By SONI GUICE BUCKALEW
“He has showed you, O man (and woman), what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, RSV).
Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.
The events of the last few weeks are cause for much hand wringing and fear. To be brutally honest, it has brought out the best and worst of believers and non-believers.
The senseless killings in Charleston serve as a shining example of what to do and what not to do when faced with someone who has opposing views. In the stark reality of this present darkness and evil, that congregation remembered how Jesus had taught them to live. This is not something they do on Sundays. This is obviously a way of life for them.
Their attitudes of justice, loving kindness, and humility allowed them to move forward—even into the very room where the tragedy occurred. They modeled how to act when all one holds fast is attacked. Our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel AME Church put Micah 6:8 to practice, not only to memory.
The radical beliefs of their killer renewed the debate over the Confederate Flag. Rather than attempt to change history, we need to learn from our pasts. The hateful and heated arguments ensuing over this topic are an example of how not to act when what one holds fast is attacked.
Regardless of your interpretation, there is a right and a wrong way to express your opinion. Sticks and stones break bones. Knives and guns shed innocent blood. And words do harm.
The verse 1 Peter 3:8 (GWT) gives very direct commands—“Live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble.”
Christians are instructed to live in harmony with self, God, and others. The only way to live in harmony with self is to have harmony with God. Once initial relationship begins, one can trust His promise to bring peace to self. Once at peace with self and God, one can live in harmony with others.
In musical terms, harmony is accomplished by playing two different notes. Living in harmony means people can have different backgrounds or interpretations and opinions of Scripture, but still choose to make beautiful music alongside one another.
Sympathy involves paying attention to the thoughts and feelings of others—even those of a different race than your own. This means intentionally listening to what is going on in their lives. To be sympathetic, one does not have to have firsthand knowledge of the situations in which others find themselves. But you can care. And we must love.
Jesus called us to love—love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, and love our enemies. John cautions believers not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15). In this same letter, he insists we should love one another (1 John 3:11). He also explains we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul tells us how to love one another: Be patient and kind. Do not be jealous, boastful, arrogant or rude. Do not insist on your own way. Do not be irritable or resentful. Do not rejoice in the wrong. Rejoice in the right.
With the racial tensions and hate crimes we see daily, it is easy to become jaded and unconcerned. Yet, we are instructed by Peter to have compassion and by Paul to weep with those who weep. Choosing to put on “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) allows believers to model Christ-like behavior rather than perpetuate unrest.
God had such compassion on this world that he sent his only son to die for us. Christ’s compassion for the souls of mankind led him to death on a cross. Humility comes from the awareness of our utter dependence on God and from our comparison to Christ’s sinless perfection. We must remember and learn from God’s redemptive actions over history.
A friend of mine loves to say, “If you always remember, you will never forget!”
Always remember that God loves you and created you to be in relationship with Him. This is accomplished by putting your trust in the saving grace offered by His son Jesus Christ.
Always remember that from the beginning of time God relentlessly pursued his people. Forgiving them—all of them—time and time again. Giving second chances despite evil, disobedience, selfishness, and pride.
Always remember that obedience to God’s commands brings life, health, and peace. Disobedience results in consequences, but through Christ Jesus there is always a path to forgiveness and restoration.
Never forget our spiritual heritage. Read the stories of our faith in order to prevent falling into the vicious cycle of selfish sinfulness, hatred and bigotry.
Never forget we are called to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And never, never, never forget what God requires of us is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Soni Guice Buckalew lives in Gulfport and worships at St. Paul UMC Ocean Springs. A retired educator, she and her husband, Glen, have two adult children and are the proud grandparents of two young boys. Soni teaches on a variety of faith subjects and is available for speaking engagements at Sjbuckalew@gmail.com.