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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Justice is the social form of love


A few hours ago, Laura snapped this pic on her phone for me during the Bundimulinga church service. After an opportunity to share some testimony of God's healing, and thanks for the church's prayers, the leaders called us to the front to be prayed for in person. Injury and illness put me in the position of needing this group of faithful people deeply. The leaders standing behind us there have been with us for decades. They watched our family form and grow, walked with us through disasters and war and threats, and celebrated with us many times . . . including this survival. So it was meaningfully sweet to have them acknowledge God's mercy and our gratefulness, in the worship service. 

On this side of the ocean, head injury and coma does not often end in good news, so a theme of our week-plus now in Bundi has been to revisit the wonder of my improvement through the reactions of our friends. They are no strangers to danger and loss, and yet what really strikes me is that in spite of all the hardships they have faced in their own lives, they made room in their hearts to feel the weight of my struggles. I want to be like them, sincerely carrying the burdens of others in prayer and deeply rejoicing to see God bless. That's love.

Because love is a social reality, and the experience of it should not be taken for granted. And the true practice of love profoundly challenges the world order in disruptive ways. That's what we meditate on in this season of Lent, and what we find remarkable in stories from Ukraine. The war machine that moved to targeting civilians in order to confiscate their land represents the typical world order: power, accumulation, impunity. In stark contrast to this we see thousands of ordinary people cooking meals for refugees,  taking risks to defend their own cities.  Lent and world news and daily life in Bundibugyo made this quote stand out this week:

"People like Jesus and Paul were not executed for saying, "Love one another." They were killed because their understanding of love meant more than being compassionate towards individuals, although it did include that. It also meant standing against the dominating systems that ruled their world, and collaborating with the Spirit in the creation of a new way of life that stood in contrast to the normalcy of the wisdom of the world. Love and justice go together. Justice without love can be brutal, and love without justice can be banal. Love is the heart of justice, and justice is the social form of love." Borg and Crossan, The First Paul, 2009

The big story of love and justice takes us back 2022 years to the cross, the place those truths meet. But while that afternoon was the fulcrum point of the story, the working out of the implications continues. In Ukraine, and Uganda. In people who inconvenience themselves for others, who coach football and weigh babies and hold preems and hoe gardens at dawn, who refuse to allow evil a foothold. 

Besides wonderful greetings and lofty thoughts, we have now turned the corner into life a bit. Budgets and funding gaps, payrolls and car policies, team meetings and calendars, visitors and electricity woes. And football drama, because one school hired non-student players to win with, then when the sports committee confirmed their infraction it looked like their students would turn to violence because the rules removed them from the tournament, so there ensued a confusing and obscure series of meetings and attempts to keep them in. Which other schools objected to as a poor precedent for student athletics. So we're in limbo. Two major political leaders died in the last few days, one of a serious infection while receiving high level medical care in the capital but the other of rumoured murder. People have started showing up at the gate with their heart failure and hypertension and HIV and hard stories. One day we had a dozen people with pangas chasing a large cobra (unsuccessfully) just as UNHCR vehicles convoyed past to the border where refugees continue to enter fleeing rebels. All to say, we are in need of reminding ourselves why all this matters. "Love is the heart of justice, and justice is the social form of love". That's why Jesus came and why His people keep slogging it out at the margins of the world.

Cocoa drying in the sun on the roadside

Bwampu, Clovice, and Bahati, the BundiNutrition team that has carried on a lot of love and justice this year!

Sweet Sunday afternoon with Dr. Katuramu Taddeo . . he and Luke went to CSB together, graduated, went on different university and medical school paths but are both now 4th year residents. Katuramu in Kenya in Family Medicine, Luke in Utah in Orthopedic Surgery. And both are married to delightful spouses. The next generation of standing against unjust systems and plunging into real love is safe with these two.

1 comment:

mercygraceword said...

My first response to your gift of picture painting with words is always to wish I could jump in a plane and fly to Uganda. But I can and must inconvenience myself for others and serve in my current sphere.
Thank you once again.