29 Aug The Hard Work of Love
August 29, 2019
Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear someone bemoan the state of affairs in our public discourse. From family, friends, neighbors, and parishioners alike I hear laments of the incivility, the lack of respect, the name calling, the polarization coming from all sides. Many people seem discouraged, even disheartened by it all, despite the fact that our nation has been through this before, and likely will go through it again in the future.
In this malaise, perhaps you will find the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., particularly apt, as I did when I rediscovered them again recently. These words, written in the Montgomery, Alabama jail during the bus boycott and delivered in a Christmas sermon in 1957 to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, were central to his efforts in the polarized circumstances of the American South.
“To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
In light of Dr. King’s profound words, I can’t help but wonder if we are doing the hard work of love in the midst of our current struggles. When things are difficult and tense and disagreements abound, it is easy to lose heart, but the Gospel of Love compels us to remain hopeful. The Gospel of Love compels us to focus on what we can do with the people right in front of us, not to despair over those things we have no control over. The Gospel of Love asks us to pray for people who have different values and viewpoints, to listen to them with open minds and hearts, and to love them whether our positions ever move closer together or not.
The Gospel of Love also reminds us that within every person is the image of God, and when we demonize our opponents or enemies in any way, we deny and diminish God’s presence and grace at work. To love as Christ loves us means that we trust the work of God in all of our lives and that we recognize that it is not the “other” who is most in need of transformation, it is us.
It is love that will provide a path forward, love that will heal us, love that will redeem us. What opportunities do you have today to share the love of God?
Yours for the Kingdom,