THE BLOG
08/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

To Hell and Back: A Blessing in Disguise

While I was speaking near Juarez, Mexico recently, I was asked to bless the city. The request was coming partly from the violent circumstances of apparent execution-style murders that had taken place in that region. I've written two books on blessings, The Blessings Already Are and You Are the Blessings: Meditations and Reflections on Life, God and Us. In my work I often find that, indeed, "the blessings already are" and at times it is challenging to see those blessings. The circumstances in Juarez provide a good example.

There are situations working themselves out on the planet that don't come across in ways that are pleasant. I find that there are blessings present that require a high spiritual perspective, with heavy doses of understanding and cooperation, for us to see.

In looking at capital punishment, the law says, "If you murder, then we murder you." Violence begets violence. That requires a careful look on our part. When I'm able to get a good look -- a "God look," if you will -- I see the murderer as part of God's creation. And I love them, which I find to be very humbling.

Loving someone doesn't mean letting them do as they please. But if you strike at me, my love and compassion for you won't allow me to strike at you. There is a place in the Old Testament of the Bible where God declares, "Vengeance is mine." [Romans 12:19] I think that is God's way of telling us, "I'll take care of it." My point of view is that relieves me of striking back.

I realize the world doesn't need more violence. There is enough. The world needs more love. I know of no better way to live than to cooperate with the consciousness of loving, no matter how challenging. Somewhere within the person who acts violently is the seed of God. If my conscious awareness can't make the trip to that high perspective, I go by my faith and trust in God. I say, "I know you love this one also, Lord." I realize that's often not a popular point of view.

When Mahatma Gandhi stood up to injustice, he referred to his actions as non-violent. It didn't mean that what others did wouldn't involve violence. Violence was done to those involved with and supporting Gandhi and indeed eventually he too was murdered. It's not always pleasant when we face the violence in order to stop it. Dr. Martin Luther King faced similar situations with a parallel voice of compassion, and he, too, was murdered as have been others whose lives were dedicated to the causes of peace and harmony in the world.

In some way, I need to love murderers. We need to love murderers so they choose better options than to murder, before the murders happen. People often don't like hearing that. But if I want heaven on earth, the most direct way is to bring heaven to hell -- to the darkest places laced with the most negativity. It's both enlightening and powerful to go into dark, negative situations and come in the name of love.

A caution in the New Testament says, "If you take up the sword, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. And to the measure you forgive, you are forgiven." [Matthew 26:52, Luke 6:37] Those are choices. I choose to be in the business of forgiveness. So I do my best to send forgiveness to the city of Juarez and all those involved in the violence and murders.

There are times when I have cursed myself, called down condemnation upon myself, and even wished myself dead. As I look on those past actions I find I need to consider that in some way I then murdered myself." So I need to forgive, starting with myself and then extending it out as far as necessary, even unto the murderer.

If I look deeply enough, the pain murderers put into their own consciousnesses (which they will remember) can lead only to the vengeance which is the Lord's. I need add nothing. What is that vengeance? It's a teaching. It's as if God said, "You had better things to do. Do you understand now not to do vengeance?"

As those who forgive violence and injustice we must turn to love, which is humbling. I find even attempting that humility to be a blessing. The way I relate to that is through grace -- loving all things, loving all people and situations. That often means I need God's help. Call it a higher power, if you prefer. I need the higher power of understanding to show me the best way to respond.

My experience is the higher power I call God does just that, pulling me along and lifting me while God's will is done. There is a better way that leads to a better experience and better results in the world. Let us be about the business of making the worst become better and better until we relate to the worst as something to be welcomed and turned to the good.