During my times of reflections, I’ve been thankful for quiet voices of reason that remind me of the holiness of diversity and the call to love. “Love that suffers long and is kind” invites me to converse with real people, and to seek out opportunities within the body of Christ to remember that the love of Christ is real and comes with a cost.
That love, spoken of in John 3:16, reached out to me over 30 years ago. Love wasn’t puffed up and proud; it got down low, and surrounded me with compassion and care. I suspect that is probably true of many women and men of faith. In my case the act of God’s love reconciled me, empowered and equipped me and today, I speak of God’s love in the Church, the workplace, and even in the public square. Don’t get it twisted, like many I have come a long way – and collectively we still have a distance to go – but the ministry of Jesus Christ was founded on love, and I am now motivated by the same love.
For example, recently while in Birmingham, I spoke with a Christian leader who spoke of his love for his community – so much in fact that this has become his life’s work. He provides basic services for low-income people. He reminds me If you work with minority groups, you inevitably run into issues of injustice. This is no surprise to me, since I work in an environment where I see the devastating effect of this, but for this leader, his love for his community is anchored and wrapped in his love for Christ.
The love Christ advocates teaches us to stand up against unjust practices. In fact, Christ’s thinking and ideas on social living and society’s priorities challenged the very fabric and structure of Roman authority during His time. I would argue this is what the Bible teaches us: that Scripture reveals a God of justice, not merely a God of charity. Words such as oppression and justice fill the Bible. The most common objects of the prophets’ judgments are kings, rulers, judges, employers – the rich and the powerful in charge of the world’s governments, courts, economies, systems and structures. When those who are in charge mistreat the poor and vulnerable, say the Scriptures, it is not just unkind but also wrong and unjust, and it makes God angry.
The subjects of the Scriptures’ concern are always the widow and the orphan, the poor and oppressed; the victims of courts or unscrupulous employers; debtors whose debts need to be forgiven; strangers in the land who need to be welcomed. And the topics of the prophets’ messages to the powerful are things like land, labour, capital, judicial decisions, employer practices, and the decisions of the powerful – all the stuff of today’s politics. We have a duty to get involved in the world when such vulnerable groups are at risk. In fact, I would say our communities remain broken because we as Christians are not playing our full role in public life.
Seeking love and unity goes beyond the warm fuzzy emotions of a Valentine’s Day; it’s also about welfare and responsibility. The challenge is to love well, especially if disagreements make love an unlikely thing. Instead, it’s at this moment the radical love of God should be put on display.
As you approach Valentine’s Day, think about the following ‘Love’ principle, and consider how it underpins your life and manifests itself with all the people you know. So, for those of you have haven’t heard this, let me say it again:
- Love shapes our Identity – it’s who we are and our integrity to our commitment
- Love shapes our Proximity – it’s our ability to get close, close to our partners, the issues and the people
- Love shapes our Imagination – to change the narrative, confront the wrongdoing, and work for the common good.
- Love shapes our Hope – imagine the alternative and work to make it happen right here, right now!
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!