It has been three years since KKK flyers were dropped off at homes around the area. I remember the sadness and anger inside me as I heard the news. I led and attended vigils, began dialogue with city leaders, and made connections I wish I had made sooner.
There is one question from a public forum that has stuck with me: Where are the pastors?
While I was glad to be present to answer that question and point out the other pastors in the room, the question made something very clear to me: the world is watching how the Church acts.
That may seem obvious, however something solidified in me as that question was voiced: It is important for the Church to show up.
It is imperative that the Church stands in solidarity with the marginalized. The love of God is a verb, shown most clearly in the non-violent Christ who gave his life to save even his enemies. The special affection God has for the poor and marginalized is clearly woven throughout scripture. If God shows such love and concern, those who profess to be Christian must match their belief with loving action.
As it says in 1 John 3, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Our faith is more than words. Our faith mirrors the actions found in the Christ who died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Notice the action here. Love is not a belief or simply warm feelings. Love puts one’s body on the line on behalf of others.
The Church much show up if this is true. The Church must be willing to follow Jesus into the world of love. This love says, “No!” to racial bigotry. This love says “No!” to economic injustice and poverty. This love says, “No!” to war and senseless killing. This love says, “No!” religious persecution. This love says, “No!” to lusts for power, money, and sex.
This love says, “Yes!” to the more beautiful world where we live “on earth as it is in heaven.” This yes is empowered by the Spirit of our Loving God. Our faith is such that we follow after the prophet Isaiah who said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1 and echoed by Jesus in Luke 4:16-21).”
This love of God that empowers us reminds us that Christ has set us free to be the people we were created to be. We were created by Love, in love, to love and be loved. We are children of our loving God. This love sends us into the world to shine a light that drives away darkness.
This love empowers the church to show up! We can show up in the Black Lives Matter rally because we know racial injustice is against the love of God. We advocate to our lawmakers on behalf of the poor because we know that economic injustice is against the love of God. We cry out against war because we know the killing of our siblings, even those we count as enemies, is against the love of God.
The love of God reminds us, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We belong to each other. Love is the only way true justice becomes realized.
I still have a long way to go in learning to love is the deep and difficult way of Jesus. I continue to grow in this love and let it empower me to advocate for the poor, to serve others, and to seek peace. I am still learning to show up - to the protest and demonstration, to the halls of power, to the marginalized - so that I can show God’s deep love.
Love is the way we draw close to God and one another. Love doesn’t keep us closed off from injustice. Love moves us to the front lines on behalf of the marginalized. I encourage all of us to breathe in deeply the love of God and be empowered by that love to show up for one another in love. May our example of love point others to the great love of Jesus.
(This is my last column in the Rome Daily Sentinel as I am moving to Western New York. Thank you, Rome, for welcoming me and my family these past four years. Thank you, Rome Daily Sentinel, for publishing my thoughts here and on the editorial page. Thank you, dear readers, for journeying with me. God’s peace and love be with you.)