Lesson 11: Love As A Change Agent

God loves youA terribly significant reason for modern Christians using the love narrative to identify and understand themselves is usually ignored. When people rather blandly proclaim “God loves you, love one another,” they are usually thinking of love as not insisting on your own way or compassionately caring for other people.  Most regard this as the tolerance and sharing that make for a healthy multicultural community.

Few think of love as a change agent. Yet that is a characteristic of God’s steadfast love and mercy from the beginning of Genesis and of the Church’s function throughout the New Testament. Love brings redemptive change. It transforms individual persons by warming the human heart, but it is also the means by which God heals his broken creation. When Jesus, St. Paul, and St Peter command, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,” they are not only counseling how to be a good person but also how to overcome violence by breaking the cycle of vengeance.

Turning to the love narrative is critical, because the narratives we have been using have failed us.
The institutional narrative, epitomized by the medieval imperial church, was always been more interested in maintaining control than making social change. It is now unable to do even that, because the Church no longer has the power or authority to oppose the government. Besides that, modern media reveals the hypocrisy of institutions based on power as the constant clergy sex scandals make clear.

The judicial narrative, epitomized by the Reformation justification doctrine, has also become less and less able to bring societal change. Like it or not, it has always come across as providing changes in individuals that enable them entrance into heaven after death rather than social reformation in this life. Consequently, the model ends up with the church seemingly supporting even indecent governments if they protect Christians. Rather than teaching the way of Jesus that returns good for evil, it expresses admiration for leaders who excuse their violent words and actions by claiming they are going to punch back ten times harder if they are attacked, the very violence the Bible condemns.

The ability of the love narrative to affect social change is articulated best by Martin Luther King. Although we usually associate his theology with justice rather than love, the former is simply the social manifestation of the latter. The beloved community is his term for the biblical just society. Christian love is the nonviolent, redemptive agent of change that God uses to make humanity his family, Christians use to make their enemies their friends, and communities use to make their foes their allies.

As nobody has been able to express love’s transformative force better than Dr. King, I am going to use his own words in the next few lessons.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry Walters says:

    This is really excellent, Fritz. I’m just now catching up with all your latest. Excellent!

  2. Lupe Andrade says:

    I am glad you chose this theme. At a time when hate (always present, of course in humanity) has become fueled by so many leaders and so many factions, including those who twist their own religious beliefs into vehicles for hatred, the worth and effect of love is undervalued, or even completely forgotten. “Love” has become a romantic knee-jerk word, and a “love-story” immediately conjures up teen-appeal novels. How to accomplish a re-valuing of love as an essential component of human worth and of human relations, is something I cannot even envision, in today’s emoji world where emotions seem to come “canned” and ready-made, with none to signify generosity, tolerance, equality, or self-sacrifice.

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