For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
Every few days we hear about a new mass shooting. And then there is endless debate which follows. Some say that we need more gun laws. Some clamor for metal detectors and armed guards outside of every church, mall, school, theater and stadium. And others say we need more monitoring of people who are mentally ill. As you know, I try to stay away from politics on the prayer team, and today’s message will be the same. The underlying problem, I humbly believe, is that we don’t have enough love.
We are an angry society. Democrats hate Republicans. Republicans hate Democrats. Racial groups hate each other. People now hate the NFL. Heck, we even hate other drivers on the road, people we don’t even know. How many of us have cursed while driving, at people we don’t even know?!
One problem with emotion is that it clouds reason. When we are filled with hate, it easy to forget to love. When we are gripped with fear, it is easy to see everything in the negative. When we are filled with love, it is easier to overlook the things that cause us to hate. And when we have confidence, it is easier to get around things that cause us to fear.
When we are wronged, often times, we don’t respond appropriately. As an example, if I were to push you, the Christian response should be to walk away. A “normal” human response would be either to walk away or to push back. It would not be a normal human response if one was pushed, to take out a gun and kill the person who pushed them. And yet, how often do we read about someone killing someone else just because they “looked at me wrong.”
Today’s verse from Second Timothy reminds us that God did not give us a “spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”   God gave us emotions, but He also gave us reason. He wants us to have a sound mind, not a mind that can be ruled by emotion.  He wants for us to have, as our most powerful emotion, the power of love, not the power of hate. Just as light always triumphs over darkness, the spirit of love always triumphs over the spirit of hate. In the world the trend is to let hate win. How do we reverse that trend? With love. And how do we get more loving? Try some humility. Be a humble driver, instead of driving like a maniac. Be gracious in defeat instead of being a sore loser. Forgive, instead of holding a grudge. Do an honest day’s work and stay off of social media while on company time.
Should we be afraid of dying? I don’t say this flippantly. I hope I live for a long time. I wouldn’t want my family to be without me, so I hope for their sake I live a long time. We know from a two thousand year history of martyrs, that some people are victims of evil, even the most devout of Christians. People have been killing Christians deliberately since the time of Christ. In the early centuries, they died in the coliseum. And last Sunday, they died in a church sanctuary. We know that those killed for their faith, the martyrs, are seen by God as saints.
The word “martyr” means “witness.” We are not only supposed to witness for Christ, to live for Christ, at the hour of our death, but throughout our life. We are all called to be “martyrs,” not the kind that die for Christ in an act of violence, necessarily, but to people of love who live for Him. Some people who witness for Christ will become “martyrs,” they will die because of their faith. I hope the church where I worship will never experience a tragedy like the one in Texas. But if it did, I hope that I would be ready to give my life for Christ. In the meantime, just as darkness can be overcome by light, the spirit of hate can be overcome by the spirit of love. No, love won’t stop every act of violence, but a society of hates breeds more hate. A society of anger breeds more anger. And a society of love breeds more love. I can’t change the society I live in all by myself. But I can choose to be a person of love today. We all have that choice every day. To contribute to the hate and the anger, or to contribute to and encourage the love. I hope we’ll choose to be people of love today, and every day. It’s the only way anything is going to change. If enough of us make the choice to love, that’s the only way this is going to get any better. I’m going to choose love today, and I hope you will as well.
Give rest, O Christ, to the souls of your servants, the men and women of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, who died while giving glory to You. Give glory to them, give them rest among Your saints. Comfort their grieving families. Help me to be a person of love today. Give me the strength and the inspiration to choose love every day. Help me, and others, to bring more love into the world today. Amen.
Choose love today!