings of our politics and interactions, we are making spiritual choices, of good versus evil. And each choice we make today makes a similar choice easier tomorrow. Unfortunately, we have slipped into a downward spiral of ever-greater evil, with the choice of ever-larger doses of evil first a habit and now an addiction and increasingly a cultural way of life.
And it spreads like cancer.
We see it in crime statistics, and unrest in the streets, and estrangements over vaccines and philosophies. In dead bodies and broken hearts, in divided families and divided communities. Our drug of choice is rage and indignation, and we have twisted social media into a decidedly anti-social killing field.
And it is all part of one whole – urban crime and suburban rancor, and a society whose very fabric is frayed, where the prospect of tribal violence is real and palpable. We have chosen hate over love and contention over peace – we have chosen evil, in small ways and in big ways, as individuals and as a society.
Our problems are spiritual.
And they cannot be solved by sociological or political approaches. There is not a sensitivity class or a welfare check or a peace circle that is going to make it all better. Understanding one another’s positions only clarifies our differences, it doesn’t heal our hearts.
Only God can do that.
And we qualify ourselves for that healing by following the simple guidance God has given us – to love him with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
That’s not a bumper sticker or a proof text, it’s not a slogan or a platitude.
It is a plan of happiness. It is a path through the wilderness. It is the answer, the only answer.
And it will save us if we take it to heart – as individuals and as a society. If we earnestly try to keep the two great commandments, we will find that our lives will be happier and our society will be stronger. We will save lives and souls, and bring peace to our land. We will calm the troubled mind and ease the strained relationships.
How do we love God?
By wanting to believe in him. By talking to him. By learning about him. By seeing his rich blessings in our lives – from the sun in the sky to the food on our plate, from the love in our hearts to the strength in our bodies. We see God in the birth of our children and the death of our parents. We see him everywhere, if we look.
We love God by making him our friend, by seeing him as our Father, by working to make him the center of our lives and our actions, by living as he would want us to live.
How do we love our neighbor?
By remembering that our neighbor is also a beloved son or daughter of God, and consequently our brother or sister. Family loves family, even in times of stress or disagreement, and even in times of bad behavior. We treat others the way we want to be treated, because that is the Lord’s uplifting standard. We don’t treat others the way they treat us, that is a counterfeit standard that eventually drags us all down into a retaliatory hell.
We love our neighbor by becoming his protector and friend, by equating our interests with hers, by truly believing in equality before the law and before God.
Neither of these commandments are necessarily easy, nor will they always come naturally. They may take the rest of our lives and even longer to get completely right. But we can begin now, we are commanded to begin now, and every day we choose the right will make choosing the right easier the next day. We will become better at loving the Lord, and we will become better at loving our neighbor, if we only try, and try again, and try some more.
This is the path. This is the hope.
For our troubled lives, for our troubled society.
This is the hope.
The only hope.
We have to remember who we are, and why we are here. We are children – all of us – of a loving Father in heaven, and we are here to become more like him, and to prepare ourselves to live with him again someday.
But first we must pass the test of our time, we must sweep the evil of violence and contention from our hearts, we must save our society and ultimately our souls.
We must love our God, and our brothers and sisters.
Or sink deeper into the living hell of evil, hate and violence.