What is Love? : A word on reconciliation in light of the times

At this time, when hatred has, once again, reached a fever pitch, the names of slain Black individuals continue to increase, institutional oppression persists, COVID-19 affects Black and Brown communities at alarming rates, and our neighborhoods are over-policed but somehow under-protected….it can be so easy to give into the fear and fury that builds within. However, whether you are a member of the affected community or an ally, please allow love for humanity to precede hatred of injustice in informing your decision making. Know that righteous anger for justice to be implemented is critical to the cause, but, never forget that love is a tool to be implemented at all times. Love is an action word as well as a heart posture. The Bible instructs us to be angry and not to sin (Ephesians 4:26). When we seek justice from a place of anger or hatred, we aren’t seeking justice…we’re seeking revenge. God made it very clear that vengeance belongs to Him (Romans 12:19). As monuments of oppression are being torn down, seeds of peace need to be planted in their place. That peace begins with reconciliation, rooted in love.

God desires reconciliation. It’s His main priority. Jesus is the greatest example of that. His entire life’s mission was to be an example of change before suffering the cross, conquering death and becoming the bridge to reconciliation with God, after sin separated us from His presence. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to assist in the reconciliation process, spreading the Good News throughout the entire world. My belief is that reconciliation between divided people here on earth is included in that plan.

In Transformation Church’s service this past Sunday, Pastor Todd’s sermon covered the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman from the perspective of racial reconciliation. In that story, Jesus used His humanity to relate to the woman at the well. His willingness to step out of the status quo and extend an invitation for a meaningful exchange created a ripple effect for the woman’s entire community.

Following that example, the body of Christ is called to put aside the constructs of this world (such as race) that have prevented us from effectively aligning for the greater good of humanity and instead pursue unity. In order to effectively pursue unity, we must persevere through the barriers that have been keeping us separated. The residue of Black individuals being perceived as three-fifths of a person must be eradicated so that it can no longer continue to divide the body of Christ as well as the greater national community. In the Old Testament, God would instruct the people of Israel to “utterly destroy” the representations of evil so that they did not risk future contamination of their devotion to Him. Under the New Covenant, we understand that love (which comes from God, because He is love) does the work of casting out evil and all that is related to it (i.e. fear and hatred).

The body of Christ, for years, has been disjointed in its functioning; each part of the body focusing on something different hoping to see change in that particular area. Studies have shown that multitasking is not as effective as having singular focus when it comes to task completion. With all these separate agendas, it seems we’ve lost sight of the original purpose of the Christian faith. The ongoing unrest in America presents an opportunity for the body of Christ to unite with a singular focus to effect change that inevitably assists all other areas. We are called to be a unified body, first and foremost, so that we can be an accurate representation of God’s design for relationship among humanity.

1 Corinthians 13 begins with Paul listing several spiritual gifts, acts of kindness, and decisions to sacrifice one’s self as useless if they do not stem from or are not governed by love. Within just a few verses, we are provided a list of grounding principles regarding what it truly means to love. As I read through them, I couldn’t help but notice how they apply to our current climate:

  • It takes patience to listen to the experience of another person and kindness to acknowledge the reality of what they’ve been through in a way that doesn’t invalidate them. (v. 4)
  • Resentment stifles generosity and therefore must be replaced in order to love effectively. (v. 4)
  • Self-centeredness and pride prevent us from ever reaching across the barriers around us to seek unity. (v. 4)
  • Offensive behavior precludes the pursuit of peace among two or more parties. (v. 5)
  • Love has an incredibly disarming effect, when expressed without ulterior motive. (v. 5)
  • Loving involves not giving into provocation to anger and avoids sinful thoughts. (v. 5)
  • When the things we enjoy stem from injustice, we should be concerned, desiring instead that the injustice be corrected. (v. 6)
  • Love doesn’t allow anything to sever it’s function; instead it perseveres through all form of adversity with hope and belief in success. (v. 7-8)

Note: For more on how God has called us to love, I urge you to read through 1 John 3 & 4.

If we know anything about hatred, it’s that it is fueled by fear. If we allow fear or hatred to drive our response, we are fighting fire with fire, which fails to benefit anyone involved. Instead, God gave us the remedy for addressing this issue in 1 John 4:18, which states, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” We just have to decide to make use of it. Racial systemic oppression cannot continue be allowed to crush the spirit of members of this “one nation under God” that pledges to be “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Members of the Black community deserve the fullness of that promise without the threat of fear or hatred cutting their lives short. In conjunction with efforts to uplift a systemically downtrodden people through legislation changes and social justice initiatives, we must also remember to engage one another’s humanity so that the ignorance that has infiltrated the minds of generations will have fewer opportunities to thrive in our Christian, national, and global communities. That will require a commitment to unity above individual gain and a desire for equality that permeates beyond just having relationships with people who look like us.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

-1 John 4:20 NIV

Song Selections:
Let Love Lead by Terrian
Help Us to Love by Tori Kelly
Where is the Love? by Black Eyed Peas

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Upsplash

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