Sunday, July 14, 2013
And Still We Love . . .
“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-45, 48
After listening and praying about the verdict of George Zimmerman’s trial, I thought about the beginning of this struggle to attain "justice" for Trayvon Martin. Students of the Atlanta University Center marched to the state capitol in downtown Atlanta last February to protest the Stand Your Ground law in Georgia. I thought about what our community should do to move past our tremendous hurt and disappointment now that our judicial system has rendered its decision. I was taken back to this familiar passage of scripture from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. After much prayer and conversation, I understand that the most transformative, liberating, and difficult thing we should do as a community is love. George Zimmerman should not be a target of our hate but a recipient of our love. In killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman operated out of fear. The same fear that prompts racial profiling is what motivated George Zimmerman to pump a bullet into Trayvon’s chest last February. Hatred cannot reduce fear; it only causes it to grow and spread like the cancer it truly is. Only love will liberate and transform.
In reference to the 48th verse, one of my Morehouse brothers, Kyle Stevenson, suggests, “Jesus is saying to me in order to be like God, in order to be both fully human and divine, you cannot have enemies. Jesus calls us not only to be cordial to those who oppose us or mistreat us but to welcome, affirm and to humanize them.”
Jesus’ philosophy of love was certainly unique for it disregarded the need for the reciprocity of love. there was something Jesus was conscious of, and that was the inherent value of human life. We cannot love expectantly, for our expectations will fail us. But love must be rooted in the humanity which we share. Transcend beyond our identity and actions and love for what we essentially are: People. We are people formed from the same origins though we were cultivated in different environments. We are inextricably connected to one another because of the spirit we have which is of God. God is the common spirit which operates and resides in all people.
Therefore, we cannot allow for artificial boundaries of identity or action to form in our minds for boundaries suggests division. Division renders bitterness and soon bitterness becomes hate, the antithesis of love. Hate does nothing for the oppressed. To hate another person and work for the destruction of their being is to validate the end of civilized nature and disregard any possibility of peace – peace within ourselves, peace with one another and peace with God. In our hatred, we may also lose value in ourselves. After we work to belittle our supposed “enemies,” what fulfillments have we gained? In his work Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman suggests that “Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, and death to communion with his father in Heaven. He affirmed life; and hatred was the great denial.”
The love of an oppressed people is peculiar. Love generally is one of the great mysteries of God. In these mysteries, we confront struggles which may prompt hopelessness. However, in the words of Fredrick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
In our love, we become workers rectifying the unjust systems of our world whether we recognize it or not. This work is necessary of all people, regardless of status or struggle, to establish the beloved community.
Please do not misunderstand me; I am angry. I am angered by the fact that my life and the lives of my unborn sons and daughters are not valued because of our black skin and African heritage. I am certainly angered that our criminal justice system would surmise through a “not guilty” verdict on all accounts that Trayvon is the one to blame for his untimely death. However, as a minister of the gospel, I am compelled to do what George Zimmerman was not willing to do the night Trayvon was murdered. That is to love so deeply and boundlessly that we would see each other differently and value the divinity in our humanity. Only then will we prevent another family from bearing the tremendous burden of burying their child.
Love in the midst of oppression is a peculiar yet transformative phenomenon.
Ubuntu (I am because we are),
Min. Devon J. Crawford
Trinity UCC Pastoral Intern