We don’t think of love as nonviolence. Or as compassion. Or valuing another person and all they’ve been through which formed them as they are. We don’t think of love as embracing our enemy, listening to them, seeing everyone as a child of God. We don’t look at the Ten Commandments as teaching us how to love all of mankind: no murder, adultery, stealing, lying, or envy. We don’t look at them as addressing our inner attitudes as well as our outer actions. But if we really follow these commandments because we love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then we would not tolerate all the ways we mistreat others, we would not tolerate the differences between our actions and the judgments we hold about others.
Here is how John Lewis, the Civil Rights activist, describes their training in nonviolence: “You don’t have a right to abuse that spark of the divine in a fellow human being…You never give up on anyone.” They were trained in the 1960s so that they could respond with love to the police and other citizens along the march routes, no matter what happened to them.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is clearly teaching us that we must treat everyone, enemies and friends, as we would want to be treated. [Matthew 7:12] And that whatever we would do as a child of God must be done humbly and without calling attention to ourselves. [Matthew 6:1-18] Humility and Love. Compassion and loving. It is a narrow gate[Matthew 7:13] that we are to walk through as we shed our very human responses to others—the judgments, the anger, the fear. And when we do we are so ready to love everyone, to serve as we are called to serve.
So, the way to divest ourselves of all these sins is to put ourselves totally in the hands of God, to ask for His healing, to align ourselves with His will for us, to offer all these very human tendencies–that separate us out from other people–up to God to heal, to change the very bases of our thinking and reacting to others. It is a step by step process in which God highlights some sin within us and we are to consent to His healing. This happens time and again as we come up against our basic issues that keep us in a place of not trusting God or others, that keep us judging, that keep us complaining about this person or that one, that keep us tied to the world.
The amazing thing is for us to see how differently we react to others as God does all this healing work in us. We will see that we no longer have the same responses to others. That we are beginning to see them with the eyes of love, rather than the previous distortion. It’s a wonder-filled and alleviating process which changes the nature of our relationships–forever.
Here are some questions for pondering/journaling that will begin to connect you to this healing from God:
- What are the issues, pain and suffering, in me—probably begun in my childhood—that I need to take to the Lord for healing?
- Who in my life do I need to forgive?
- Who in my life do I need to ask forgiveness for what I have said and done?
Just a personal note: I have found that the Lord highlights one issue at a time. Recently, for me it has been forgiveness, but, in the past, it’s been the need to love my mother, the need to follow the Lord and His suggestions rather than my own tendency to always look to others for what I need to do, the need to overcome the teachings of a hell-fire-and-damnation church. Those have been the major issues and as each one is healed, I feel so much lighter and able to love and forgive myself. Up until the time I gave my life to the Lord, there was no peace or love for me, only doubt and anxiety. Now when I look back on my life, I can see that I never would have become a spiritual director or a writer about the spiritual life, if I had not spent 12 years in that hell-fire-and-damnation church. I can clearly see the footprints of the Lord throughout my life, healing and leading me to this purpose. And I am grateful for everything in my life that pointed me in this direction. Amen.
 John Lewis in an interview from 2013 with Krista Tippett of On Being