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Ordinary Acts of Love - Overcoming Evil

“This has been a tough week.” That, in so many words, is how the pastor began his sermon Sunday morning. He described how, all around him, he noticed people’s sense of ennui, of things being out of order no matter what was happening in each of our lives. He was connecting us to something that is tearing us apart - the Israel-Hamas War. How do we faithfully make sense of it all? Along with several colleagues, I’m participating in a conversation in London, UK, around this question. We’ll be practicing a process of listening rooted in biblical texts. The invitation expresses what we are seeking to do as a part of our own sense-making: “We’re all asking ourselves how we respond to what has taken place over the past two weeks…the grave situation in Israel-Palestine… We believe that the wisdom so desperately needed in this time of great turmoil can be discovered through listening to one another and to God through a process of dwelling together in the Scriptures. This is what we want to do: convene a space for fellow believers and truth-seekers to dwell together in the text, asking what God may be saying to us about the situation.” On Sunday, this pastor invited us into a way of sense-making when making sense of what’s going on is very hard. There is so much pain and accusation. Social media is filled with a relentless fight to garner people to one side or another. The temptation toward ideological positions or emotional reactions is overwhelming. How do we behave as God’s people in the face of such horrors? Earlier in the week I ‘d been in conversation with several friends within Jewish communities in Canada and the UK. They were all traumatized. They are not arguing for positions, whether pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. My friends are traumatized by the barbarity of two weeks ago when Jews were massacred because they were Jews. I was asked, as a Christian, how to make sense of these acts against Jews for being Jews. The temptation is to look for a rational response, something that would make sense of these actions. For me, every attempt to do so falls terribly short. These actions are not amenable to rational, historic, or geopolitical answers. There is no sense-making in the face of these actions. As my Jewish friends looked to me for some kind of response, I said that what confronted the world two weeks ago was Evil. I don’t mean that as a metaphor for people acting out of character or misbehaving because of social forces. It is not a metaphor. We were confronted, as moderns, by the real Evil. These Evil acts were for the extermination of other human beings, particularly Jews. There is no rational response to Evil. Something different is needed. Thus, on Sunday morning, I listened to the pastor tentatively address the sense of powerlessness in people who didn’t want to choose sides or get embroiled in ideological divides. He’d invited people in the church to write a brief story of where they had seen love in action over the past while. He was not asking for saccharine or platitudinous feel-good moments but a response to 1 Corinthians 13. On Sunday morning, in the context of this Evil and the grave situation of its aftermath, he didn’t offer a solution that would now fix the spreading circles of violence; he didn’t pretend to know or take sides. He told stories about where people are encountering the love of God on the ground, in the mundane moments of ordinary life. In these stories, I heard another way from that of giving in to Evil. It wasn’t everything. It didn’t answer painful questions, but it began to point to how we, who can feel so helpless in the face of empires and powers, overcome Evil. It is in choosing ordinary acts of love that we participate in overcoming evil. - Alan Roxburgh

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