The Day No One Spoke Up

Applying love when injustice shows up

by Barbara L. Roose

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” —John 13:34

I grew up in a black Baptist church. We were the kind of Baptist church folk who clapped, sang real loud and shouted “Amen” as often as possible.

In Sunday school, we learned songs about Jesus loving the little children—all the little children of the world. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.”

Yet the world was a confusing place for a little black kid like me. So much talk about love, but far too many situations where I didn’t feel the love from people who didn’t look like me.

Years later, my Caucasian husband and I went to a diner in a small town with some friends. As I stepped through the door of the establishment, I heard a loud voice from the back yell, “Hey, what’s that nigger doing in here?”

Nobody moved. I looked around the room, waiting for someone to call the guy out. Silence.

Lately, I’m feeling the same kind of silence from many members of the Christian community. Racism is escalating, but who will speak up against it? Who will stand and champion Jesus’ command to love, no matter race or skin color?

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

How did Jesus love? He believed in applying love whenever injustice showed up. Love was his weapon. Jesus’ kind of love was raw, unpopular and often inconvenient. Jesus’ love came dressed as an action verb with hands, feet and a voice that spoke up.

In our culture, too often when we see injustice, we don’t arm ourselves with love. Instead, we just pass another law.

How’s that working for us?

We’ve been making rules for thousands of years and yet the hate escalates. Remember the Israelites? God gave them hundreds of rules to help them see that love never comes from a law.

As we’ve watched racial tragedies and conflict multiply in our social media feeds, we’re struggling with the sicknesses of prejudice and racism that have been passed down through the lineage of humanity. Those maladies arise from our selfish hearts giving birth to stereotypes and formal laws that cheat out real love in order to placate our selfish minds.

Jesus knew this. This is why he had to command us to love with the same attitude embodied in his love for us.

Love is about valuing another as much as we value ourselves. Unfortunately, our mental default will always be that people who look different than we do could not be the same as us. But love is the great equalizer. That’s why love trumps prejudice and racism every time.

Are we ready to abandon our polite smiles? Are we ready to challenge the roots of racism that we all hide inside?

Imagine what our lives could look like if we loved other races and cultures as Jesus did. Imagine if those people became our people.

That is what it really means to live like Jesus.

This article won an Honorable Mention for Biblical Interpretation at the 2016 Associated Church Press Awards.

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