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A call to selfless love in the face of hatred

CrossIn the week following the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, The Reverend Philip Young calls us to reject the vicious cycle of violence by following Jesus’ example of selfless love.

When we are confronted by the most appalling act of hatred carried out in the name of religion then we know that something has gone badly wrong in our world.
We have all witnessed in our own country, on our very own doorstep, the most frightening face of hatred and horror.  As the two men in Woolwich hacked down Drummer Lee Rigby we saw quite clearly that they were motivated by an extreme hatred.
Our thoughts and prayers are with this brave man’s family and friends. The repercussions of such an act of extreme hatred are going to be with those close to Drummer Lee Rigby for the rest of their lives. The repercussions for all of us are very disturbing.
We have witnessed the worst and most disturbing side of human nature.  We must, in our reaction, turn to that side of our human nature which is the best and the highest in all of us.
If these men have been influenced and motivated by preachers of hatred, then we must seek out those who preach and practice a message of love. Thank God or Allah that these people are totally unrepresentative of the huge majority of Muslims.  The very word ‘Islam’ means peace and we must be grateful that Muslim leaders have spoken out condemning the brutality of this murder.  We need to hear their message of peace and love, and not be influenced by a sick minority.
The very best way to heal the sickness of violence is with love.  We must take care not to think that the problem of violence can be solved by more violence.  There is a vicious circle of violence and the only way to break it is to pour out our love in a selfless way.  The challenging call is to make selfless love our way of life.
This way has already been shown us in the life that Jesus lived.  Jesus practiced the way of selfless love.  Nowhere else do we see this more than in the way Jesus loved those who hated him.  His words and his way of life were consistent. He practiced what he preached.  His greatest teaching is to teach us to love one another.  And his greatest act was to lay down his life because he loved those around him. 
We are encouraged to follow him, as to follow him is to bring new life into the world.  God creates the world in love and God brings about change and new life when we decide that love is the way.  We are to put to death in us all that is negative and dark, and to bring to life in us, all that it positive and ‘of the light.’
So the very best way to confront the horror within us is to be in touch with the love that is in us.  It is, I believe, there in all of us because we are all God’s creatures made in his image.
It is frightening when human beings turn to the dark side of their souls, and it is appalling what human beings can do to one another when they are motivated by hatred.
We have to confront the dark side of our human nature and recognize it for what it is.  All of us, at our worst, are capable of terrible evil acts, but all of us, at our best, are divine beings.  We need to come to a place in our lives when we know that we are loved. Then we are in a better place to love. 
Selfless love, as practiced by Jesus and others can bring new life from old.  It is, in fact, the only way to break the vicious circle of violence.  To take a life for a life or an eye for an eye is to spiral down into a dangerous place.
There is a virtuous circle created by loving one another.  It brings about new life and a safer and more secure world for us all to live in.

Rev Philip Young is the Norwich Diocesan Environmental Officer for the Church of England. He is also a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and a Novice of the Third Order of Franciscans. His work for the Norwich Diocese is part time.  The rest of his time he reads and writes on spiritual matters. He is able available to give talks, presentations or to preach and can be contacted at philip.young@norwich.anglican.org.

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