The following reflection was shared at the final session of How Do I Love My Neighbour this past April.
This year we have been discussing what it means to love your neighbour within the context of racial redemption and embracing diversity within our school communities.
I have become aware of my own blind spots. I have had many interactions with students over my time as a coach and a teacher that I have realized I could have dealt with better. I realized I was unaware of what it really meant to see and hear things from different perspectives. Even though I have been surrounded by diversity, I have learned that I was not really invested in it as I should have been.
In the book of Corinthians, Paul profoundly looks at love from the inside out. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
When we really look at love, and what Paul is teaching us here, we learn that love can be taught, and we can grow in love. We learn that love is an action. Love stands up when someone gets knocked down and it is the most powerful command we are given.
Loving our neighbours is not simply about loving them. It is more than that, it is about making them comfortable in this culture and life. To love our neighbour starts with the need to notice their needs. I am around students of many different races and I thought I noticed their need, but I didn’t notice until I really listened.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a direct parallel to what we are discussing right now. The cultural and racial divide between the Samaritan man and the Jews who hated Samaritans was deep and full of conflict. It is a story about breaking national, spiritual, cultural, social norms to help someone in need. It is a story about breaking the barrier of status and racial prejudice, divides that had been built in centuries of misunderstanding.
Jesus taught us directly through this parable what racial redemption can look like and what is needed to embrace diversity as Christians. We are explicitly called to love, recklessly. And what I mean by that is to love those around us as best we can, we are going to make mistakes. We are going to say the wrong thing from time to time. We are going to have to look at ourselves in new ways. But when you love, even recklessly, we can start to bridge the divide that may have been created.
Good people will always find reasons to keep walking by issues that are laying there right on the side of the road. We can begin overcoming that divide by starting to ask the tough questions. When we start to ask those difficult questions, we will begin to notice the need is great.
We can really only come to a place where we are ready to ask those questions when we can step over the barriers of feeling judged, attacked, or guilty. The story of the Good Samaritan is about that; good people passing the beaten traveler.
What are some of the other barriers in our lives? What barriers have kept me from truly loving my neighbours?
- The barrier of looking in the mirror and realizing I have blind spots.
- The barrier of not wanting to look at those blind spots.
- The barrier of discomfort, my own and the potential discomfort of others.
- The barrier of guilt.
- The barrier of ignorance.
- The barrier of worrying what others will think.
- The barrier of all my own baggage.
I said earlier that love is an action, these action items are as follows I think:
1. Need to notice
2. Barrier to break through
3. Price to pay - the Good Samaritan paid financially for the man to stay in a hotel.
What is our price? The price for me personally is to humble myself, say I don’t get it, ask questions, and learn how to really love.
There is wisdom in realizing that racial redemption, and learning to love our neighbours is a journey. I have close relationships with many current and former students, and I am still learning to really, properly love them.
When we see injustice, we stop, but are we looking for injustice everywhere? Are we looking for it in our own communities, schools, and classrooms? Are we on the lookout for examples that are not obvious? There is no set way to do this; there are so many ways to go about it. The need is great and something has to be done. We need to stop walking by. I need to stop walking by. I need to stop telling myself that the injured traveler doesn’t affect me, or that the injuries aren’t really all that bad.
Please join me in a prayer inspired by Martin Luther King:
Our Father in heaven, we thank you for these opportunities to discuss, challenge and learn. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. Help us as leaders to look to you for wisdom and strength to navigate difficult conversations, to lead as you would lead and learn what you have set out to teach us. Lord, grant us strength as we continue to work on finding the words to use to bring about healing and to cultivate inclusion. In your holy name we pray, Amen.
To view the recording from the final How Do I Love My Neighbour session, click here.
Eric Bulthuis is Director of Athletics at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville, Ontario.