I’m concerned, Beloved Church that we too often co-opt the term love to mean something that is disastrous and dangerous in our lives and in the movement that is before us today.
We Christians have taken the word “love” and stripped it of vigor and life. I am hearing the word love used as the reason to deny the painful truths of our past and present.
In the wake of the movement against police brutality and the rise of conversation on the lingering effects of White Supremacy, I hear a chorus of white voices saying:
“Can’t we all just love each other and forget about that other stuff?”
A love that asks us to forget the past is the false love of an abusing husband who reminds his battered wife. “You know I love you baby.”
Our present actions – our behaviors towards each other –have outcomes and consequences that matter. The purpose of love is not to erase wrongdoing. The purpose of love, in these cases, is to compel us to have the strength to overcome each other’s sins and behaviors and injustices.
There are still consequences. Reconciliation must still occur. Healing is still necessary.
John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The Bible does not say “Greater love has no one than this: to not think about things that are hurtful and just move on.”
No. The greater love is sacrificial – it requires loss.
We need to re-establish this love in the Christian community.
This is a love that will compel white Christians who are uncomfortable with the history of America to face it anyways.
To reckon with 400 years of oppression towards people of color in this country and to do it without trying to defend men that they want to only think pleasant thoughts about.
White men like our Founding Fathers – who allowed our Declaration of Independence to contain the words “the merciless Indian Savages.”
To reckon with the fact that the first twelve American presidents owned slaves.
This requires my white brothers and sisters of the faith to experience pain – yet not give up – persist and find creative and honoring ways to overcome our history and create a new future for themselves and for the people of color they love. This causes them to not only lay down flags, but also traditions and beliefs.
But let me warn you my beloved Church this is going to cause you to lose some relationships. There are some people who won’t stand for you speaking and seeking and listening in this type of love.
This might make you lose more members of your already shrinking churches.
To lose votes.
To lose invitations to parties.
If you go as far as protesting and walking in the streets alongside of me and others you might lose more than that. Some of us might even lose our lives.
And to my Black Brothers and Sisters. This love that will compel us to think twice about how we criticize the poorest and most marginalized of our race.
It will require some of us to stop saying “I made it, so can anyone else. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” This means we well confront the disrespectful nature of respectability politics.
It will force some of us to recognize that systemic racism is so persuasive that even those of us who have “arrived” are deceived and oppressed by it.
This will hurt us too. It is hard to reflect on these things and harder to act on them. We’ve already been through so much.
This type of love will require people of color, of different shades and tones and ethnicities and colors to stop competing and come together .
It will mean that my Latino brothers will be broken for my First Nation sisters who are weeping for Black babies.
It will mean that we will insist that we and others around us stop referring to Africa as if it is one large country.
And Asia like it is one big place where everyone looks the same.
This love means we will stop being afraid of Middle Eastern people yet regularly defend the White people who appropriate our lives and destroy our economic self-sufficiency.
Beloved Church this Love will force us to recognize the Imago Dei in each other and in our individuality.
This love is not color or culture blind.
When we live into this love we will celebrate each other and suffer together and we will labor on. This is a love that refuses to let the comfort of white people dictate actions. It is also a love that does not yield to hate and bitterness.
This love is a love that does not dismiss microagressions because someone didn’t mean it. It’s a love that extends compassionate honesty – which isn’t always polite but nonetheless is the more loving choice.
It’s a love that compels me to love my blackness and the blackness of all of those in the diaspora. It also compels me to love whiteness. This love for myself and black people requires me to not reduce whiteness to a single (painful) story.
That’s how strong this love is. So strong. The kind of strong love Dr. King preached on.
This is Christianity with teeth. An embrace of the true love that is in no way passive and requires bloody sacrifice.
Requires gut-wrenching courage.
Requires looking at ourselves and others in ways that are embarrassing and painful and vulnerable – yet in doing so will lead us to genuine healing.
As public theologian and activist Rahiel Tesfamariam teaches, we must re-brand the commonly white washed and pacified renderings of Jesus. Not because white is bad – because it is simply not the true story of Jesus. We must instead display our revolutionary, ethnic minority Jesus – a Palestinian Jew who radicalized the world with his teachings and his love and ultimately the sacrifice of his blood.
My Beloved Church, if we baptize ourselves in that love and in that Jesus – then we will see Christianity come to life in the form of a love that demands sacrifice and righteous resistance.