The Suprising Thing That Happened in Charlottesville
Only love can surprise us.
Hate is commonplace. If we're being honest, we know most of what there is to know about hatred. It's the star of every news program every night. We've seen it at work in our own lives. We know what it does, we know its plan. We know hate.
I sometimes see signs in my neighborhood that says "Hate has no home here" and I think to myself that this house would be the first. I know what they're saying but hatred finds its way into our relationships, into our homes, and into our hearts. And if we're being honest, I think we'd have to admit that we invited it there.
So when we heard that a hate-filled young man plowed his car into a crowd, we were rightly horrified. But I'm not even sure we were shocked or surprised. Not anymore. I think we've seen too many reckless acts of hatred to be truly surprised by it anymore.
But then something happens that truly surprises, and maybe it's the only thing that truly can anymore. Something which makes us stop and wonder. And forces us to measure ourselves against it. I'm speaking of the father of the young woman killed by that hate-filled young man who drove into a crowd in Charlottesville. When interviewed, the father of that young woman didn't speak of hate or revenge in the hours after his daughter's murder but of forgiveness and peace. This man who helped raise a daughter willing to stand up to hatred and racism, reminded the world what grace is.
“She had more courage than I did,” Mark Heyer said of his daughter Heather. “She had a stubborn backbone that if she thought she was right, she would stand there and defy you. If I understand her, she would want to do it peacefully.”
And he spoke of forgiveness. “I include myself in that in forgiving the guy who did this,” he said. “I just think about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’ … I hope that her life and what has transpired changes people’s hearts.”
Words like that are the only things that can.
Mark Heyer called the young man who killed his daughter “stupid.” And that's the thing. Hate is stupid. It makes you that way. There's a reason they call it “blind hatred.” It's because hate doesn't let you see the important things; like a person's soul and beauty or the fact that God loves them too and is calling them home just as He is calling you. Hatred allows you to see people as solely obstacles, impediments, or irritants. But nobody is one thing. We are all complicated, prideful messes who know we're not where we're supposed to be and we're not who we're supposed to be. Not yet anyway.
I pray that I never have to go through what that man is going through. And I am unsure I would be able to exhibit that kind of grace in the face of such horror. I fear I wouldn't. But that's why we pray, I guess. We pray that it doesn't happen and we pray that if it does, it leads all souls closer to Christ. We pray that something beautiful like love and forgiveness stops the seemingly never-ending parade of hatred.