Love as the foundation of activism
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.
- Philemon 8-9a
Is this any way to talk to a slaveholder?
Paul is about to challenge Philemon to a new kind of relationship with his slave, Onesimus. Paul is about to challenge the reigning economic systems and arrangements of Roman society. But Paul is about to do all of this in the name of Jesus.
Today, we’ll get to see the Christ-like way to advocate for social change.
Christian advocacy is marked by a particular form of courage. While Paul nods to the boldness of exercising positional authority and giving orders, he chooses to prioritize the moral imperatives that flow from our fellowship in Christ. He doesn’t shy away from addressing difficult realities. He doesn’t cede the pursuit of social justice out of some belief that he can’t care about spirituality and justice at the same time. He’s willing to speak up boldly this social situation.
A commitment to love overshadows the exercise of power. Love is the foundation of Christian advocacy. Not duty. Not a sense of right and wrong. Not an abstract sense of justice. All of these – from a Christian perspective – stand atop the rock-solid love that we receive from Jesus and offer to each other in his name.
Love doesn’t preclude passing laws, boycotting, protesting, or engaging in activism. Love shapes the way we do all of these things.
Love makes us gentle. Love nudges us toward kindness. Love gives us an extraordinary patience. Love challenges us to see the real person on the other side of the conversation. Love reduces snark and blunts sarcasm. Love surprises everyone.
What role does love play in your desire to engage the world for good? How does love catapult you away from passivity? What choices do you need to make to keep love as the foundation of your steps of activism?