A colleague and friend delved with me into the land mines of the controversies erupting around us. We agreed that our communities, both civil and religious, are filled with distrust, hate and exclusion.
Controversies seem to exist in every aspect of our society: political, social, economic and spiritual. People who are marginalized want recognition and acceptance. Individuals and groups with power tend to keep those on the fringe of society marginalized.
When confronted to find solutions, we retreat into our comfort zone and say, “I don’t want to talk about it!” Social, political and religious issues seem irreconcilable.
Some in our spiritual circles are pleased when a brother or sister who has a perspective different from theirs leaves the communion. They think: God has removed an irritant; now we can get on about the business of the kingdom. This attitude demonstrates a lack of understanding that loving others is central to our existence. Love is exemplified by living out the truth shown and taught by Jesus Christ.
My friend said, “People talk about love as if it’s the cure-all. I’m concerned about justice, not just-us. What’s love got to do with it?”
I said, “Everything, if it’s Jesus-love.”
Jesus-love redeems humanity, including those who profess Jesus’ saving grace. It is completely different from what we often experience. Jesus demonstrated love through loyalty. He never abandoned the people society rejected. He showed compassion for everyone.
Nothing swayed Jesus away from being compassionate. A vivid example is his encounter with the Samaritan woman. Jesus listened!
Jesus responded with care when others spoke. His listening, his touch and his compassionate way of engaging people gave them hope. While he listened with compassion, he took care when confronting others. He lived, taught and challenged everyone to seek forgiveness. His prayers focused on forgiving those who broke a relationship. He taught this to his disciples.
Since we are his disciples, does this apply to us now?
Following Jesus, justice seekers take care when navigating social, political and religious land mines. Jesus-love is central. They are reconcilers who call for a demonstrated love of humanity.
We often quote the Apostle Paul’s guidance for Christly living. Many times we forget that Paul’s counsel was that love trumps everything in relationships. This love requires mutual accountability, since we are joined together under the lordship of Jesus.
We seek truth while proclaiming justice for everyone. That truth is anchored in love. Love and truth are inseparable. Justice seekers understand that truth is bathed in love, and love surrounds truth. The truth is that God loves and requires us to love unreservedly.
Mary Mininger, regional pastor with Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, said, “As a society and church, we focus on dis-membering. We need to re-member.” We need to remember who we are in Christ and reconnect with our Creator and each other, she explained.
We are connected, whether we live that way or not. Our identity gets lost in our culture, and we forget or ignore whose we are. We belong to each other, with Jesus-love as the center of our connection.
So, what’s love got to do with it? Everything.
John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.