Love One Another
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18, NIV)
Are Christians today a reflection of God’s love and justice? I think many non-Christians, when looking at the body of Christ, would say not; that we are hypocrites. And I have to agree with them. Our downfall is that we make love and justice about us; we try to administer them out of our own strength and goodwill, loosely guided by the Word of God on certain issues. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love people. When we lose sight of the Gospel like this, of what we should care about and why, it’s easy to be led astray by nationalism, political parties, and even the ideas of fellow Christians. One thing I’ve been particularly hurt by in the past few months is Christian apathy and silence on social justice issues. We tiptoe around race, poverty, and immigration in an effort to remain neutral, but God doesn’t call us to neutrality; He calls us to boldness. When we realize Christ’s love for us, we love Him and love others more deeply. We are compelled by love. We become aware of our position in Creation, that we are sons and daughters created in the Father’s image. The Father is Love and Just, and so He created us to be love and just also.
God’s love for us compels us to love Him and others. His love is unconditional and sacrificial. We are called to love one another as Christ loved us, and our love for one another is evidence of the love of God in us. We can love unconditionally and sacrificially, a perfected love, when our source is God. He is our definition of love, and he calls us to lives of active love. Love radically changes how we see those around us. When we love, we genuinely care about people.
Our love for others, which comes from God, compels us to seek justice. Saying “I love the impoverished/immigrants/marginalized/refugees/etc.” is not enough. Saying “I’ll pray for you!” when you are able to act, give, or serve is not enough. God gave His only Son for us; we are commanded to sacrifice our time, resources, and privilege for another. And we are commanded to love without reservations or fear. In the Christian life, this is not optional. It’s not for a small group of Christians; it’s for everyone. The Bible even goes so far to say that if we don’t obey this command, we cannot love God.
Just as we were created in God’s image of love, “the Lord is a God of justice,” and so we should be a people of justice. We actively fight for justice because our love compels us to and the Word of God commands us to. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Increasingly, our university, nation, and world are impassioned to seek justice for various issues. What would it look like if the body of Christ joined in these causes, compelled by love?
There are great organizations motivated by and acting in faith. One example is International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM is an international social justice organization, with a prominent human trafficking ministry. Typically the problem with international aid organizations and Christian mission trips is the top-down Western approach that is used, providing temporary resources and workers that are out of touch with the actual needs of the local communities. Contrary to this, local workers compose 95% of IJM’s staff, and the goal is to empower community members to fight for justice in their own nations. Founder Gary Haugen established IJM as a response to his time in Rwanda after the genocide. IJM was founded on the premise that these people “did not need someone to bring them a sermon, or food, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a microloan. They needed someone to restrain the hand with the machete—and nothing else would do.” The Gospel is a call to active, bold love. Proverbs 29:7 says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Will we be Christians that care?
Am I doing my part or living a life of hypocrisy? I’ve been trying to be more intentional about seeking justice compelled by love and urging my fellow Christians to do the same. I find myself bringing it up in conversation with anyone who will listen to me. I recently found a group of like-minded Christians with regards to this, and we are pioneering an IJM-inspired anti-human trafficking student group here at Brown. I’m also trying to be more active in non-Christian social justice movements, locally and nationally, because I don’t think our extending of God’s love has to be explicitly religious, with the sole agenda of converting people. Rather we should love with pure intentions and the genuine passion for humanity that God has; love for Love’s sake.
We must recognize that human love and justice are imperfect. We will never be able to bring about true justice from our efforts. That’s why it’s so important that social justice efforts should be compelled by Love, with a capital L, God’s Love. Because His Love triumphs all.
Jessica Zambrano is a junior concentrating in Urban Studies.