Updated: Nov 7, 2020
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:16-17
Along with just about everyone else, I’ve watched in horror and dismay as our nation has essentially exploded – or, perhaps, imploded, as we self-destruct – over the inexplicable and unjust death of George Floyd. Of all that has happened since his death, only that one moment is clear in my mind. That was wrong. There is no justification for what happened to Mr. Floyd. Everything else? Not as clear… Opinions rage, and accusations fly back and forth. I really don’t have anything to add to that. I know nothing more than what I hear and have no reason to assume my assessment is accurate, much less worth repeating.
Even so, reading the news online each day is bewildering and heartbreaking, with reports and videos of ongoing protests turned riots, escalating rhetoric back and forth, political posturing and argument, and continuing destruction. My prayer for our nation has been, “Lord, have mercy,” for I do not know what else to pray.
With all of this rolling around my mind, I went outside and began the long-overdue task of weeding my flowerbed. Most of us don’t know this, or maybe have forgotten if we once knew, but working in a garden and digging in the dirt historically have been considered an ascetical discipline. When we apply ourselves to manual labor in tending the land in some manner, we are returning to our initial calling – to be caretakers of God’s garden. That’s another conversation, but it’s worthwhile to know. Digging in the dirt and pulling up weeds rightly calm the heart, mind, and soul, while strengthening and tiring the body.
So, staking tall plants and pulling weeds, listening to a podcast of daily Bible readings, I prayed. Lord, what am I supposed to write? What can I possibly say in light of all the chaos, the political vitriol, rising racial tensions, and everything else? Shall I choose an entirely different subject and avoid current events entirely? Almost immediately, the quiet Voice in my soul whispered, ‘tell the people I love them.’
Tell the people I love them… If only it were so easy… For decades, our nation has moved ever more deeply into secularism, eradicating every possible trace of Christianity in the public square. In large degree, secularists have succeeded. The promise that education and economic gain would give rise to an enlightened, peaceful, and just society was repeated so long and so loudly, in every form of media and from every political aspirant, that we succumbed to the allure and humanist assurance of our own virtue and nobility. Except… Human beings are not particularly virtuous. Our interests, entertainments, and behaviors fall far short of nobility, reflecting either the crass vulgarity of our basest impulses or the insulated condescension purchased with financial elevation, and everything in between. Human beings, however, are more than our most animalistic passions, and of all the feats a human being can claim, economic stature is a low measure of achievement, for it has only a passing acquaintanceship with character, good or bad. Thus, we find ourselves without recourse for resolving injustice and failure, hate and evil. There is no solution in front of us, no means of reconciling opposing perspectives, and no manner of calming the passions that threaten to rend our social fabric. As it turns out, we are about as advanced as humanity has ever been – from prehistoric to late medieval history, in places around the world today – we join the battles of peoples against peoples, fighting for territory by destroying our enemies.
Tell the people I love them… He does, you know. God loves you with an everlasting love, an unfailing, unwavering, relentlessly pursuing love. For me, at least, loving this world and these people is hard, and I am not here referring to race at all. I find it hard to love people uninterested in truth, people who yearn for power, or people consumed by greed. Truly, the people I find hardest to love are those who are impenetrably arrogant on the basis of sanctioned ignorance. Yet, these are the people God loves. These are the people the Son was sent to save – all of these people, even me. Within each person is a unique expression of the image of God Himself – hidden beneath the deformity of sin’s plague, buried below countless layers of self-delusion – but there, nonetheless, the image of our Father.
The dignity of human life is derived from the love of God for each person, and it is seen most clearly in the Cross of Jesus Christ, crucified by us and on our behalf. Other cultures do not value human life to the same degree. In many places in the world today, human beings are a renewable resource, easily expended for nation’s or leader’s cause. Secular thought has not taken seriously the reason we value life in our nation, nor have humanist philosophies been honest about the depth of human depravity. Human life matters because we are the image of God and loved by God, even in our rejection of Him. The idea of a just society absent any external moral standard is… empty. No other word comes to mind. Societies and cultures can be ordered, but they cannot be just or virtuous if individual opinion is the only means of moderating our shared life. If justice were possible without God, surely it would have been seen before now. Yet, in the history of humanity, never once has a truly just society existed. Always, there are individuals who use and abuse others because they can. But God still loves. In every culture, across centuries, in countless languages, God loves the people.
We worship a God whose Son accepted the agony of unjust death, Who came into the world to die, so our death would be defeated. God’s answer to human dissolution was to save those who crucified Him, including this generation of ours. God’s idea of justice was to grant mercy. Do I expect the announcement of the love of God for each of us to end the division, anarchy, and inequity? No, but I do expect Christians to remember who they are, and to be kind, humble, and compassionate in the middle of a society torn and fragmented in chaotic upheaval. This world, our world, is the world that God loves. He did not give us a different generation, a different time or place. He gave us now to love the world for which He gave His Son, so that this world, our world, might be saved.
As I pulled a seemingly endless crop of weeds from the dirt, the calla lily plants I love began to be take shape. Calla lilies are my favorite flower. I think they are elegant, graceful, pure, and understated, and I treasure my callas, received from my mother’s flower bed. As the weeds were removed, the glossy green leaves lay open, and nestled in the middle of the dark vegetation, stretching to rise toward the sun, was an opening bud – beautiful, pristine, unscathed by the choking encroachment of unchecked weed growth. That is what the love of God is like in our world. Even as injustice and hatred, famine and wars continue, the beauty of God’s love is unshaken by the tide of chaos swirling around it. Rather, His love stretches upward, rising above the cacophony of venom that rejects Him and poisons our world and pointing us toward the only true haven where we can find rest for our weary souls.
Christians of every nation, race, and language are sojourners in a foreign land, and at this time, on this particular leg of the journey, we’ve hit a bit of rough patch. Now is not the time to forget who we are or the home to which we are traveling. We are to be gracious lovers of human souls, bearers of good news and hope, living witnesses of a love so vast it stretches from the Cross across the centuries to this moment of heartbreak, anger, and inequity.
This world, our world, now… let us love because He first loved us.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau – ©2020