I am reading the book “All the Light We Cannot See” – a bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner. It is about two human stories during World War II: The first one about a little blind French girl, Marie-Laure, trying to survive German occupation. Her father loves and protects her with all his might. The other story is that of a young German orphan boy, Werner, who is selected for an elite Nazi school, and trained to hate: hate weakness, hate Jews, hate any who do not bow to Hitler’s Reich. Eventually, their stories come together…I haven’t gotten there yet.
This book makes me wonder:
What prompts lavish acts of love?
Why do we sometimes give free reign to our resentments and bitterness and lash out fiercely? Why do we often follow the crowd, even against our own moral compass? And other times find the mercy and forgiveness and courage to take a stand, to respond in generous love?
Scripture is full of examples – good and bad. King David has shown his best and worst selves: the wanton killing of Bathsheba’s husband is certainly David at his worst; but today’s account of his love and mercy for his treasonous son Absalom is David’s best self. His grief at Absalom’s death is the most heart-wrenching in all of scripture: “Absalom, Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you….”
Christians believe that the power to overcome evil with love comes from God. We can’t gin it up on our own; at our best, we are conduits through whom God’s love and forgiveness flows in the world. At our worst, we are plugged-up drains which allow none of the water of life to flow, only collecting the fetid water of resentment and forgiveness. At our best, we follow the example of Jesus…we become little Christs. At our worst, we follow the crowd, and become little Hitlers. JBM