My latest for the Longview News-Journal
In the past few weeks, the world has been rocked by three powerful hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. These storms produced gigantic amounts of rain, historic flooding, and extremely high and dangerous winds. Homes have been destroyed and dozens of people have lost their lives. It has been a tragic time. Many of us were captivated and saddened by the images that were being shared on social media and news outlets. Streets looked like rivers, houses and schools had feet of water in them and rescues by volunteers from the “Cajun Navy” and the Coast Guard. Strangers were risking their lives to ensure that people did not get swept away by the flood waters. People were sharing posts from neighbors and friends requesting assistance. In one instance over a dozen people linked arm and arm to make sure that one man was saved. Some attributed it to being “Texas Strong,” others said it was the right thing to do, still, others said they would want someone to come and rescue them in a time of need. Story after story was being shared about the bravery and selflessness of others. All I could think about was as tragic as Harvey, Irma and Maria were, the aftermath gave the nation a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like.
Why do we wait for tragedies to happen to show what the kingdom of God could be like? Shouldn’t the church strive to show how the Kingdom of God is different than the world we find ourselves? In most churches, the Lord’s Prayer is prayed; in it, we find a call for God to make the Kingdom of God know on this Earth as it is in Heaven. Christians want this to come to pass but have a difficult time putting it into action.
Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in South Texas, the general tone and discourse of the American populace were not one of unity and togetherness, rather it was about finding ways to make a “stand” and separate oneself from others. While partisan politics is not a new thing, it seemed as if it was getting worse than before. The country was asked to choose sides in a debate where information was limited and biased. People were trying to encapsulate complex issues into tweetable statements. For me it was getting to the point where reading the news or even going on social media was too much. I was tired of the “debates” were no one listened, I was tired of the same song and dance that seems to happen every year. Love was hard to find.
I believe that the foundation of the Kingdom of God is love, love of neighbor without question, love of God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. All that Christians do in their life must reflect the genuine, unquestioning, selfless love of Jesus the Christ. Love is countercultural; love does not demand its own way; love shows a new path and new way of serving others; love says I love you because you are a child of God, you are not the sum of your life experiences or upbringing but you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that means something!
During Harvey people did not inquire of their religious status or their tithing commitments when diving into raging waters that once was a street. No one called out to someone in need and asked if they were “saved” or if they were “undocumented.” No one asked about sexual orientation or even who they voted for in the last county election. It did not matter then and it should not matter when we are giving love to another person.
God does not withhold love based on gender, creed, ethnicity, immigration status or income level and neither should we.
Love is one of the things that we all think we are good at showing and giving. It is hard for us to hear that maybe we are not as loving as we are called to be. We try to rationalize it but in the end, if we chose not to love someone it’s not going to happen. But in the Kingdom of God love is unconditional; it is given to humanity as a free gift and thus we must then share that gift with the rest of humanity without hesitation or expectation of something in return. Love is never an if-then statement. The love of God is given to all people, in all places and at all times.
Love pierces through the cloud of hatred and uncertainty to reveal to all the glory of God.
Love lifts the veil that shrouds our heart; love is not a feeling we get every February 14th or a simple answer to a complex theological question
Love is the embodiment of the gospel of Jesus the Christ. This is not a cliché statement that looks good on a t-shirt or makes us feel good when we serve another human rather it is what Christ came to bring, a new way of orienting our lives, our mind, our soul and our spirit.
Every interaction with another human is an opportunity to bring forth the love of God. Not in a pushy, “I know more than you” way or a holier than thou way but in a way that reflects the genuine nature of Christ and what that looks like on earth.
We should not have to wait for the next tragic event to remind us of the central teaching of Christ which is rooted and grounded in love. Love must be the guiding principle of the Church if it is to have an impact in the 21st century.