Loving the persecuted and persecutors / by Scott Ulrich

It's been a crazy week. Cops shooting people, people shooting cops, and to top it off, a man found hanged in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, only about a mile from where I live. And of course all of this following one of the most horrible terrorist attacks in our nation's history only a few weeks ago. These are turbulent times we are living in.

It almost felt inappropriate to announce our re-branding last night amidst all of the tragedy, and for a moment we considered postponing, but we decided not to. All of these incidents were motivated by prejudice, hatred, and fear; feelings that are only bolstered by isolating yourself from those that are different from you. This process is the exact thing that we want to work against. When we unite and break down barriers between different people groups, we work against the prejudices that are so prevalent.

But here's the reality; eradicating such hatred is not as simple as being nice to people. It's not as simple as posting on social media (we are aware of the irony here). A lot of the time, it's not even as simple as loving the persecuted. Sometimes, it's necessary to love the persecutor; the bigot, the homophobe, the racist, the religious extremist, etc. Very few people's perspectives have changed after someone shouted at them, no matter how correct or morally righteous the person shouting was.

Perhaps if we can approach that racist neighbor, or that bigoted uncle, or whoever else with hateful and intolerant views are in our lives and engage them with patience, love, and respect, we can begin tearing away at the fear and hatred they have deep down. Jesus said to "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44), even if they hold views and opinions that are completely rooted in ignorance and hatred.

Today, we encourage you to work on a relationship you have with someone who is different from you. Whether they grew up in a different region, or even just a different socio-economic bracket. In addition, we encourage you to be patient and loving with any hateful people you come into contact with; not because they are right, but because we are more likely to win them over by loving them than we are by hating them back.