19 February 2021

World Day of Social Justice: love is the same in every language

Deacon Eunice Attwood, Church at the Margins Officer for the Connexional Team, writes for World Day of Social Justice

On a bitterly cold winter morning a group of newly arrived, unaccompanied young people, seeking asylum, walked slowly into the church hall. The volunteers, gathered to welcome them, stood apprehensively, wondering if and how they could connect to these young people. The anxiety in the air was palpable. None of the young people spoke English and very few of the volunteers were conversant in a second language beyond basic French. The two groups mixed together, food was served, clothes and basic provisions offered. And so, a journey of discovery began, for both groups. As weeks and months went by, people connected in various and multiple ways. The young people taught the volunteers, and the volunteers taught the young people. Both groups discovered, in their experiences, something tangible that transcended the spoken language barrier. When asked how the groups communicated, the leader of the volunteers replied, gently, ‘we have discovered, love is the same in every language.’

In the famous words of Dr Cornel West, ‘Justice is what love looks like in public.’ The God for All strategy of the Methodist Church is built on an understanding of God’s love and justice being available for all people. Love is the same in every language and includes justice for all.

Social justice is not an optional extra for any Christian, it is at the heart of what it means to be a follower, a disciple of Jesus.

Love is at the intersection of evangelism and social justice. Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22 v 37-39, NLT.  The relationship between our love of self and love of others is not based on reciprocity, the love for our neighbour is to be held in parallel with our love for ourselves. Loving God and loving our neighbours are God’s commandments.

God’s character, what God does and how God is discovered, reveals a God of justice. To love God, is to love all that God created, of course, this does not just include the human world but the whole of creation. God created us to be in relationship with God, with ourselves, with others and the whole created order. We are deeply interconnected with one another. The World Health Organisation at the beginning of the pandemic commented, ‘The human community is only as strong as its weakest healthcare system.’ Our interdependence on one another has rarely been more apparent. It has often been said, social action is needed because social justice is absent. What could love in action, look like, for your community? What actions would bring justice?

How might we respond?

Stop: Resist needs meeting, or models of being the provider. Stop believing we know the answers to other people’s needs.

Look: Be attentive and find out what other people and local organisations are doing to challenge injustice and join in.  

Listen: Connect to people and listen carefully to the voices and wisdom of our communities.

Learn: Be willing to be taught by others, recognising, and celebrating the gifts and skills within a community

More about the author, Deacon Eunice Attwood is here

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