Justice is what love looks like in public – Cornel West
The phrase has stuck with me because I’ve kept thinking about what love looks like in public, and what form love takes as it gets lived out in our various relationships.
Church, for instance.
Tuesday night we had our “expanded” church council meeting, which happens a couple of times a year and includes not only the chairs but also everyone on the various boards and committees. I’ve been asked to be a deacon for the coming year, so I was also asked to attend the meeting. I arrived late because I work evenings. By the time I got there, the various groups were finishing up their individual times and were gathering back together to report. We have the same committees as most churches: trustees (building and grounds), finance, Christian education, Christian service (outreach), deacons, and a couple of others I can’t remember right now. We also deal with many of the same issues as most churches: how to meet the budget, how to take care of the buildings, how to care for our membership, how to reach others. As I listened to the reports, comments, and questions, I thought, “This is what love looks like in public.”
Marcus Goodyear is kind enough to send me books to read and review every so often. I got two last week: The Emerging Church: A Model for Change and a Map for Renewal and The Becoming of G-d: What the Trinitarian nature of God has to do with Church and a deep Spirituality for the Twenty First Century (also a book about the emerging church). I’ve not yet had a chance to begin reading either one, but the two titles adding to what is a shelf or two now of books calling the church to change gave me pause as I saw them on the table when I got home from the meeting. For some of those calling the church into this new century, the kind of meeting we shared Tuesday night is an easy target. The world is dying and we’re sitting around talking about what color to paint the hallways. Jesus didn’t call his disciples to bog down in those kind of details. Committee meetings become, then, the incarnation of complacency and spiritual shortsightedness. Rise up, ye men and women of God; be done with lesser things.
Those who know me also know I’m not a particular fan of meetings and I came away inspired by our time together last evening, not because of the particulars of any committee report as much as how we treated one another: we looked like love in public. If we cannot prove faithful to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God when we are discussing the regular on goings of our congregation, how can we expect to emerge as anything close to who Jesus calls us to be when it comes to the grander gestures?
Almost twenty years into my marriage, I continue to be reminded that love shows up best in small things. As much as a bunch of peach roses can bring a smile to Ginger’s face, the daily remembrances of making her coffee or cleaning up here and there (OK, so maybe it’s not everyday) are my best way of living out my love. The small statements of solidarity are what build trust and let her know I’m with her, period.
In the day to day of church life we have the same kind of chance to tighten the bonds and incarnate God’s love to one another. I saw it last night in our meeting where listening held a greater value than speaking, affirmation was more important that being adversarial, and kindness was the theme. To live out our love in public is to realize if we can be faithful in these lesser things, then we will emerge as true followers of Jesus. Let us not be done with them; let us infuse them with hope and grace and meaning.
Man — the gospel according to committee meetings. Who knew?