Rector's Ramblings October 28, 2020
In this last Rambling before next Tuesday’s election, I’m taking up the third point of our Bishop’s pastoral letter: Love. In this context, it’s not that we need more love, as in a noun, but to love, as in a verb. We need to be loving towards others. This past Sunday, the Gospel lesson reminded us that love is at the center of God’s vision for the world and is the summary of God’s law: Love God and love neighbor. My sermon was a reminder that we know who our neighbor is by now (everyone), but how we do the loving part is what we struggle with.
My source for how to love came from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, specifically I Corinthians 13. Yes, the passage we hear so often at weddings. What I shared, a reminder to some, and new information for others, is that Paul wasn’t writing to an engaged couple already inclined towards loving each other. He was writing to a divided community that was splintering into factions and disagreeing about everything. Love was not assumed in Corinth in those days, but from Paul’s perspective, it was the only way they would survive.
We cannot dismiss the parallels here and now in terms of a community that is divided. We talk about unity and the need to come together, and yet we can’t seem to do it. We see within our nation the same destructive forces we’ve seen throughout history, and the same ones Paul was reacting to. The same forces we know how to address, in theory, within the church, “by schism rent asunder.” As the old hymn suggests, I’m not worried about the Church; she will always survive what we throw at her, but I’m not always so sure about our nation. History tells us they rise and fall all too easily.
I do not want to confuse church and country; they are different and deserve to be seen as different, but there is some overlap, specifically in how we understand our role as stewards and servants and followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Way of Love that the Christian follows just so happens to be the way that relationships of any sort will thrive, even civic and political ones. We don’t get to pick and choose the arenas we apply love to. It’s an overarching and determining way of approaching each other and the world. If we need a clear way to see how they fit together, we need look no further than the command to love our enemies. For that is what this era is bringing to the fore; the sense that people who think differently than we do are our enemies.
Loving enemies does not mean agreeing with them, but it does mean listening to them. Loving others means that we acknowledge and respect the dignity of every human being (hello, Baptismal Covenant). Loving a person does not mean we ignore problems out of a sense of political correctness or a fear of hurting feelings. Sometimes we have to name what is broken, wrong, immoral, and contrary to the way of being that God intends for all God’s children. When we do have to name those things though, we can do it with compassion, empathy, and humility. Loving is not possible if the desired outcome is harm.
I listened to a political panel on a radio show today and I heard a Democratic operative and Republican operative say that their shared hope for the future was unity in this country. It was the commentator or another panelist who pointed out that we all want that, but no one wants to actually compromise on anything. If we want unity, loving each other is the only way we will get there. Respect for one another will breed collaboration. Love is what will draw us off the polar opposite ends of each spectrum to meet in the middle and realize there is a way forward that we can agree on. Love won’t make it easy, only possible. If we don’t learn to lead with love, however, things will only get worse.
No matter what the outcome of the election, we must be patient, kind, humble, resist boasting, manage our anger, and seek truth. We must hold to hope and persevere in what is good and Godly. This the way of love. It is Jesus’ way. It is our way.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP