Just before the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to cease in-person assemblies temporarily, I preached a sermon on the opportunity that we would have as a result of that particular situation. Although the pandemic is not over, a new pressing opportunity has arisen. Over the past two weeks, our nation’s attention has shifted from a contagious medical condition and focused on a continuing cultural crisis. The death of George Floyd while being restrained by police officers reignited an ongoing cry for racial equality, particularly regarding the value of life.
At this point, I don’t have the right words, I certainly don’t have the right answers, nor am I sure that I’m asking the right questions to address this situation appropriately and, most importantly, biblically. But please know that I am working toward that goal. I’m studying. I’m conversing. I’m listening. However, the one thing that stood out to me in the midst of all this is the opportunity it affords us as disciples to demonstrate the love of God.
First, this is an opportunity for Christians to practice loving one another. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” But what does loving one another entail in this cultural crisis? Consider for a moment what Paul said regarding the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:26. He said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Paul is saying that the church is to be a people who “[enter] into both the joys and sorrows of” each other’s lives. Right now, I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are hurting and afraid because their skin color still dictates how some people treat them. Additionally, I have brothers and sisters in Christ serving in law enforcement who are hurting and afraid because the wrongs committed by some that share their occupation have tainted the way people look at them. The question I’ve had to ask myself is: Am I suffering with my brothers and sisters in Christ? As a Christian, my love for them is expected to be “genuine” or “without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9). I believe that means that I should abhor evil equally with them (Romans 12:9). I should honor their experiences by validating them rather than ignoring them (Romans 12:10). I should pray for them and with them (Romans 12:12). I should hurt for them and with them (Romans 12:15). I should be an advocate of peace for them and with them (Romans 12:18). When Paul said, “let love be genuine,” he was calling for us to love without pretense, and such love requires “‘positive participation’ in the Christian community” not just convenient platitudes. And, right now, is the opportunity for us to love one another genuinely.
But this is not just an opportunity to love one another; it’s also an opportunity to love our neighbors. When Jesus identified the most important command, He included the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). But what does loving our neighbor entail in this cultural crisis? Consider the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told in response to a question about who constitutes a neighbor. Utilizing the racial divide between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus revealed that one’s neighbor is everyone, regardless of race. But Jesus took it a step further and identified what loving one’s neighbor entails. At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus instructed us to “go and do” like the Samaritan rather than the priest and Levite (Luke 10:37). The primary difference between these characters is that the Samaritan demonstrated love through action, while the priest and Levite demonstrated indifference through avoidance. So, while Jesus was broadening our definition of a neighbor to include other races, He was simultaneously narrowing our definition of love to emphasize active, intentional good done on another’s behalf. And I think that narrowed definition lies behind Paul’s declaration that “Love does no wrong to a neighbor” in Romans 13:10. So, in order to love my neighbor according to Christ’s standard, I must not only say the right thing; I must do the right thing. And, right now, is the opportunity for us to love our neighbors by doing that which is right and good and merciful like the Good Samaritan.
Jesus said that if we love others the way that He loved us, then the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:35). As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the right words, and I don’t know the right answers, but I think this might be the right starting point.