I had some trouble deciding whether or not I wanted to share this blog post. On the one hand, I want to be better at offering grace and showing compassion when I witness injustice; I, too, benefit in many ways–even in ways that I am not yet aware of, I’m sure–from the very systems that disadvantage and oppress my friends who have skin and loves and first languages, etc. that are different from mine, and I appreciate when others are kind to me, even when they might be angry at how unfair that is. On the other hand, I feel called to point out the injustices I see, leveraging privilege to teach, so that we may grow and learn together and become a stronger, more diverse, more complete body of Christ.
Last week I attended the Florida Annual Conference as an Affiliate Member of Redland Community UMC in Homestead, FL, and as part of the Florida Conference’s Young Adult Missional Movement (YAMM) initiative. I also went as a part of South Florida Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), spent some time at our booth and helped to educate others about our services, and attended a meeting about expanding our reach.
I decided to share the thoughts I jotted down throughout the week:
You do good when you try to show compassion for immigrants, even when you are afraid of terrorism and do not understand immigration policy.
You do good when you offer encouraging words to strangers and friends alike.
You do good when you create space for all voices and perspectives to be heard.
You do good when you vote to suspend the rules to allow the #BlackLivesMatter and Mass Incarceration resolutions to be heard, even when you stand against the majority.
You do good when you approve a resolution calling for local churches to welcome LGBTQ+ people and demanding an end to violence. Life is precious; we are all God’s children.
Do no harm.
You do harm when you choose a location for a conference that is so expensive that youth and low income people cannot easily attend.
You do harm when you choose dates for a conference that are during the middle of the week and therefore not practical for people with jobs but no paid leave, etc.
You cause harm when you say, “We just can’t support those illegals. I’m sorry.” You might as well have said, God’s call for us to love the foreigners among us, to treat them according to the same laws followed by citizens, and to love our neighbors, is Trumped by political rhetoric rooted in fear.
You do harm when you suggest that a new young adult program would not be relevant for the Florida Conference. We are the Church, too. “If we aren’t growing, we’re dying.”
You do harm when you explain to someone loudly that same sex marriage is wrong, even in light of what happened in Orlando just a few days ago–is your opinion so important that you need to state it while others around you may very well be grieving?
You do harm when you place order before justice.
You do harm when you create an agenda that does not prioritize or place value on highlighting unheard perspectives and amplifying disadvantaged voices.
You do harm when you do not intentionally make time to affirm immigrant lives.
Stay in love with God.
We are each on a unique journey with God, so I will speak for myself here. I fall in love with God when I learn more about God’s love and compassion for us, when I learn of God’s justice.
When my beliefs come from a place of love, they lean toward justice. When I hear others express a need to strive for justice, I am excited that if we work together, we might actually transform the world.
When my thoughts and feelings come from a place of fear, I am selfish, I am grateful for my privilege, I support the us vs. them dichotomy.
When I trust God: I love others, I love God. When I don’t trust God: I fear and turn from God.
One way to stay in love with God is to open up our hearts, so that they may be changed as the Spirit moves. Even as I write this, I know that I might be wrong, that my views might be wrong, that I am not God, who has all the answers.
Selfishness, hatred can keep us from God. Separation, after all, is sin. And what causes greater separation than doing harm to those who are not in power?
GMF US-2, Class of 2015-2017