Columnist: Accept the invitation to love
Dione Warrick expressed it for us in her classic hit song: “What the world needs now is love sweet love, that’s the one thing there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love sweet love, no not for some but for everyone.”
As we look at our world todaya world of division, discord and distrustthese words of “needed love” resonate with a growing number of us.
J.B. Phillips, an English Bible scholar, gets to the heart of this in his modern biblical translation, when he says in Romans 12:9, “Let us have no imitation Christian love.”
This statement seems an accurate translation of what the Apostle Paul wrote. Paul did not say that there are imitation Christians so much, as that genuine Christians can love in imitation ways.
Now, let me take this thought of Paul, about Christians, and include a much larger audience. You see, everyone of us is in danger of living in an imitation way, whether we are of a particular faith or no faith at all.
In a world that seems to have grown tired of love, there is a real danger of loving in imitation ways.
So how do we in this society love in imitation ways? To be sure, there are numerous ways, but I only want to highlight two of those ways.
First, we love in an imitation way when we do not really hear one another! Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher, was once holding forth at great length in his living room before a distinguished visitor. His wife, Jane Welch, was listening attentively. In the middle of his lengthy monologue, Carlyle paused, turned to his wife and said, “Jane, don’t breathe so loud.”
Not long afterward Jane stopped breathing altogether. When Carlyle read her private journal, he was shocked to find that his failure in kindness hurt her mortally.
She died of emotional starvation. She had been denied what she craved and needed: love and considerateness and someone to hear.
“If I had only known,” moaned the miserable philosopher. But the truth is, he should have known.
Sometimes we know, though we don’t always respond. Sometimes we are together with people, but we are not always present to them, we are not always with them.
Make it a point sometimes to listen to conversations between sweethearts, parents, friends, colleagues or people of different races and you will sense something of the dilemma that modern psychologists have been facing for decades: the programmed indifference by which we do not even hear one another.
Second, we love in an imitation way when we refrain from becoming honestly involved with one another!
It’s easier in a day of racial divide just to choose up sides, and keep the accusations flying. Of course, most of the “cries of injustice” we hear are legitimate and have great validity. Indeed, not everybody in our nation has been acknowledged as being made in the “image of God,” and, regretfully, that is a fact and reality of history.
Yet, at the same time, a few “cries of injustice” and the mission of dissenters today, seems to be the goal, and not the resolution. The idea here is to keep the pot boiling.
In a recent conversation with an African American friend that I admire very much, we both reached agreement that the only way forward for both races and our American society is “Dialogue.” Basically, dialogue means to take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.
The late Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, stated that dialogue is the very prerequisite of authentic relationship.
“True dialogue,” he continued, “is characterized by openness, honesty,and mutual commitment.”
At any rate, if we Americans, both black and white, genuinely want justice and peace in our society, the place to begin is at the table of dialogue. With honest dialogue, we can truly become involved with each other concerning the issues, both that divide us and unite us.
With willing and honest dialogue we can pray with each other, listen and seek to understand each other, share and discuss with each other and commit ourselves to God and each other in finding solutions that will bring justice. So, how can this critical and needed dialogue take place?
My suggestion, based on experience, is that because of their relationship with the Divine that houses of religion of all faiths and colors become the hosts. These houses extend the invitation to all the people of their community to come and join the conversation about the issues of racial divide and relationships with law enforcement officials. And this kind of crucial dialogue will need to take place around hospitality tables of small groups where everyone feels comfortable to speak and be heard.
The resolution of our racial divide will come about, community by community, where people of good will willingly come together to dialogue and take action.
Why? Because all of us are sons and daughters of God, made in His divine image, and members of the same family.
In the words of Bishop Mike Watson, “Dear God, let it be!”