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Monday, August 17, 2015

Today’s Reading | 1 Corinthians 13:1–7

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NRSV)

While I was pondering what I could write about one of the most famous passages in the New Testament, the nation was stunned to learn of the murder of nine African Americans who had gathered for a regular Wednesday night Bible study meeting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. After the shootings, described by authorities as “racially motivated,” survivors recalled that the white gunman had been warmly welcomed into the prayer circle earlier that evening.

During the suspect’s bond hearing in court, those who suffered most from the shooting had an opportunity to tell him how his actions had pierced not only the bodies of his victims but the souls of their families. And as they talked, these Christians responded to this life-altering event not with bitterness or rage but with the kind of astonishing charity that can go by only one other name: love.

Watching footage of a victim’s daughter telling the suspect that she forgave him, and of a victim’s mother saying she hoped he would find mercy in the Lord, I was moved to tears. I realized then that the kind of selflessness needed to reach out with such compassion to someone who has destroyed your dreams had to be what Paul meant when he wrote that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The Christian witness of the Charleston sufferers helped shape the atmosphere that prevailed during subsequent events, among which were reconciliation actions unthinkable in U.S. race relations even the day before this tragic event occurred.

I reflected that this must be what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he wrote, in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, that “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I found myself wondering if I could bring that kind of Christian love to bear if called upon to do so under such unimaginable circumstances. Could you?

Gracious God, whose Son bore suffering beyond words for our sake, help us to remember that it is your redeeming love we lean on when we face events we think we cannot bear. Make us strong to believe, hope, and endure all things. Amen.

Written by Hilary Richardson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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