“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16
This was the verse that popped up today as the “Verse of the Day” on my iPad’s Bible Gateway app. I was up unreasonably early after on odd sleep-read-sleep pattern that put me officially to bed at 3:00 in the morning. I had spent many of the reading hours absorbing columns and posts about today’s 50th anniversary of the KKK bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the bombing that killed Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, often collectively known as “Four Little Girls.” So when this verse about love popped up, I thought about the verse in the context of this historical event.
As many articles and photo captions about the bombing have brought up, the pastor at 16th Street Baptist Church had prepared a sermon that day entitled, “The Love That Forgives.” I thought about how immediately the pastor would have to put his preparation to use. I thought about 1 John 4:16, about “living in love,” about what kind of hatred the four klansmen who planted the dynamite and so committed murder must have had, and I wondered what it’s like to live like that. Could they possibly have had any God in them at all? If I could picture souls, I would imagine theirs to be shapeless, void of all form, and billions of times darker than the skin of the people they sought to terrorize.
Then the following quote from Martin Luther King, Jr came to my mind:
“Strange, isn’t it, that people can stand amid the smoldering ruins of their homes and their churches and still sing, we shall overcome?”
I wondered, how did so many believers in the civil rights movement live in love after being victims of so much hate? My eyes began to focus on the words, “rely on” in the first scripture. To “rely on the love God has for us” is to believe that a supreme being who would sacrifice his own son so he could have an eternal relationship with you must care about your present suffering, too, and must want to do something about the situation. It is to lean on that belief daily, to let your faith be your strength, however long it takes for God to act.
“Strange, isn’t it, that people can stand amid the smoldering ruins of their homes and their churches and still sing, we shall overcome? But there is a reason for being able to sing it. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
To the ones who continue(d) to sing and believe, thank you.