I heard it once again this week. It is a continual mantra coming from those who have no idea how to handle the world these days. The words have come from many, many mouths, but they all sound the same: “I don’t know what is happening with the world these days. The world definitely isn’t what it used to be. What do we do?”
They are not bad questions. “What do we do with this world of ours? What do we do with a world that is mired in addiction? What do we do with a world that is so divided philosophically and politically? What do we do with a world where people take out their personal problems on classrooms of children or workplaces full of friends with deadly effect? What do we do with a world where people are abused and exploited and there is little to be done to fix the problem? What do we do with a world so full of corruption and chaos?
What do we do?
Unlike so many faith questions that we have Jesus actually has an answer to this one, but we might not trust it. Jesus actually knows how to create some order from the chaos in the world around us, but we might not believe in the power of his solution.
Can I make a deal with you? Will you at least hear him out? Will you at least listen to Jesus’ solution to counter all the chaos in the world, and will you at least give it a try?
If you do give it a try, maybe, just maybe, the chaos of your own life will start to resemble some semblance of order and peace.
Jesus' solution has worked before, after-all. Before the world even existed, in the beginning so they say, all that existed was an ocean of chaos. And God’s Spirit moved over these deep and angry waters of chaos, and the Word of God spoke words of love.
They were words of love that wanted something more than nothing. They were words of love that wanted order and not disaster. They were words of love that created good things, including you and me. They were words of love that said, “I would rather have you than have than have all of this deep chaos.” In other words, “I choose you over chaos.”
“I choose you over chaos.”
When you have sinned deeply, and created a world of chaos around you (because, you know as well as I do that sin creates a mess all around), instead of banishing you to the darkness Jesus says, “I choose you over chaos.” “I choose you over your sin.” “I choose you over the punishment that you deserve.” On the cross, he died so that chaos might die once and for all, so that you and I might live. And, he did all of this out of "love."
So, if you are willing to try, Jesus suggests that in the face of a chaotic world that maybe we should try "love." But, it is not just the love that produces morning snuggles and romantic evenings. It is a daring, and even dangerous sort of love. It is a love that sounds exactly like:
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you" (NRSV, Luke 6:27-38).
In other words, Jesus is encouraging his followers to love the unlovable. How to you create order out of chaos? How do you counter the evils of this present world? Why not try love?
You could try retaliation, but violence almost always doubles the amount of violence in the world.
You could try hate, but hate almost always doubles the amount of hate in the world.
You could also try doing nothing. This is my personal favorite course of action. I like to just sit back and let things go the way they will go. It is easy. Doing this reduces the chance of a target being painted on my chest. I do not have to be in the middle of anything.
But, this too allows the chaos of the world to increase. If you do nothing in the face of chaos, the chaos will just continue to grow. Standing around, watching, and lamenting the chaos of the world does nothing to create order. You and I would not be here if God had chosen to just sit and hover over the waters of chaos for eternity without ever taking action.
So, Jesus has this suggestion for us. Try loving. After-all, love created a world of order. Love saved creation. Love saved you. Try loving...even the unlovable.
There was this one day when I was young that my brothers did something unforgivable to me. It was so terrible, so horrible, so life altering that to this day I do not have a clue what they did. Despite this, I decided on that day that I would not forgive my brothers. I would not even talk to them.
During lunch, I ate in silence. When they invited me to play outside with them, I stayed inside. When they decided to play with Legos while watching cartoons, I went to my room.
By around 4:00 in the afternoon, I had a few things happen to me. First, I had a headache that was tormenting me. Hatred is hard work! Second, I had not had any fun during the day. And finally, by the afternoon I already had no clue why I was mad at my brothers.
So, I tried what Jesus suggests. I decided to show mercy. I decided to love them, even though they were unlovable. And, most importantly, I decided to play.
Instantly, all was better.
Love can restore. Love can create good. Love can give order in a world of chaos.
I understand completely that this example from my childhood is not very profound. There have been many deeper instances where loving the unlovable fixes all that has been made wrong. But, I find that the simplicity of life that children teach us is able to motivate me in a way that the complexities of the adult world cannot even hope to attempt.
So, give it a try. It works for children; maybe it will work for you. Instead, of being overwhelmed by the chaos of the world, try loving the unlovable. Try the way of the cross. Try the way of Jesus Christ. Try the way of God.
Go ahead and start right now. What in the world troubles you? Who in the world troubles you? Go ahead and take one of Jesus' suggestions seriously. Pray for your enemy...for the unlovable...right now. Love the unlovable and see how God transforms your world.