By: JUBILEE! Minister Candace Chellew-Hodge
Loving everyone like we love ourselves and seeing ourselves in everyone in this world, whether they be a loved one, a friend, a stranger or an enemy is a lovely sentiment. I’m sure everyone in the room agrees it’s the right thing to believe.
But, the author of today’s Christian Scripture reading (James 1:19-27) wants to know, do you act on those beliefs or are you just enamored with the beautiful words?
In this world, we are surrounded by people who hear God’s words but don’t do them. God commands us to love one another just like we love ourselves — and you know we all love ourselves. Nothing is too good for us to have or do. And yet, there are so many in this world who deny not just the luxuries of life to other people they deem as less worthy, but there are many in power who are actively working to deny others even the basics of life such as food, water and shelter.
I understand that it can feel terribly overwhelming to see the world in the shape that it is in and believe that any one person can right the wrongs that we see or bring peace to the whole world. But, no one is asking us to do that.
In fact, the author of James gives us a very simple road map to embrace what really matters in this world and make a difference, even if it’s a small one, right where we are. First, he tells us to buck the trends that have pretty much become the social norms of our day.
If you look around at this world, or spend five minutes on Facebook, you’ll find that it’s pretty much a social norm these days to be angry and to speak your mind without regard to the feelings or situations of others who may be the target of your angry words.
So, if you want to embrace what matters, here’s the first social norm to break — stop talking and start listening. Take the time to really listen to people, even if all they have to offer is an angry rant, because underneath that rant is a hurting person in need of love and understanding. Once the rant is over, they’ll start to talk about what’s really bugging them, but we can’t get to that place if all we do is argue with them, because anger, as this author tells us, “does not produce God’s righteousness.”
An angry generation will do nothing to solve the problems in this world — that’s something we’ve already proven. Instead, if you want to embrace what matters, embrace the Holy act of deep listening and then take the next step and put God’s love and mercy into action.
This doesn’t have to be a grand, save-the-world type of gesture. We can do this by breaking a lot of those small social norms such as the expectation that we’ll argue with others, or reject others for their beliefs or decide that some people are evil and others are good, or some are worthy and some are not.
How weird do you think society would consider you if you abandoned just those ideas that some people are good and others evil? What would society say if you simply began to treat all people as worthy and loved by God? What would society say if you realized that the only thing that matters in this world — more than status, power, money or fame — was simply love?
Why, they might call you all sorts of names, but the Holy calls us to follow that arrow wherever it points.