Sunday, June 7, 2020

Healing Our Culture with Love

“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” John 13:34-35 
It’s undoubtedly Jesus’ heart that we love one another, but do we really know what love is? Love is a feeling, a very powerful feeling, but it’s so much more. I’m told by people more knowledgeable than myself that there are three words for love in Hebrew, and that Greek, the original language of the New Testament, has seven words that translate to “Love” in English. Of all those words, one is singled out as the highest form of love, an unconditional love that is an act of will, doing what is in the other person’s best interest even when they don’t want it and the lover doesn’t feel like doing the loving thing. That word is Agape, the word for love that Jesus uses in the quote above. 

Our society, our world, is forgetting how to love. Love is not a desire for something; rather it is a decision to give. Love is not necessarily giving another person what they want, but it does value the person, their needs and their desires. The Black Community in America has not felt valued, and no wonder as many of their fundamental rights have been repeatedly violated! It’s created a perception that people whose rights have not been violated are privileged, which creates a greater divide within this country, where anyone whose rights have not been violated is perceived as somehow complicit in the acts of oppression. 

Please don’t judge me by the color of my skin for what others who look like me have done! 

If your rights have been violated, that does not make me privileged, and I commit to stand with you in upholding what is truly your right as my neighbor, my countryman, and my brother. All my adult life, I have shared Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that all people in this country: "will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." I share Dr. King’s biblical worldview, and I see every person, regardless of race or gender, as an Image Bearer, someone who was created in God’s Image and therefore of immeasurable worth. Yet I also see how far we are from reflecting His Image in this world. 

In abusive relationships, it’s not uncommon for the victim to lash out as an abuser, sometimes becoming the very thing they despised in others. The cycle of abuse is perpetuated as the pain one person inflicts is multiplied, reflected by their victims onto new targets, rippling throughout society as wound upon wound grows and pain intensifies. Often the pendulum can swing, as a repentant oppressor becomes the oppressed, accepting this out of a belief that they deserve to be punished for all the harm they have done. None of this is healthy, and none of this is God’s heart for how we should love one another. Instead it can infect communities with codependent behaviors where people seek to avoid or smooth over the dysfunction rather than confronting it with loving kindness. 

So how do we love our brother when he is in pain? How do we communicate “you are respected; you are valued; you are heard” without taking on a false guilt? In healthy relationships, we establish boundaries of healthy behavior, and we continue the dialog within those boundaries so that trust can be built over time. Yes, we understand why some people are lashing out, but we don’t condone the inappropriate behavior. 

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, imitated Jesus’ words on the cross as he was being stoned: “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they do!” (Acts 7:60)  We aren’t seeking to punish people acting out of their pain and frustration, but we acknowledge certain behavioral standards need to be met if we are to find true reconciliation. 

Yes, we understand the pain, even if we can’t fully identify with it. We agree you deserve more, and we eagerly desire your rights to be upheld! 

We can continue the dysfunctional behavior that perpetuates the cycle of pain, or we can seek true racial reconciliation that is built upon mutual respect, kindness and collaboration, actively working together to build that which all but a few desire. Yes, unfortunately, there are those in every race that are actively working against true racial reconciliation. They see this as a power struggle rather than a [lack of] love problem. We must oppose the thought-patterns and divisional voices that seek to separate us, and we must join together in fighting this good fight. 

And we need to understand that we are not fighting against people, but against principalities. There are demonic forces that want to divide Christ’s Body, to keep it from the unity that only comes through Christ’s presence in our hearts, over-flowing as love into the lives of others. We need to keep the biblical perspective of who we are fighting, so that the captives in the war are not confused with the real enemy. 
This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:12 
My prayer is that we redefine “race” as the acronym “RasE”, where we “Reconcile as Equals”, comrades in arms against all that would oppress our heavenly family or divide us. We must hold our public servants to a higher standard, and we must commit to the moral character that Dr. King foresaw in his famous speech, a moral character defined by biblical standards. That vision is still within our grasp if we are willing to strive for it together, casting out every destructive word of speech that seeks to divide and conquer us. 
The weapons we use in our fight are not made by humans. Rather, they are powerful weapons from God. With them we destroy people’s defenses, that is, their arguments and all their intellectual arrogance that oppose the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
NOTE: Appreciation for the current Northview Church One Another sermon series that started 07-Jun-20 that inspired the image used on this blog post. 

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