The Power of Unconditional Love - Kate Bowler

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The Power of Unconditional Love

The Power of Unconditional Love

Sometimes what happens to you is not fair.

It’s not fair that you got that diagnosis or that your mom isn’t here to show you the ropes or the insurance company refuses to cover that particular medicine you really need or you’re stuck between the impossible decision about whether or not to send your kid to school in a pandemic.

Sometimes life just stacks against us.

Today, I wanted to talk to someone who understands the cost of unfairness. He’s been living the nightmare of being unjustly accused and living with the consequences.

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two capital murders. Crimes he didn’t commit.

The supposed murder weapon was his mother’s gun. But the evidence didn’t exist. He was at work miles away at the time of the crime. He passed a polygraph. The bullets were never proven to have come from that gun.

But none of it mattered.

He was a black man in Alabama. That was his only crime.

He was sentenced to death and sat on death row for twenty eight years until Justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative proved his innocence and pushed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, where his conviction was finally overturned. And on April 3rd, 2015, Ray Hinton was set free. Today, as the Equal Justice Initiatives community educator, Mr. Hinton is a tireless and powerful advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. He is also the author of the gorgeous memoir, and our book club pick, The Sun Does Shine.

Click the PLAY button below to listen to our full conversation. Or, read the full transcript, here.

One of the most powerful things about Ray’s commitment to justice is that it does two things at once. It condemns the unfair systems that distort the truth. He was innocent in a society that pronounced him guilty because of the color of his skin. But Ray also pronounced his own verdict on all humanity. We are all worthy. The good and the bad among us, the criminals and the saints, the deserving and the undeserving.

Even in the midst of the most profound kinds of unfairness, he never lost sight of something true about himself and other people. We all hunger and need to be loved. We need to be forgiven. We need to have those who show up every week to talk about everything and nothing. Our fundamental humanity is never in question. No matter what we’ve done.

Structurally, we must work towards systems which do the hard work of perfect justice. But personally, spiritually, individually, we must walk the path that Ray’s been walking. In the words of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business. And in fact, it’s nobody’s business. What we’re asked to do is love. And this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”


Listen on (or read the transcript).
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Ray’s gorgeous memoir, The Sun Does Shine, was this month’s book club pick for The Everything Happens Book Club. Listen to our conversation or read the book and use these discussion questions to dive in deeper with friends, a small group, or a Sunday School on Zoom.

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2 years ago

Kate, I’m so grateful for the podcasts. You bring people to me whom I would never discover and I learn so much. My world is expanded. I believe that Christ is present in each person but not everyone discovers Christ within themselves. My passion is to help others make this discovery. None of us is worthy but we are deeply and unconditionally loved by God and we are called to love others in the same way – not an easy calling for sure. Life happens and circumstances can make us bitter or better. I love being around people who have… Read more »

Laurie Peller
2 years ago

Feeling so grateful to have heard this interview. Thank you, Mr. Hinton, for being willing to speak to us. Thank you, Kate, for providing a space. Thank you, Bryan Stevenson, for your work. Thank you, Lester, for living the meaning of friendship. Thank you, Ray’s mom, for showing the way.

Harriet Putman
2 years ago
Reply to  Laurie Peller

We also felt such deep gratitude for the ways those four people show us a better way to live and love. Thanks for your message.

2 years ago

Well, I believe everything happens for a good reason. Sometimes the things aren’t like what we see them.

Lori Tormey
1 year ago

Kate, you are truly a gift.
You are walking me through some very dark days.
Your embrace and truth of real life is so necessary and I just want to thank you so very much for your important ministry.
The Church hurt me deeply. You bring me the gospel, along with Nadia, so that I can continue to find Jesus.
Just thank you, Kate, thank you

LoriT 🙏

Barbara Cornell
1 year ago

After Kate’s introduction to Ray, I read his memoir…so very beautiful!! Thank you, Katie for sharing your conversations with wonderful people who help me learn more about this chronic condition we all share of being human. There is beauty and hope here. Lots of gratitude too!

3 months ago

The power of forgiveness transcends all other emotions. To forgive is to free not only the person who caused you pain or has a grievance against you but frees you from the resentment you may feel against that person. ” Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” , is the line in The Lord’s Prayer that I return to often.

Mr. Hinton’s gift is forgiveness and somehow seeing the humanity even as he was unjustly confined for twenty-eight years. The forgiveness he exudes makes him a truly free man.

Thank you!

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