My home church is doing a study on the prophets. One of the things we talked about while I was there is how no matter how far Israel veered from their devotion to God, the word from the prophet always left room for love, for redemption. God’s justice/redemption was rooted in God’s faithfulness to the Covenant, not Israel’s.
Our justice doesn’t look like that. There is little room in our calculation for remaining faithful in love for the sake of our call to love. Sometimes we don’t even try to love others. The religious right is guilty of this; the religious left is guilty of this. Everyone is guilty of this. No amount of self-righteousness makes not loving others OK.
During a conversation at Pacific School of Religion, a friend of mine told me that her first-born child is gender fluid. Her first-born, who I’ll call Devon, has had a rough time finding a partner who accepts her~him in her~his entirety. It is hard enough to be fully accepted even when you fit into what society has decided is “normal” because whether we want to admit it or not, at some core level we desire people to fit inside the boxes we think are appropriate — whatever “appropriate” is on the broad spectrum of humanity.
When Devon told her~his new partner about sometimes identifying as a man and sometimes as a woman, Devon’s partner thought for a moment and said, “Well, then I guess sometimes I’m gay.”
When I heard this story, I saw God. I saw God in Devon’s existence as a God-made work. I saw God in her~his partner’s undaunted response, seeing beyond the world’s definitions and labels; seeing only a beautiful heart, worthy of acceptance and love. I saw justice. I don’t know how hearing those words affected Devon, but I am sure they did healing work on some old wounds.
Justice without love is never going to heal the wounds of the world’s people. Love will heal. I am not saying we should not actively call for justice in our world. I am saying justice must begin with love. Loving the oppressed can be easy. Justice begins also by loving the “oppressor,” seeing the oppressor as an equally God-made work.
This kind of love does not say, “be what I want you to be: toe the party line, have the ‘right’ theology, stop being gay, stop being ignorant of your white privilege, stop being so gender normative… then I’ll love you, then I’ll associate with you, then I’ll accept you, then you’ll be worthy of love.” That’s not love. That is down right hostile. It is veering from our devotion to God. When we respond from such a place, we are being faithless to the Covenant: love God and love your neighbor.
Radical love is loving people AS THEY ARE. As seekers of justice, truth, peace and love, must be willing to meet all the different types of “as they are” as there is. When our response is dehumanizing and graceless, we sound more like Hitler than Christ.
But, like Israel, our Covenant is based on God’s faithfulness not ours. No matter how far we veer from our devotion, there is always love. There is always redemption.