I am sitting here this morning ruminating on what I might share with you and I am reminded of a visit I had with a dear friend from awhile back. That friend of mine is deeply engaged with social justice issues and works tirelessly to see injustice ended. When I have the opportunity to connect with him, I find myself encouraged to think differently about the world. I am challenged to take a closer look at the world around me and to take note of the brokenness that surrounds me everyday.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am to love. There is no way to get around that. I am to love all people in all circumstances. I shouldn’t love because I am obligated to. My love finds its origin from the author of all things…God. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” In other words, God’s love for us is the catalyst for the love we have for Him and the love we have toward our neighbor. In my mind, this is the starting place for social justice. I respond to the needs of those around me out of a love that finds its origin in God. So then, my response to the injustice and oppression all around the world finds its root in God’s love for me.
Here’s the catch though. Sometimes, the kind of love we are supposed to have for our neighbor can be difficult to summon when we ourselves are hurt, oppressed, or in dire circumstances. Often times we allow fear or apathy to get in the way. Maybe we a viscous cycle at work and far to few resources to make any lasting impact on the problem. But, Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Personally, I spend a great deal of time taking care of myself or my family. I do my best to make sure we have food shelter, clothing…the basic necessities. I would say that can take up a large part of time. I but I don’t always take the time to make sure that others have those very same things. There are poor and hungry people in my very community who will go to sleep tonight without having had a meal or perhaps even a bed. How can the church allow that? How can I allow that? In fact, 1 John 4:20-21 goes on to say,
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannott love God whom he has not seen.21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
We live in a culture that values convenience and consumerism. A culture that ingrains in us that we shouldn’t go out of our way to help others. We give lip service to helping others and engaging in our community but the truth is we are encouraged to live lifestyles that cut us off from community and family. A lifestyle that keeps us at work late away from friends and family and spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need. We end up sacrificing the things that are most important in life (friends, family, community, church, etc) for big houses, big cars, and the envy of our neighbor on the altar of the American Dream instead of picking up our cross daily and loving the unlovable. How can we possibly end the cycles of oppression and injustice in our communities when all of our time is spent in pursuit of the things that keep us distracted from what is most important?
When I look at the picture above, I am reminded about what love looks like. I am reminded that I am called to love the same way.