Our reflection today comes from Ann Jacobs, who assists Mennonite Mission Network to further relationships with African-American Mennonite congregations. She helps congregations become more informed of resources, services and agency partnerships in support of the congregation’s vision for mission.
My parents were folks who demonstrated love to all. Because they demonstrated love, it continues to live on in our family’s lives. Through their love we were taught to welcome or acknowledge “the stranger.” If we avoid strangers or even people we despise, we risk opportunity to witness Christ. As we reduce our speed, anxiousness and hesitance, and draw near to our first love, God’s love compels us to love others. Perhaps, God sets up these opportunities described in Leviticus 19:33-34: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
When Christians slow down to discover people who enter their path, we witness love crossing borders. I think these are opportunities to share the gospel. The following poem was considered in memory of my mother and father.
Give what’s left of me away to children
And old folks that wait to die, and if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother and sister walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around someone and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes [heart] and not in your mind, you can love me most by letting hands touch hands, by letting bodies touch bodies and by letting go of children that need to be free. Love doesn’t die, [lost] people do. [You know where I am] So, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away [to those who need to find love].
I was very close to both of my parents; them being missing from my life has shaped the need for me to give and receive love in important ways. This poem helped me to gain purpose and to continue in the legacy of my parents, while paying attention to others on the journey. The work of drawing others to Christ is something that is felt with our hearts and spirit and not always understood in the mind. As we respond to God’s love, we are given a renewed sense of purpose, which leads us to victory – all the way to eternity.
People are influenced and shaped by their culture, community and environment. The many paths I cross can create challenges. These experiences encompass races, cultures, age differences, faith communities, systems, feminist and womanist circles of all races, then my own cultural diversity. Living with deep cultural differences requires the determination to be centered in the promises and truth of Scripture. The safe way to carry intercultural relations is to embrace the Spirit of God’s love, and desire that love to flow out to others. Galatians 5:22 says, Let’s not fail in the commandment to love, because nothing can escape God’s deep permeating love. That subverts borders.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. — Aristotle