Beacons of Love

I have so many things that I want to say and yet at the same time I am having trouble finding the words. I am struggling to find words in the face of blatant xenophobia, hatred, fear, and ignorance. I am struggling to find words in a world in which it seems words and facts do not carry as much weight as feelings and opinions. I am struggling to find words in the face of actions that would deny the humanity and worth of the most vulnerable among us.

In history classes, I remember learning about America as a nation of immigrants—“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” I also remember learning about isolationism and immigration quotas and the Know Nothing Party. It was the dark underside of our history but it was just that—history. But then came the moment when I realized that the things I read about in my history books—racism, xenophobia, war-mongering, discrimination—still existed in America today. I tried to push past them, choosing to believe that things would always get better, that we would learn from our history, that we would learn to love our neighbor. But I underestimated the power of fear. I forgot how easy it is to turn to hate and how hard it can be to love.

Last week, I was asked why, as a person of faith, I felt so strongly called to social justice work. The question caught me slightly off guard because the thought had not crossed my mind that you could be a person of faith and not feel compelled to work for social justice. Jesus’ whole ministry was one of calling people to love their neighbors, of raising up the vulnerable and forgotten, of speaking out against oppression and exploitation, of ministering to the marginalized, of practicing radical hospitality. Jesus says a lot of things in the bible, but one thing that comes up over and over and over again is the commandment to love our neighbors. This is the greatest commandment and I think it’s also the hardest. It’s one thing not to steal or commit murder but it’s another thing entirely to truly love the people around you. It is a radical act that seems especially crazy in our society of locked doors and careful anonymity. But it is what we are called to do. We are called to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the prisoner. We are called to welcome refugees, to embrace those of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, to recognize the humanity and value of everyone we encounter. And in times like these when people are stripped of their rights and deprived of their voices, we are called, in the words of Proverbs 31, to “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

And we are speaking out. We are speaking out with donations to the ACLU and immigration advocacy groups, we are speaking out with protests and rallies, we are speaking out with letters to elected officials, we are speaking out with sermons and choral anthems, we are speaking out with prayers and offerings. We are speaking out as citizens of the United States but we are also speaking out as people of faith. Because we must be beacons of love amidst the swirling clouds of hate. We must be steadfast in our commitment to the same radical hospitality that Jesus showed throughout his ministry. We must be allies for those who are marginalized and discriminated against. We must be, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, extremists for love, continually seeking the extension of justice.

Maybe, despite everything, our voices won’t be enough this time, maybe it will seem like love will never be able to break through so much hate and fear but we can never stop. Our call may not be easy but it is vital. And maybe one day, our history books will tell a story of love, a love that refused to be limited by geographical borders, unjust laws, or religious background, a love that outshone fear and overcame divisions, a love that was persistent and tenacious, a love that was all-encompassing and unyielding, a love that was radical and extreme, a love that brought justice rolling down like waters and washed away all traces of xenophobia, racism, hatred, and fear. Even if we struggle to find the words, even if we are tired, even if it is hard, we must speak out. We must answer the call. We must be beacons of love.

One Comment

Jill Nowak posted on January 29, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Thanks for your eloquent words, Kacey. At a time when it could be easy to sit on sidelines feeling powerless to change the direction chosen by many, you provide the basis for why we must move forward and do so from a place of love, compassion had a higher calling that transcends party and even country. Please keep your faith and continue sharing it with us.

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