What is there really to say about the amount of evil in this world?
Those of us who still watch the news are bombarded with bad report after bad report. One heartbreaking situation after another comes to the surface and many times it doesn’t even matter what your pastor says anymore. Many times our pastors give us platitudes instead of relatable truth we can hold onto.
“God is in control.” Then why does the world seem like chaos?
“Everything will be alright.” For who? The Ku Klux Klan is rising in the south.
“It could be a lot worse for you, so count your blessings.” I’m going to count my blessings while there are children on the other side of the world trapped in slavery. I feel better now, thanks.
There seems to be no end to the atrocities, to the suffering…and fear is running wild on the planet. Fear of attack from other countries, fear of domestic terrorism, fear of losing our jobs, or fear that the poor will get poorer as the rich prosper. Fear that our divisions are unsolvable and unmendable. It’s not just fear, it’s anger too. It’s terribly easy to become angry with the leadership of our country, the people we disagree with who hold unbelievable and extreme values. It’s easy to categorize a group of people based off of the decision they made (or didn’t make) last November. The sheer volume of disappointing, frustrating, heartbreaking things humans do to each other is disorienting. You may as well just [insert tragedy here] because it’s difficult to differ between evils nowadays. Most of us live in semi-numb state in order to cope with all that is happening. If that’s you, keep reading. If it’s not you, you are extremely sheltered and should read the news before reading this post.
And no, this is not a movie, this is real life. In the movies, it’s a lot easier to know what to do. In the movies, when tragic scenes happen, you rage at all the bystanders and applaud the courageous heroes, marveling at their inner strength. After the movie, it’s all over. You go back to your life, no more courageous than you were before. That’s the problem with the world, there’s no escape from the evil we see today. There’s no hiding place that can shield us from what’s going on UNLESS we deliberately make it that way. For those of you who no longer watch the news, it seems you are operating under the ‘ignorance is bliss’ category of people. Yes, it’s important to filter what we see- but intentionally not knowing what’s happening in the country or world to ease your conscience isn’t the point. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention would know that our world is desperately sick and in need of an antidote for our evil ways.
Please understand I am not being accusatory. I suffer from the same paralysis when faced with the daunting information I receive on a daily basis. But I do believe that I’ve found a way to manage it and respond, thanks to the Global Leadership Summit.
This was my first time attending the Global Leadership Summit, and I went in with serious baggage and questions that required wisdom that I lacked. There were many speakers, some successful entrepreneurs with strategies on how to make our businesses run more effieciently. Others were courageous heroines with a story to tell. All of the content was inspiring but there were two speakers who stood out that challenged me to the core: Immaculée Ilibagiza and Gary Haugen.
If you’ve heard of these two, then you know that they both have seen the darkest evil humankind could have possibly thrown at them. Immaculée was a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in the 90’s and wrote a memoir titled, “Left to Tell“. She spoke of the horrible situation that government (yes, the government was responsible) unleashed upon her loved ones and her entire tribe. She spoke of her narrow escape and an interaction with God that changed her life, when she hid in a tiny bathroom as her enemies who wished to kill her, searched the house. While she was speaking, I noticed her make light of the situation a couple of times. She laughed about a couple of things her parents used to say or do, and she laughed a bit about the space where she was asked to hide. I was sitting there, listening to her speak, and I was bewildered at her ability to even smile at all, let alone laugh about different aspects of her story. She went on to say that though it seemed impossible to forgive her enemies, Jesus’ final words on the cross inspired her and gave her the courage she needed to take that leap of faith. In Luke 23:34, Jesus did something radical; he prayed for his enemies as they were killing him.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
They were auctioning off his clothes while he asked for their forgiveness, his reason being, ‘they do not know what they are doing’.
They don’t know the gravity of their hate or of their depravity.
Immaculée Ilibagiza taught that granting forgiveness to our enemies, who hate us for one reason or another, isn’t just something we were commanded to do without consideration, the hardest kind of forgiveness was modeled for us by Jesus himself. Those that kill, hate and destroy for no reason don’t understand the weight of what they’re doing, and they don’t realize what it’s doing to their own souls. They are ignorant to the totality of their crime, not simply against another human, but to all of humankind. In forgiveness, we release our souls to love and pray for our enemies…even while they hate us. When Immaculée chose to forgive, she chose love over hate. She chose hope over despair. Her story gives me hope that if the time came, Jesus would enable me to do the same.
Gary Haugen has a bit of a different story. He is the CEO and Founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), and fights for the rights of those trapped in human trafficking and those who are abused by the police. He is literally a freedom fighter. As a former human rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, he has trained others to help those who have no voice. His story was placed in Kenya, when a poor man was being abused by the police. A lawyer from the IJM office in Kenya took up this man’s case and began to prosecute the police officers for their cruel treatment, determined to free this man of his oppressors. One day, the lawyer, the lawyer’s driver, and the poor man all disappeared without a trace. A few days later, their bodies were found cut into pieces, floating in a river nearby.
Gary began to speculate his possible responses in front of us all. How do you handle that as a leader? Do you take your teams out of that dangerous area and let the poor people face their fates on their own? Would he even have a team left to extract? But that wasn’t the focal point of Gary’s talk; his message to us listening was ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Fear could’ve crept in amongst his team. It could’ve paralyzed him from leading this organization. You’ll be pleased to know that this incident sparked a revolution in Kenya and the officers that perpetrated this crime in order to plant fear within the hearts of those trying to make a difference, were prosecuted. A community of courage rose up in Kenya that was unafraid of what violent, broken men would do. During the memorial service in Kenya, Gary ran into another person freed from the tyranny of police brutality. He had become a lawyer, fighting for the same rights that Gary had done for him.
When our enemies try to intimidate us with their violence or their hate, it’s easy to think that there is no good in the world. THAT IS NOT TRUE. Our response should be to build a community of courage and continue doing the good that we set out to do from the beginning. Fear seeks to undermine our God-given purposes, and God has given us the power to overcome fear itself through Jesus Christ.
If you are struggling with hopelessness, you’re not alone. There was an older white woman sitting at my table who leaned over to me after a heart-wrenching talk on racial justice and said, ‘I just haven’t gotten anything out of these talks today.’ I just stared at her blankly, disappointingly…wondering where her heart had gone. As I walked away from the table, I had to address my own growing biases. I realized that anger and hopelessness had crept into my own heart. I was disillusioned by the facade my caucasian counterparts lived in, a world free from the racial pressures or responsibilities. I was tired of creating conversations, being the bigger person, giving people the benefit of the doubt…when it seemed they could honestly care less about creating real lasting change that we can all benefit from. I am concerned about the rise of White Supremacy. I believe our President has endorsed this behavior and that those who voted for him were in denial about what could happen to our America. I am pained by the news. I am often discouraged by the lack of initiative and concern for others this administration shows. But as I was sitting there, stewing over this lady’s shallow response, I realized that my disillusionment wasn’t helping anyone. I missed my joy and my cheerful optimism, and I wasn’t sure how to shake out of it. Right then and there, I knew if Immaculee could forgive the people who had wiped out her nation, I could forgive too. If Gary could be courageous when violence threatened to end his operation, I could choose courage in my daily life. I chose and still choose love.
How cliche, Shannon. Good one, Shannon. Is that the best you can come up with?
Yes, it is the best I can come up with. With all the evil in our world, our natural inclination is to see our love slowly grow cold. We can’t allow it. Our love is the fuel to our hope, joy, peace, and kindness. Love is the backbone in our courageous moments as our love outweighs the burden fear uses to prevent us from making the right decision. Love is the empathy we hold for our enemies, who themselves are depraved and in need of great love.
It is not easy to do this. I know, I am daily checking myself and trying to figure out what the appropriate response is. I have to fight my tendencies to group people together. I still have to start conversations, listen to those who are different from me and report evil whenever I see it starting. Here are my suggestions for you. Determine if you are filled with fear or anger or hopelessness and reject it. Look at your heart and take time to reflect on your wounds and then let it go. Forgive. If your love for humans has faded, ask God to revive it. If your fear has overwhelmed you and frustrated you and caused you to slip into anger, fight it. From the small experience I had, I understand that hate will not fill your heart, it will only empty it.
When someone sees you doing these things: forgiving, loving, living fully- they may find the strength to do the same.
I have a purpose, and if you know your purpose, you must stay on your course. I am inspired more than ever to be EVERYTHING God intended me to be from the beginning. I am endeavoring to live with joy in my heart and peace in my soul as those are the only weapons I’ve got against the evil, fear, and hate in the world.
As Gary put it, let your courage be contagious.
Praying for you, my dears.