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July 11, 2016

But Have Not Love

by Lisa Salsman

As I read through posts and comments on social media, it is so obvious that there is a need for dialogue about racism and unity. The evidence of a society divided is heartbreaking and thought-provoking, at the same time. I have friends expressing hurt, rage, offense, denial, and indifference. It truly weighs heavily on me, as I struggle to find an appropriate response.

What I find interesting is that some of my friends are coming from a completely different angle than I am, yet I respect their viewpoint. Some friends are choosing a side other than the one on which I would stand, yet I feel no need to attack them. Some of my friends are in need of cute cat pictures right now, to help deal with the conflict, and I understand that too. And though I struggle to address all of the thoughts and feelings in words, my heart is still so full of love for these people. All of them.

So, why is it that I can love people even when I vehemently disagree with their political rants or they criticize things that I hold dear? It’s because of love. It’s because I know that, like I Corinthians 13 tells us, that no matter how well-spoken I am, how faithful I am, or how generous and self-sacrificing I am, if I don’t have love, it doesn’t matter. I am nothing!

Thinking of this passage has truly caused me to pause when I see “Black Lives Matter” and wish to respond with “All Lives Matter,” because I agree with both. What I am learning, however, is that downplaying the plight of one group who feels persecuted and unheard is not loving. It only shows a lack of compassion and an unwillingness to help. So, while I may not agree with everything they say or every solution they propose, I must have compassion for their hearts, and for their pain.

I once would have told you that I supported the Confederate flag and its presence, because of the South’s history. Today, I would tell you, that though it does not offend me personally, it solicits feelings of racism and pain for many of my black American friends, and I choose not to be a part of bringing that into their lives. I could, instead, go on a rant about it being a historic symbol or “just a flag” and suggest that they simply get over it; but how could I do that in love?

Has your child ever had a broken heart over something that you thought was silly? I have. When I tell them that it doesn’t matter, and give them all of the reasons that it shouldn’t, I only shut down their dialogue with me. They are still just as upset, but now I have become someone who does not understand. On the other hand, when I acknowledge their hurt, and try to help them work through it, that shows them that I care about them enough to care about what hurts them, even if it doesn’t hurt me. It creates trust and unity with my child. It is an issue to me, because someone that I love is upset about it.

On a more personal level, you may be able to recollect a time when you were hurt over something that was downplayed. Perhaps you just wanted to know that someone else cared. You don’t need an eloquent speech, at that moment. You don’t need to be told to “Get over it.” You need to know that even though your friends are not going through the same experience, they care about it, because of their love for you.

If we are truly trying to be like Christ, we must love. We must think before we react, “Is this response going to show my love, or am I just trying to sound smart/right/informed?” If it is simply intended to put people in their place or to inflate my ego, perhaps it is best left unsaid. We have enough of that in the world. But, the Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our Love. We sing it in church, but do we show it in our behavior?

Love for one another

Sometimes, I think we (myself included) should bring back the “WWJD” bracelets, maybe with “WWJP – What Would Jesus Post,” instead. I can allow my emotions to get the best of me. I can feel my anger pipe up, when I read something that offends me, and I wish to answer to it. I need to pause more, and ask myself, “Is this how Christ would have responded?” Even when it is another who is full of venom, we know that Jesus was never the one to reach for the sword and strike them.

What about me? Am I showing love? Because, when all of my words are written, even if my faith is strong enough to make the mountains move, without love, they mean nothing.



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