Hate is easy. Love is hard.

Photo: Daniel Curran, Unsplash. Photo: Daniel Curran, Unsplash.

Recently I attended a ­nonviolent civil disobedience training with Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a musician, pastor and activist who has trained thousands of clergy and activists.

During the event here in Salem, Ore., one thing stood out for me. Sekou repeatedly asked a question we were expected to answer no matter what we were doing.

“Why do we do this work?”

Over and over, this question would come up. Each time, we were called to answer by saying, “Out of deep abiding love!”

Deep abiding love was the reason for this work. It was the reason we were at this training. It was the reason we wanted to learn how to safely engage with the principalities and powers that sustain white supremacy.

Since this training, I have been reflecting on this idea. I have realized that over the past year it has been a struggle for me to love people.

Do not get me wrong. I love a lot of people. I am a pastor who loves my church, family and friends. Loving these people is not a problem. It is also not hard for me to love those who are oppressed.

But I have a hard time loving those I disagree with socially and politically. I find it difficult to be in community with those who seem to ignore social evils.

Maybe it is because of COVID and the constant arguing about vaccines and masks. Maybe it is the blatant racism that is prevalent in the United States.

I think it is a little bit of everything going on in our world that has caused me to feel this lack of love.

But what if I don’t just fail to love some people? What if I actually hate them?

Not only is it hard to love, it is easy to hate.

It is easy for us to hate those who think differently from us or who compete against us.

Living in the midst of competing sides wrestling for power and control, we must remember that love is the reason for our actions.

Hate cannot sustain us. Only love can do that.

Our actions must come out of love for God and the people God created.

It was out of love that God created humankind.

It was out of love that God decided to become incarnate and be with the world.

And so also it should be out of love that we participate in what God is doing in this world.

It is out of love for the Black community, not hate for the white community, that we say “Black Lives Matter!”
It is out of love for the LGBTQ community that some of our churches feel led to affirm who God has created them to be.

I love these words of Jesus: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).

Martin Luther King Jr. led with love when he laid down his life for racial justice in the United States.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu led with love as he advocated for the oppressed in South Africa during apartheid.
When we advocate for the oppressed, we do so out of love for God and others.

The point is: Our motives are important. So important that they may determine whether we succeed or fail.

To be effective creators of change, we need to make our reasons clear. The reason for social action is love, even when love is hard.

bell hooks, the influential Black writer who died Dec. 15, wrote in her book Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations: “The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love, we begin to move toward freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.”

Love needs to be the beginning. It needs to be the starting point of every action.

Love will guide us to freedom. Love will be the liberator of the oppressed.

“So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16).

Let us lead with love.

Jerrell Williams

Jerrell Williams is pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan. A 2015 graduate of Bethel College, he has a Read More

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!