Like most of you, I’ve been watching the news lately and marveling at the general state of chaos our world has lately fallen into. It’s debatable theology, but the headlines do bring to mind some lyrics from an old song by Jo Dee Messina: “The devil’s been so busy lately that even God must get the blues.”

• An avowed supporter of ISIS opens fire inside a gay nightclub in Florida, killing 50 people and wounding 53 –the worst mass shooting in American history. In the aftermath, the debate about how to prevent similar events falls along political lines: Ban guns (from the Left) and suspend Muslim immigration to the U.S. (from the Right).

• Within the space of a week, two black men in different states—
Louisiana and Minnesota—are shot and killed by police. In the highly politicized aftermath, the debate continues over whether the men were armed, whether they had criminal 
records, and whether the 
shootings were justified.

• After a peaceful protest against the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, a sniper with military training opens fire on police officers in downtown Dallas, Texas, killing five and wounding seven others—the worst assault on police since 9/11. The attack is racially motivated, with the gunman—who was killed when police used a robot to deliver a pound of explosives in the building where he was hiding—declaring he wanted to kill as many white officers as he could. In the aftermath, the debate falls along color lines: Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. 

• At the very moment I’m writing this, news is breaking about another racially motivated slaying in Baton Rouge, where a gunman has killed three policemen and critically wounded four others.

As horrific as the violence has been, the responses to it may actually have been worse, because they were far more widespread. One person told me he thought the Orlando shooting was horrible—but once he realized it had taken place at a gay nightclub, it wasn’t that horrible. The awfulness of the murders was downgraded, in his mind, by who the victims were. Their value, to him, wasn’t based on the fact that they were people made in the image of God, who He loved and poured out His life to save, but on the level of agreement this person had with their lifestyle. And the same sort of lovelessness was repeated throughout social media with the killings that followed.

Friends, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we’re called to a higher standard than that.

The Bible tells us the world will know those of us who belong to God by the love we have for one another (John 13:35, speaking of 
unity). But may I submit to you that they may know us even more by the love we have for the world? For those who are not our brothers and sisters, those with whom we disagree—even those who persecute us?

When the love of God resides in our hearts, it will flow in all those directions, despite any circumstances we may be facing. That’s the example Jesus showed us—and that means we can do it, too. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes this possible.

If all we have is religion or political opinions, however, His love won’t flow through our lives. All we’ll have then is our love, which will usually extend to the borders of our own comfort zones and no further.

Got love?

Originally published in the September 2016 issue of Citizen magazine.