A commandment to care
By Jessica Brodie (From the Advocate, August 2015)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
It’s been a whirlwind recently for people of faith in South Carolina, from the shooting of nine people during Bible study at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, to sweeping landmark Supreme Court cases legalizing gay marriage and upholding the Affordable Care Act, to the removal of a painful symbol of racism (or Southern pride?) from the South Carolina State House grounds.
Whether in praise or in pain, Christians have been brought to their knees so many times over this past month. Particularly with painful things, many very faithful people can find themselves asking where is God in all of this, and what He will have us do next.
But whenever an onslaught occurs in our lives—too much death, too much pain, too much grief, too much chaos, too much news whether good or bad—something else can happen, something that, ultimately, can be far worse. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we become overwhelmed with it all. We feel too much, perhaps. We begin to harden our hearts against this ambush of feeling, and soon enough, apathy sets in. Instead of passion, we feel dispassion, indifference. We begin not to care, lest caring somehow rubs raw that open wound of humanity we try in vain to tamp down.
But the Bible commands us to feel, to have passion, to keep our spiritual fervor (Romans 12:11), not only in our praise and faith and love for God and His kingdom, but for our fellow brothers and sisters. We are instructed not to be lukewarm (Revelation 3:16), but instead to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Friends, we are commanded to care! To feel! To love each other, for in loving each other, we are truly loving the Lord! We are commanded to turn away from apathy and embrace sympathy, love and genuine feeling for one another and for our shared world.
We are heartened this month to see so many ways South Carolina United Methodists have been doing just that: letting their feelings prompt prayer services and vigils, chimings and bell-ringings, prayer rallies and community gatherings, impromptu pilgrimages to downtown Charleston just to lay a wreath in the place where nine souls were martyred.
It is beautiful to see the many ways we Christ-followers are loving each other, to see all the ways the Kingdom of God is made manifest when we allow our hearts to be soft and pure. Just as He has commanded.