I watched a video of the opening band at the concert before the shooting in Las Vegas began. The crowd, blissfully unaware of what would happen later that night, cheered and waved the lights on their phones as a sign of unity, while patriotic declarations of freedom filled the night air.

Sadly, those who died in this tragedy are gone from this earth for good. Their families and countless injured are left with painful wounds, memories, longing, and for some, despair. So, how has it come to this? How is it possible that all those, united by their love of music, God, and America, could be horrifically attacked with such senseless violence? How do we change this? Do we quit talking about love of God and country? Do we stay hidden and spend our days worrying about the next act of terrorism? No. Just the opposite. We dig deeper into God’s will for us, our country. We look to what Saint Paul said in Romans 12:9 — “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”

Often, we casually sling the word, “love” around, using it to describe our favorite ice cream or movie, but according to God’s word, our love should be genuine. Jesus’ example of love was to give up His life for us. How often do we imitate that kind of love when we say or express the word? If we desire to show the world real love, we must be passionate about God’s holy precepts, teaching them, living them out each day, without compromise. We must reject all that contradicts or suppresses truth, because without truth, love is not authentic and will not last.

There’s a lot of talk about hatred these days, but maybe that’s because there’s so little thought given to what God hates. God is love. In Him, there is no darkness — but truly, there are things He hates. How can we love like God loves without also detesting the evil He hates? How can we say we love our children, but not hate abortion? How can we love truth without hating deception? While God loves all people, He hates the sins we commit. When we recognize and grasp the contrast between the good God loves, and evil He hates, we can love more fully — in truth, as He loves.

To live at peace with ourselves and each other, especially amidst violence, we must hold onto what is good — what God has declared good, not what man has declared good. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus declares Peter “the rock” upon which He would build His church, giving him the keys to His kingdom. Yet, shortly afterward, when Peter declares that he does not want the torture and death to come upon Jesus, our Lord rebukes, “Get behind me Satan,” because Peter’s thinking was worldly rather than eternal. This illustrates that everything we embrace or reject, love or hate, should be examined through God’s eyes, His will, not the clouded lenses of this world. The more we seek God’s will, the more we find that, “in everything, God works for good with those who love Him, who are called to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

St. Paul reminds us that we “fight not flesh against flesh, but against spiritual forces of evil,” so defeating evil requires prayer and action, the imitation of Christ. His sacrificial love was demonstrated that fateful night through the many who risked their lives to save others — some, heroically using their own bodies to shield the bullets.

The violence carried out in Vegas doesn’t have to be the end of the story. We can embrace the genuine love of Christ and work more vigilantly to change what He hates — the things that cause the violence, the poverty, hopelessness, pain and sadness in the world. We can hold fast to what is the ultimate good and most important — the changing of hearts and salvation of souls. Lord, have mercy on us all.

I wrote this song months ago, but the words ring true.

Hater

I’ve been called a hater — more than once, I know

A name I felt just didn’t fit, and I admit, it brought me low.

So, I fell to my knees, and asked the Lord above,

To show me any hate in me, and replace it with His love.

And through my tears He helped me see, the hatred that He found in me,

And then He gave me grace to carry on …. 

And hate the lies the devil tells.

Hate when hearts are empty shells.

Hate that precious babies are killed before they’re born.

And hate when weddings aren’t for keeps,

hate when shepherds fail their sheep.

Hate that souls are bound by drugs and porn.

Oh God, help me do my part, to help change the things You hate.

I hate when sorrow is so great,

That despairing souls make death their fate.

I hate when love of wealth or power, consumes a soul.

I hate when kids don’t have a home

A place where love and mercy’s shown.

I hate that hurting hearts don’t know that God can make them whole.

Oh God, help me speak Your Truth to help change the things You hate.

What good would it do, to gain the whole world,

But lose my soul in the end?

Oh God give me grace to always defend Truth …

And hate the shades of gray that blur,

Real Truth and Love that will endure,

And hate when war and politics become a game.

To hate for truth and justice lost

When it’s not upheld despite the cost,

And hate when terror’s carried out in God’s Name!

I hate the hunger some still feel

The pain that only Christ can heal.

I hate to see our country fall.

In the land of the free … .

Oh God, help me to be brave.

Elizabeth Schmeidler is a Christian author from Hays.