Love | February 13, 2022 by Dr. Dorsey Blake
We are marching in the light of God, We are marching in the light of God. (Repeat) We are marching, marching, We are marching, marching, We are marching in the light of God. (Repeat)
We are living in the love of God, We are living in the love of God, (Repeat) We are living, living, We are living, living, We are living in the love of God, (Repeat)
We are moving in the power of God, We are moving in the power of God, (Repeat) We are moving, moving, We are moving, moving, We are moving in the power of God. (Repeat)
Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos', Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos'. (Repeat) Siyahamba, hamba, siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos'. (Repeat)
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus responds to question about eternal life, life beyond physical presence. He affirms the questioner’s correct quoting of the law, what is written: “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with your whole strength, and with your whole mind. Also your neighbour as yourself.” (Moffatt Translation).
Jesus then instructs him to carry out or implement what is in the law and he would live. He did not say that he would inherit eternal; but that the questioner would live.
Similar words of law were spoken hundreds of years prior as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. The words are described as a commandment. The author admonishes the listeners to inscribe the words upon their hearts, to teach them to their children, to have them upon their lips when they go to bed and when they rise, to walk with them, to write them upon the doorposts of their dwelling places. It is clear from the author’s viewpoint that the words are essential to living and their march to the promised land of freedom and fulfillment.
Jesus answers a philosophical inquiry with a concrete prescription. You must love! Jesus is affirming. That is a tall order. For to love, we must abandon – abandon attachments, security, self-centeredness, detachment, isolation, fear. To love is dangerous. It may end in heartbreak, injury, loss. It is an emotion that challenges our rational selves, the harness that keeps us focused. Love requires devotion. To love is beyond protocol, it is a mandate.
Jesus replaces the question of life after death with a declaration for life after birth.
Kabir, 15th-century Indian mystic poet reminds us:
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive. Jump into experience while you are alive! Think . . . and think . . . while you are alive. What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?
Let’s us substitute for the words “Lord your God” the words Creation or the Universe. You must love Creation, all that is entailed in Creation. We are to be in awe of it. Treat it with tenderness, with reciprocity. Love it with all you’ve got, your whole soul, your whole strength, your whole mind, your entire being. Hold back nothing. Love completely. And you will experience the “love that will not let you go”, the Eternal.
Love with your whole heart, that vital organ that maintains the circulation of blood throughout the circulatory system and more. Love with the source of our being, our sensibilities. Love Creation with that which in life-giving, with its dependability and strength. And, yes, the heart can be broken, it is vulnerable. Still, love wholly which would also mean love holy.
Love what has been created, loosed in the galaxy, with your whole soul. That which keeps evolving with the circumstances of your living. What is the soul? Dr. Samuel Miller helps me to understand the concept of soul: “Somewhere out of life, out of all its multitudinous items, out of the broad river of our existence, flowing between the banks of this human clay, out of thoughts and deeds and the mere shadow of thoughts and deeds, out of pain and hope and fear and desire, the soul is born–born of the will of God, mysteriously, wondrously, with wings of an inevitable destiny known only in God’s dreaming.” When we love with our whole souls we partake in God’s dreaming.
Love with your whole strength, with all your vigor, with all your accumulated fortitude and force, and with all your power.
Love with all you can conceive, imagine, with all your mental capacity.
Black History month needs to be about remembering to love God, Allah, Creation, the All-Pervading Presence, the Essence of Life, the More Than as exemplified, modelled by so many who loved creation and its creatures so fiercely that their physical time on earth was cut short, or were led into material insecurity and/or physical abuse.
Malcolm X (Malik el-Shabazz) and Martin Luther King Jr. both died at age 39 as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by Hitler’s Nazi regime. But the other day I viewed again portions of a film about Malcolm’s life. There are films also about Dr. King and Bonhoeffer. Dr. Thurman reminds us that “the time and the place of a man’s life on the earth are the time and place of his body, but the meaning of his life is as vast, as creative, and as redemptive as his gifts, his times, and the passionate commitment of all his powers can make it.” I have read their writing. I have contemplated the cost of discipleship and have been inspired by those who have come before me who made my road much easier to travel. They continue to live.
Yes, I include Dietrich Bonhoeffer as part of Black History. Dr. King stated that “Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere.” Certainly, what happened under Nazi rule was and is a threat to justice even now. Bonhoeffer's dedication to upend the Nazi regime was prophetic. Bonhoeffer wrote:
I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people ... Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.
Bonhoeffer did spend time in the United States at Union Seminary. He spent time in Harlem, particularly at Abyssinian Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. He was inspired by Powell’s social justice message and the faith, tenacity, creativity, and joy he found in Black people. He took a collection of spirituals with him when he returned to Germany. Bonhoeffer was impressed with the resilience and gift of overcoming – anchored in the light of God – that he experienced in Black community. There is indeed a joy that the world could not and cannot take away. It is the joy of the eternal in the present, the spiritual trysting with the material.
It is interesting that during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, it was common for Black people to greet other Black folks with: “Hey, Soul Sister, Hey, Soul Brother.” The greeting was consistent with what Bonhoeffer experienced. The greeter was recognizing that the greeted had come through the challenges of being Black in America with soul intact, with a sense of joie de vivre. This is not a small accomplishment. Surviving seasons of abuse requires fortitude, improvisation, trust in life, creativity, gratitude, awe, appreciation, self-esteem, and communal support. It is a joy that the world cannot take away. Rev. Jesse Jackson understood how empowering such acknowledgement could be when he developed his affirmation: “I am somebody!”
A major concern of El-Shabazz, King, and Bonhoeffer was addressing the needs of the neighbor. They lived and consequently were killed for their love of neighbor – a love supreme, that meant yielding control of their lives to something – the commandment to love with the whole, entire self – that superseded any private, personal hold on life. They had to let go of life in order to live.
Jesus did not call the Samaritan who provided essential care for the abused man left by the side of the road “good.” Why was it necessary for those who came later to designate him as good? Were they contrasting him to other Samaritans who therefore are presumably bad Samaritans? Is it analogous to saying “I know a nice colored man who works for Mr. Charlie” in contrast to those uppity ones? Perhaps, there should have been a Samaritan History Month.
Carter G. Woodson was appalled by the depiction of African peoples in written and oral histories and made a life-long commitment to redressing omissions and deliberate distortions of history. He knew and I affirm that Black History has much to offer to the world that has the power to heal. For in all the trials and tribulations of the Black sojourn there has been a spirit that refuses to be destroyed. It emerges in the life of the illustrious and those without much luster. Life is affirmed in its ugliness and beauty. And it has been this love of neighbor that has led the way, that has undergirded its movement and march toward freedom.