We live in a divided country. I don’t remember seeing such division in my life, unless they’re scenes that flash into my mind from time to time. Scenes from my childhood.

Growing up a child in the 1960s, we saw history being played out on the television. Rioting. Unrest. Division. Assassinations.

The Vietnam War was broadcast in our living room in living color. It was the first time we as a society saw war up close and personal while we smelled dinner cooking in the oven. It still seems odd watching our boys fighting a war so far away while we’re safe in our homes, tummies grumbling from the good smells.

We also saw the anti-war protesters on TV, promoting love, not war. Love is a good thing. In fact, it’s the number one thing. Yet when our vets returned home love was not what they were shown. They were objects of hate and ridicule. Just when they thought the fighting had stopped, it began again.

I have a special place in my heart for all veterans, but especially for our Vietnam vets. Mistreated, many still harbor feelings of hurt and rejection from their own country. I know this because some have told me, beginning with a college buddy who long ago shared his unedited war experiences with me.

It’s a privilege to be trusted in that way. It also changes you. Just like experiencing the war in color on TV strips away any glamour, when you see suffering in others it changes how you live in the world. Life is no longer filled with easy answers. Some innocence is gone. You have to take a hard look at yourself and what you truly believe. Love and compassion remain.

How, then, shall we live?

Harboring hatred for the anti-war protestors from so long ago? They, like so many of our soldiers, were just kids, too. They, like the vets, were fighting for peace. They, like all of us, simply wanted a better world. No. On the multiple choice test in life, hate is never the right answer. We’ve seen what hate can do. Hate can take a group of people and dehumanize them. When they are no longer human, it’s easy to get rid of them.

Hate can cause a division marrow-deep that separates brother from brother and sister from sister. Forgiveness is never a part of hate. Peter asks Jesus a specific question in Matthew 18:21, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter thinks he’s being generous. But in the next verse Jesus replies, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Don’t bother multiplying it out because Jesus doesn’t mean that at the 491st time we’re no longer to forgive. He’s saying that forgiveness should be part of our nature. If forgiveness seems impossible, just ask the one who died on the cross simply to forgive our sins for help. Nothing’s impossible for Him.

We live in a divided country - and yet, we come together when tragedy strikes. There are so many stories of love, kindness and sacrifice surrounding the devastating floods in Houston. People have stepped up and stepped out of themselves to help others. It shows the best of humanity. It shows the best of this country that I love so much. But what happens when the waters recede?

How, then, shall we live?

Let’s vow to be kind to one another. Let’s vow to extend grace to others just as our God extends amazing grace to each one of us each and every day.

If we disagree with each other politically or in any way, let’s not make personal attacks. I learned long ago in grade school that it’s unacceptable to call others mean names. Those simple, basic lessons still apply today.

A Pharisee asks Jesus, “What’s the greatest commandment?

Jesus replies: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

How, then, shall we live?

Let’s vow to live out these commandments. Imagine the difference for our Vietnam vets if they’d been welcomed home with love? Imagine our country and our world if we put God first.

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at kathyyoder4@gmail.com.

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