In the wake of recent terrorist attacks across the United Kingdom and the world, many celebrities, politicians, and notable characters have expressed the need to conquer and defeat such violent attacks through spreading vague emotions like love and unity. This current campaign to end terrorism through love culminated in Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester charity concert which took place on last Sunday, June 4th. This concert brought stars such as Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, and the Black Eyed Peas together for a charity concert with proceeds benefiting the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester, England. The message of the night was love, with Katy Perry encouraging everyone to “choose love, even when it’s difficult.”
While many praised this concert for the awareness and over $3 million that it brought to the Manchester Emergency Fund, others criticized the message, calling it naïve and ineffective. Indeed, as a history major and somebody who has spent many hours studying both political and societal reactions to hardship throughout history, the idea that something as ephemeral as “love” can overcome and defeat something as real, dangerous, and scary as terrorism seems quite preposterous. But perhaps these celebrities, who the cynics (me included) scoff at, are not as far off the mark as we think.
Ultimately, the issue boils down to a simple question: can love truly triumph over hate? Me and my fellow self-styled realists would, at first, claim no. But, as Christians, we have a concrete example of the very real power love can have. A power strong enough to not just overcome hate, but to overcome fear, overcome sin, and even overcome death. Ultimately, it was because of love that Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross so that we may have salvation (John 3:16). This sacrifice, done out of love, eradicated the need for fear and ended the power of death. Because of Jesus’ love, we Christians can honestly and confidently repeat the words of David in Psalm 56, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Fear of death is the terrorist’s only weapon. They seek to drive people apart, make us doubt our political processes, and turn against each other because of fear and terror. Yet, without fear, they are weaponless. By giving us the hope of a life after death with him in heaven, Jesus and his love disarmed and defeated the terrorists over 2,000 years ago. Love has already triumphed over hatred, fear, and terrorism.
But, I know what a lot of you may be thinking. “That’s wonderful, Kaitlin, but answer the question. Can love really stop the terrorism of today?” Honestly, I do not think there is one panacea, one cure all, for the problem of terrorism in the world and I shall leave it to those in power to decide the best course of action. However, I do believe that by incorporating love into our lives, we can each do our small part to help end terror in this world.
But not just any love, it will take an action filled, self-sacrificing love. Just speaking about love and claiming to love and respect one another while not actually going out and demonstrating it will do nothing to end the hatred and strife in the world. The Bible speaks of this action oriented love in 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” This type of love commanded in the Bible compels us to go out and evangelize to our neighbors and get to know one another. It should inspire us to watch out for each other and to empathize with each other. It should lead us to support each other and to pray for each other. It should provoke us into action. To truly, wholeheartedly, sincerely, and actively show love for our neighbors and all those we encounter. The terrorist who committed the heinous act was born and grew up in Manchester; he was their neighbor. Although we can by no means justify his actions and he will be judged by God for them, perhaps if somebody had shown him this true Christian, action oriented love at an early age, things might have been different.
I am not naïve. I understand that love alone will not end the terror and strife that faces our world. But, if we let love for our fellow human beings motivate us into telling others about the sacrificial love of Jesus that truly conquered death, let love inspire us to pray for those we meet, let God’s love truly shine within us and show the world that we are not afraid of terrorism of death, perhaps then, we can come a little closer to ending the hatred and terror so prevalent in this broken world.