I got entangled in the messy business of loving my neighbor about seven years ago, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Whether it’s referred to as social justice, economic justice or humanitarian outreach, I just saw it as fulfilling a desire to love marginalized people who had been dealt an unfair hand. I had my own bouts of overcoming personal shame, and I wanted to love because I had been loved.
I felt the call to move my Christian theology out of my head and into my hands, feet and mouth, but I was naïve in regards to the pushback I would get, especially from the Church. Little did I know, it would become the most awkward, controversial and sometimes heartbreaking part of my Christian journey.
This work of mine has involved everything from confronting my own racist leanings from growing up in the American South, tutoring at a disadvantaged public school, being a voice for the peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians after living in the Middle East for two years, and now being an advocate for Somali refugees who are in a state of limbo in Bangkok, Thailand.
I try to restrain from lashing out angrily on social media. I don’t play the name-calling games. But anything that advocates for helping vulnerable people, I’m all over it. The pushback I’ve gotten by doing this stretches across a wide spectrum of dissent and disapproval.
The most gentle, perhaps, is from people in the church and those in my inner circle who kindly suggest I’m being divisive. They urge me to follow their example of ignoring “taboo” subjects in an effort to keep the “peace.”
Keeping silent for the sake of “peace” is not peace at all, it’s indifference. Keeping silent is often the easy, comfortable thing to do, and everyone is entitled to his or her interpretation of faith, but can we please stop calling it peace?
This is a counterfeit peace we are talking about.
True, biblical shalom, is defined as wholeness and completeness. If we’re truly following the example of Jesus who brings the ultimate wholeness to mankind, fulfilling all of humanity’s need for restoration and redemption, shouldn’t the number one command to love our neighbors as ourselves be at the forefront of everything we do? Whether that involves physically helping those in need or speaking up for them when they are disadvantaged, shouldn’t the wellbeing of our neighbors be our concern?
True biblical shalom speaks less about minding our own business and more about belonging to one other.