If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:3-13 The Message & NIV)
On Valentine’s weekend, a large gathering of folks assembled together to talk about (What else?) love. Not the gushy love that often pervades this holiday of romantic dinners, red roses and chocolates, but the love that seems to have lost its luster since Jesus proclaimed these words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It all began with a handful of servant leaders who were looking for a way to cross racial and denominational lines to share the love and teachings of Jesus Christ, in an increasingly diverse community, and evolved into six churches, 3 predominantly African American and 3 predominantly Caucasian joining forces to launch the first ever West End Community Forum, titled Love Your Neighbor: Seeking Solutions to Racial, Social and Economic Divisiveness in our Community and Country.
After spending about 3 hours together, we didn’t solve the world’s problems of racial, social and economic divisiveness, but what we did do was to take the first step. We empathized, when we could, with each other’s challenges, and sympathized when our racial or cultural differences made it difficult for us to understand the challenges of our brothers and sisters whose race, culture and/or social-economic conditions did not reflect our own.
We learned that if we cry “Wolf!” of racism every time there is an incident that involves or includes people of different races, we begin to dilute the perception of racism, and sooner or later, people will become calloused and less impacted by legitimate racist acts.
We were reminded that the intent and reporting of news has changed dramatically since its original coverage of civil rights in the 60’s, from objective reporting, to often sensationalizing events with an intentional or unintentional bias. Today’s news biases, it was also noted, is often exacerbated by accompanying unfiltered, un-sourced, and highly opinionated editorial via social media.
Community activist and pastor, Calvin Duncan, the forum’s guest speaker, relayed the wisdom of his aunt/surrogate mother, who noted, as the riots following the assassination of MLK Jr. invaded his urban neighborhood, “There are good white people and there are bad white people. There are good black people and there are bad black people. These acts of violence are being caused by bad people.” “Did you catch that?” Duncan stressed, “Bad people (both black and white).”
The evening closed with the hope that all would attempt to discern those seemingly racially motivated opinions and acts, and that each of us look deep into our own heart, and the hearts of those we disagree with. The hurt, hatred or heritage often associated with Confederate history and symbolism, for example, may never be agreed upon completely, but we need to be sensitive to how the emotions our histories of division affect those who view such histories from a different perspective and through a different lens. In the end, most agreed, we need to continue to come to the table of fellowship with faith, hope and love. ”But the greatest of these is love.”