LONSBERRY: Love Must Begin Now

 In life, there are bottom lines. Things that really matter in a world that is sometimes cluttered with things that don’t.

And in our dealings with other people, there are two bottom lines.

               We are to love one another, and we are to treat people the way we want to be treated.

               Those are commandments taught by Jesus Christ, but they are also eternal and absolute truths that resonate with the best nature of every human heart. It is true for all people in all cultures across all time. That is who we are supposed to be, that is what we are called to become.

               And that is what we must remember as voices rise and tempers flare, as the disagreements of life confuse and deceive us about who we really and how we are really supposed to behave.

               Who we really are is children of the same Father in heaven, citizens in the same Republic, created in a holy image and endowed with inalienable rights. We are not family as a figure of speech, we are family as a matter of fact. We all spring from divine origins, and we all have equal claim on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

               All. With no exceptions.

               All are equal before God, and all are equal before the law. There can be no deviation or exception, large or small, in regard to a person or a people. The guarantee of equality is for all, and the commitment to equality must be by all.

               And we must have one another’s backs, putting family first and differences second. We must keep the commandment to love, before anything else, and we must push back against the temptation and tendency to discord and contention, to see brothers and sisters as opponents and enemies.

               That’s not always easy. It’s not always human nature. It’s not always our instinctive response.

               But it is always right, and it is always doable, and our ability to do it will grow as we persistently try. If God asks you to do something, he empowers you to do it if you earnestly and unfailingly try. It may not come all at once, and it may not come for years, but it will come, if you don’t quit, if you don’t give in to the temptation of hate.

               Line by line, little by little, inch by inch and mile by mile we can grow love in our heart and for our fellow man. It’s part of the refining and development of our character – our eternal and significant character, the part of us that really matters.

               But what about disagreement? Over politics or policy, race or religion, culture or temperament. What about people on the other side of one or another of the fissures which have developed in our society?

               In those situations – which are natural in a society of many people with many viewpoints – nothing changes. The commandment to love is absolute and without exception. Jesus taught that it’s easy to love your friends, and he was right. But the test, the commandment, the right thing to do, is to love the people you’ve mistakenly come to believe are your enemies. And not just to love them, but to pray for them and serve them, to take their interests into your heart and make them dear to you.

               It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.

               Love one another, and treat people the way you want to be treated.

               And recognize and reject the lie that people are defined by anything other than their basic humanity and brotherhood. When we define and label people by their politics or their race or their orientation or nationality or anything else, we are being tricked by an evil deception. Such emphasis on our characteristics instead of on our basic humanity is wrongheaded and false, a temptation whispered by a sinister spirit that delights in our divisions and animosities.

               We must recognize that spirit as evil, and we must recognize the hateful temptation it places before us. Because it is addictive, it entangles us in ever-escalating passions of conflict and division, ultimately pitting us against one another as enemies, and thereby distancing us from our brothers and sisters, and from God. All that comes from that is heartbreak and sorrow, fear and alienation, the goodness of our lives and the potential of our community spoiled by the metastasis of hate.

               That is true for all of us. Every single one. And in our country today, this evil spirit seems to prevail. We have in too large proportion forgot the bottom line, the principle that matters.

               Because of our lust for contention and our allegiance to division.

               So what do we do? How do we, as neighbors in a pluralistic and diverse society, have brotherhood in the context of disagreement? A disagreement, by the way, which is probably God given and undeniably useful. Different views, perspectives and ideas make us robust as a society, and help us innovate and adapt. Humankind has probably survived and flourished to the degree it has because of the different answers to difficult questions that have arisen from a myriad of opinions formulated in different minds and cultures.

               Disagreement is natural and good.

               Division, however, is sinister and bad.

               And we have become enamored of division.

               And we need to repent. And that’s a good thing. Repentance is a process that involves the recognition that we have gotten something wrong, that we feel bad about it, that we want to make up for it, and we want to get it right going forward -- and that we believe God can help us with every step of that process.

               But the first step is to stop doing what’s wrong.

               And having hard feelings against people is wrong.

               In the context of disagreement, we need to be mature enough to say that though I may not be able to see or understand or agree with your opinion or action right now, I nonetheless can love you, and I can treat you accordingly. Maybe tomorrow we will agree, maybe we will be better at understanding one another’s positions or experiences, but no matter what, our relationship will predicated on love.

               In life there are bottom lines.

               And in our dealings with other people, there are two bottom lines.

               We are to love one another, and we are to treat people the way we want to be treated.

               No matter who we voted for, no matter what color we are, whether we kneel or not, protest or patrol, left or right, regardless of our life’s experiences or aspirations.

Perhaps understanding and even agreement can come in time.

               But love must begin now.

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