June 1, 2021

God Loves Everyone

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I write this the day after there was a mass shooting in San Jose, California, which left 10 people dead, including the shooter.  We have the usual reaction from politicians expressing sorrow and sympathy, but I think California Governor Newsome expressed my reaction best when he said, “What is Wrong with America?” 

The statistics are staggering.  In the first 26 days of May in the US there have been 62 mass shootings (defined as an event in which at least 4 people were shot, not including the shooter).  In 34 of those cases there was at least one death.  In April there were 51 shootings, In March 45, in February 40, in January 34.  Since 2014 we have averaged more than one mass shooting a day in this country.  Some will immediately point to the easy availability of guns as “the” cause.  That may play a role, but to me of more concern is why 232 people this year felt they had a right to shoot multiple other people.  This is not to mention those who just killed a single family member or even a stranger. 

The high level of violence we have been willing to tolerate as a society, is becoming something we can no longer overlook.  We continue to need to seek answers.  In many of these cases the people felt that they had a grievance against an employer, against individuals, or against society.  They wanted to make someone else pay for their problems, and didn’t really care who it was.  Perhaps because they felt they had no value, other people had no value to them. 

My favorite bugaboo in this regard  is to look to the popular cultural influences of movies in which even the heroes show little remorse for taking a life.  Or the video games in which the object is to kill all of the people who are out to get you, or just stand in the way of your advancement in the game.  We have desensitized ourselves to the value of human life.  Even in news accounts and government reports, people are reduced to just numbers.  It is easy to forget that those numbers refer to individuals who are valued by their families.  And more importantly who are valued and loved by God.

That is the message which we as a church need to stress.  God loves every person.  Not just “the world”, but every individual who comprises “the world”.  People in our society no longer seem to believe that.  We believe God loves those who are like us and agree with us on everything.  But if they are “other” or just wrong in their beliefs God doesn’t value them, so we don’t need to either.  People have felt devalued by others, and somehow feel God doesn’t value them either.  Therefore when something goes wrong, they have no hope. 

We need to go back to the commandments Jesus stressed:  Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.  And love others just as much as we love ourselves.  Part of the problem is that we sometimes feel we are unlovable, and we don’t love ourselves, so we don’t love other people.  But the message of Jesus was that each person is loved by God.  Jesus reached out to those who weren’t valued by society:  to tax collectors, sinners, people who were “unclean”, Samaritans, Syro-phoenicians, Gentiles—to anyone who would listen.  How can we do any less. 

We need to find ways to reach out and let people know that God loves them, and we need to find ways that we can love them too.  But we also need to remind everyone that God loves others as well.  We need to stress as a church that every person has value, because they are children of God.  We may not like what they do, but we can still find ways to affirm that they are valued.  So what is wrong with the U.S.?  It is us, who have allowed ourselves to think that someone (anyone) is not worthy of love, and is not a child that Christ died for on the cross.  May we all learn this so we can live together.