A friend of mine shared the following on his Facebook wall several days ago, “The child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel it’s warmth” – African Proverb.
A lot of wisdom comes from the continent of Africa – ancient, wise tribal wisdom that helps us learn how to live together in close and at times, uncomfortable proximity. In the pursuit of and the demand for personal autonomy, we have created loneliness of the soul and a separation from a sense of community. One result of this separation, are horrific acts of violence we see taking place with increasing frequency in our culture.
A family or a nation can be destroyed when people no longer feel the embrace of love. They will eventually burn down the perpetrators of their pain.
The heart of God is beautifully expressed in John 3:16. Most Christians know that verse from memory,“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This verse expresses the heart of God and what should be the heart of the Church. God loved the entire world, and so should we.
What most of us forget is the following verse, John 3:17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Verses 16 and 17 are a single thought. They should always be cited together. Verse 16 is the heart of the Church. Verse 17 is the mission of the Church. We are called to love, not judge or condemn.
Our mission is to love the marginalized, to seek out those who have never experienced the embrace of love who live in the margins of our culture, both rich and poor, the powerful and the disempowered. Everyone without exception of cultural rank needs this embrace. These discarded ones are those who in their loneliness live on the verge of burning down their village.
The greatest bully in our schools, our communities and our families is the absence of an embrace of love. This bullying presence pushes and shoves people out of relationships and into a place of despair where desperate acts can take place.
Each of us possesses two very powerful assets that turn back this tide of cultural sorrow and separation – our voice and our embrace. As you move through the halls of your school, or walk down your street or engage in your daily activities, ask the Spirit to direct you to that son or daughter who has never felt the embrace of their tribe. They can be young or old. You can tell who these people are by looking into their eyes. They are the ones who move through life staring straight ahead with a hopeless expression that comes from being denied the embrace of love. When you meet them, speak the heart of God into their loneliness. Embrace them as another human being in need of affirmation. If we all do this we can be part of a cultural transformation that will turn a potential village burner into a village builder. That is the power of love, and no bullying presence can withstand its power.