It’s a new day, a new week, a new school year for many of us including myself.
But in many ways, I don’t know how to begin, even to begin writing this new paragraph.
My classroom, for all of the chaos that it might contain, is actually something of a retreat from the outside world. And in many ways, I needed a retreat last week more than usual. You may have felt the same way. There are times when the world just does not make a whole lot of sense.
I’m not a sociologist. But what I think I saw on display last week was a whole lot of hate being exposed. It takes a lot of hate to create a system that oppresses people. The hate that oppresses also brings out hate and anger in the oppressed. I saw a lot of people rush to judgment, to judge people they do not even know. Passing easy judgment on people feels good, and it is another kind of hate, a disdain for others, a refusal to understand them.
Sometimes, hate is so casual, so quiet, so acceptable that it doesn’t even look like hate to most of us. It happens in increments of neglect. Maybe it is layer upon layer of lazy, purposeless hate that has built up like a blanket of dust on our culture.
Here is what I do know:
I know that Jesus had to command us to love one another. He had to make that command because love is hard. It is unintuitive. As much as we want to wax poetic about our common decency, I know that if my most honest moments, I have to work to love my neighbor as myself. I love myself far more than I love my neighbor. I accept my own sins, while I hate the sins of my neighbor (something Jesus did not command.) In fact, it is easy for me to love myself and hate my neighbor, simply by not caring about my neighbor.
Worse, it is our mutual disdain for each other that keeps us in the tragic place we find ourselves. It is hate that keeps us simmering, distracted from our larger problems. Hate keeps us socially and spiritually poor and weak. And no matter how much hate and judgment we indulge ourselves in, we always have more. It doesn’t run out the more we engage in it. It only increases.
If it was Jesus’ will that we all hate each other, judge each other, neglect each other, he would never have had to say anything at all. It is almost our default mode. People have recognized this for thousands of years. Take Euripides, the Athenian playwright.
Here is what I know. This week, it is going to take a lot of work to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is going to take work to put down our judgment, our incessant opinions of others, to love, rather than to hate.
Who is up for the challenge?