By: Rev. Jacqui Lewis, PhD
It will come for us, you know.
When it is fueled by fear. When it occupies the soul as a threat to a way of life.
It will come for us, you know this, because it has before. For strong women. For soft-spoken men. For those who speak Spanish or Mandarin. For people with dark skin. For those in kipas and prayer shawls, for those in hijabs, those in tunics.
It will come for us in churches, in temples, in mosques, and synagogues; in shopping malls, on street corners, and in nightclubs. Just because of who we are. And because it can.
It will come for us just because we are who we are.
Hatred will come for us.
It thinks it is powerful, the violence it enacts decisive; it thinks that the acts of terror it provokes will terrorize us.
True, we are sometimes afraid. But we are stronger than even our fear. We are stronger than hatred. We have the real power, love power.
The writer of 1 John, a tiny, powerful book in the Christian Scriptures, has much to say about the power of love, but here are three important lessons:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4.7-8)
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4.16b)
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 John 4.20)
I believe these things are true: There is no force more powerful than our God, who is in fact, Love Itself. God is synonymous with Love. God’s power is Love Power! And when we abide in love, reside in love, live inside Love, then God resides in us, tabernacles in us, powers us!!
We are commanded to love one another as a powerful act of faith, as testimony that God is love. And, in fact, when we say we love our God and we hate our brothers and sisters—who are also God’s children—then our profession of God-love is simply untrue! Hateful acts born of our fear, our need to control the world around us, and our desire to be chosen, special and exceptional—these behaviors contradict our love for God, and mock God’s love for us.
Some of the hatred infecting our society hides behind scripture, as in “This is what the Bible says.” The Bible also says what 1 John has to say, above. In fact, when Jesus was asked about the most important commandment (as in “What does the law say?”) this is what is recorded in the Bible.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Jesus) said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
The most significant commandment, per Jesus the Christ isn’tabout what we should not do, it is about what we should do. Love God, neighbor and self. In other words, Love. Period.
The morning 49 of our LGBTQ family where killed in Orlando in a club called “Pulse,” a place that was a sanctuary to them, I shared this prayer—this “rap,” at my sanctuary at Middle Church (link to Middle Church if appropriate,) in Manhattan. I was inspired by John Legend and Common whose song, “Glory” (link to rap from original blog) is my new national anthem. It is like scripture to me. It makes me think about race, about gender, about sexuality, about faith, and about how these are gifts from God, gifts to be celebrated. I pray that one day, we will all cherish these differences. Behold the intersections and marvel at the complications. Delight in the unique ways we each see the world, and lavish love on one another. So much power-full love as to cancel out the hatred. And the suffering will end. And the Glory of God will shine on all of creation. Right here on earth.
One day. Because love is love is Love. Period. And Love heals.
Here is my prayer, my rap:
Tina Turner sang we don’t need another hero
Yeah we do and the hero is we, so
Fear is our enemy, love is the power
We’ve gotta make choices every day, every hour
Children are hungry, their parents need money
Pensions disappearing because of greed, honey
Passin’ laws ‘bout bathrooms, legislating pee
We’ve got to keep working ‘til every body’s free
Fear of the stranger, hatred is dangerous
If we keep silent, the enemy–well it’s us
Nothing wrong with dreams but we’re runnin’ out of time
Got to use our vote to change the paradigm
Burkas, kipas, hijabs, prayer shawls
There is just one God, and She loves us all
We’ve got to stop killing the ones we’re afraid of
Got to stop hatin’ on each other and do some love
White skin, brown skin, boot black—beautiful
No matter who you love, your body is wonderful
Todas las gentes hablan muchas idiomas
Sharing our stories is the thing that will free us
June Jordan said it, Tituss Burgess put it to music:
If we’re the ones we’re waiting for, we best to get to it
We’ve got the love power, we can change the story
When we live God’s vision, our eyes WILL see the Glory!