The last several months I’ve been ruminating on many issues that have deeply impacted my heart and soul. The dissonance I’ve experienced is unsettling and left me craving a resolution. As I’ve sought to make sense of the mess, everything seems to be returning to one central idea over and over again. This idea won’t dissolve or magically fix my heartaches, but love goes a long way toward prevention and resolution. So I began to focus on the idea of love and the question of what did it mean for me, a person who identifies as a Christian, a Student Affairs practitioner, a family member, a person in a dating relationship, a friend, a mentor, a person who wants to make a positive difference in the world. There are no instant solutions, even if I wish there were.
For now, here is what I know. As a Christian, I am called to love others. This defines and supersedes pretty much all the rest of it. I believe I am expected to love others well. While not an all inclusive list, some of the groups of people who the Bible asks me to love well are orphans, widows, the hungry and thirsty, those who need clothes, the sick, strangers, and the least of these. There are varying layers of loving people well; I know this isn’t all sunshine and roses. When you love someone well, you sometimes have to tell them there is spinach in their teeth or a booger in their nose so they don’t go around all day looking goofy. Sometimes you have to tell them that you think they are making unwise life choices and you are concerned for them. Sometimes you listen to the same story nine times because it’s their favorite story to tell. But always you do these things with the other person’s best interests at heart and without malice or joy at their pain. Love is not about hurting people.
As a Student Affairs practitioner, I am called to advocate for others and so I do this out of love for them. I admit, this place can get complicated, but I am not here by mistake. I am privileged to have the blessings of majority for the bulk of my identity. This privilege comes with responsibility to be a voice for those whose voice is silenced, mocked, ignored, or judged. Our voices might both say the same things, but because I carry privilege with my words, mine are more likely to be heard. So out of love for those who fall into the category of the least of these, I advocate. Sometimes I advocate for the sick or the strangers in my work. I don’t always have to know you or know you well to love you as a Christian. To be frank…that’s the hardest kind, but still it is what I believe I must be about. That is how I make a difference. I may not be able to stop the roiling waters of ugliness in the world that break my heart, but if I can make a difference for one, if I can speak and be heard by one, then one-by-one-by-one, my voice matters. And, to be fair, my voice speaks for the “other” in many situations. I will do my best to advocate for the one being judged in nearly any situation because I just can’t get on board with the judgment. It is not my place and there is always more to the story.
In my relationships, as best as I can, I want to role model love and be known for my love to others. There is a song that sticks in my head some days called, “They’ll Know We Are Christians” and part of the lyrics say, “And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I’ve wondered lately if the world would know and be able to identify Christians by their love and guarding of other people’s dignity and pride, or not. It’s a tough bar to be sure. But I want to be a person who loves my family well when they make me crazy, who guards their dignity when we fight. I want to be a friend who is known for respecting the pride and dignity of my friends by not gossiping or taking sides. I want to be held to that bar, loved when I fail, and encouraged to try again. I can’t do it alone nor do I expect to. I know I need to rely on my faith and the strength that God provides me through that. But I also believe we are designed to be in community, so won’t you join me?
We can make a difference loving people, whether you are a faith-based person or not. Be known for your love. Guard the dignity of your friends and family; help save their pride. Care for sick, strangers, orphans, people whose voices are weaker than yours for whatever reason. Just love them well and one at a time, but together, we will raise a banner of love that just might turn the tide of hate away.
Take four minutes and watch this video? It resonates so deeply with me.