Last year, we bore witness to an unprecedented pandemic originating from a virus of deadly proportions: coronavirus. The effects of this virus have reached every nation, and the external effects can be seen without question — closed businesses, mandated shut downs, sickness and death.
However, some would argue that our nation was in the midst of an internal pandemic long before coronavirus: the disease of hatred and division on a national scale.
The pandemic may have cast a shadow on recent memory, but in the years and months leading up to the pandemic, our nation experienced an unprecedented amount of political and social division.
According to a CBS article, there were more mass shootings than there were days in the year in 2019. According to a 2019 USA TODAY poll, 9 in 10 Americans were “sick and tired” of the constant political division and intransigence that has gridlocked our nation. A majority of Americans, 55 percent, considered nearly all hope lost in our republic.
The tragedy and paralysis of the pandemic brought some of our nation’s internal problems to a screeching halt. Now that we embark on the road to recovery and reopening from coronavirus, it seems that our nation is quickly returning to old unaddressed habits. Last Wednesday, the lives of nine innocent bystanders were taken by a mass shooting at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose. The Bay Area’s deadliest mass shooting since 1993 reminds us that our nation’s internal problems are just as important as those which are external. All the while our nation made its recovery from the virus this year, we slowly succumbed to problems predating the pandemic.
One of the most evident problems is that our nation has recorded 233 mass shootings in 2021 thus far.
Last year, it appeared that the logic of deeming another political party, faction or individual an enemy was being called into question. With the global threat posed by a virus of deadly proportions, many became conscious of the fact that there are greater enemies to our existence than political parties, factions, or persons.
Around the world, countless communities of every race, religion and creed rise up in the face of injustice in the protesting of George Floyd’s murder. We witnessed communities come together to support our collective recovery from the coronavirus. Unfortunately, it appears the pandemic did little more than cause an intermission of the internal plague we were dealing with. In coming to terms with this dichotomy, I am reminded of a message that faintly echoes throughout our existence: love your enemies.
Those who celebrated Easter in April understand the challenge that comes with attempting to follow Jesus Christ’s command to love one another without reservation, and reject our urge to combat one another.
To the human heart, his message was as fragile as a flame-lit candle amidst fierce winds, and yet as piercing as a two-edged sword. Now more than ever, perhaps our society can make sense of this command.
As you can imagine, many of his followers adopted the conventional wisdom warranting hatred for their Roman oppressors. Nonetheless, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed multitudes to do the unthinkable. “Love your enemies,” he commanded. He even suggested that they bless their Roman oppressors, cherish those who hated them, and pray for those who persecuted them.
Astounded, many ridiculed his message — urging the question of why anyone should cherish those who hated them. Jesus explained that harboring hatred merely produces pain and anguish, thus imprisoning the soul of the one who hates. Love, by contrast, is the only force by which we can truly break free from fear’s captivity and the chains of despair.
I must humbly admit that the task of loving enemies is one in which I struggle to come to terms with on a daily basis. After all, each of us knows of someone we struggle to tolerate. Yet, I have never experienced a time in my life when our nation has grappled with an unseen and deadly enemy.
While I am deeply saddened by the global effects of this pandemic, my hope is that it will sound the alarm for those of us entrapped in the belief that our American brothers and sisters are enemies.
Cherishing one another is not an embrace of another’s ideology, practice or belief. It is a practice of love — the most immortal and enlightening force in our universe.
A native of Pacifica, Jonathan Madison worked for the
U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Financial Services. Jonathan is Senior Partner at the Madison
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