By Pastor Daniel Calcagno
Glad Tidings Church of God in Fonthill
There was a little movie that came out a couple of weeks ago called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. In it, we find the Empire has continued on in what is called the First Order and the Rebellion is now known as the Resistance. In these movies, regardless of the names, there is a group that represents evil and tyranny and there is a group that represents goodness and freedom.
To me, the evil Empire stands for any group of people who seek to dominate others. Throughout human history, there have always been people who aren’t satisfied with living their own lives, but want to rule over others too. Arguably, the worst part about the Empire is not necessarily the evil that they do, but that good people don’t feel any moral outrage over that evil. This isn’t the case when it comes to individual crimes: if a person is tragically murdered or violently mugged in front of us, I think most people would be morally outraged, at the very least! But when those same things are done more subtly, or on a grand scale, most are indifferent to it, or even support it!
I believe it is possible to be supportive of — or at least, indifferent to — evil on a grand scale when we let evil go unchecked in our personal lives. In fact, I believe that the Empire is just a manifestation of our personal lives. If we want to defeat the Empire, we must no longer tolerate evil in our personal lives; instead, we each need to have a better understanding of love, to identify love in our lives, and then to make some hard choices about our relationships.
PROPERLY DEFINE LOVE
“Love” is a word that means different things to different people. However, with just a little common sense, we can come up with a good universal definition. Firstly, love can’t include the things that characterize the Empire’s ways. The Empire seeks to control and rule over people, so we must treat everyone with respect. Thus, in our personal relationships, we must never use insults, force, or violence. We must never aggress against or abuse others — verbally, emotionally, or physically.
However, love is not simply the absence of hate and evil, it is virtue in action. To demonstrate that you love someone, you must actually live out virtue toward them. Think about it: when others treat us with kindness, empathy, honesty, integrity, etc., we instinctually desire to be in relationship with them, and not because of guilt or obligation. The opposite is also true: when people act immorally toward us, treat us badly, don’t consider us, lie to us, and so on, we don’t desire to spend time with them.
IDENTIFY LOVE IN OUR LIVES
With this definition of love in mind, think about all of the relationships you are in, and how both parties are treated. It’s important to do this because we must identify which relationships are based on love — and worse, when we are in relationships where there is outright evil taking place, then we must identify that for the bad relationship that it is. Evil continues and grows when good people let it happen without consequence, so we must stop making excuses for it.
STRENGTHEN LOVE IN OUR LIVES
With love properly defined and with a fresh assessment of your relationships, you can choose to strengthen those love-based relationships, and you can modify, or even end, those relationships that are not based on love. If you make it clear to everyone in your life that you expect to be treated with love, with virtue, then you can expect them to rise to the challenge. And, if they don’t, you do not have to let them hold the same level of relationship in your life.
START WITH YOURSELF
However, in order to be able to hold others to that high standard, you must first be striving to meet that standard yourself. If there is any kind of aggression in your relationships, you need to stop, ask forgiveness, and start fresh by demonstrating love, living out virtue. Be kind, be honest, be empathetic, be fair, be tolerant, have integrity, be compassionate, be encouraging, be generous, be gracious, have gratitude, be patient, and so on. If we all begin to live this way, then we will one day see the Empire defeated!