There is sad and hopeful news this week.
The sad news is that a young teenaged black man was killed at Chicago State University after a public high school basketball game. That’s embarrassingly sad. The good news is that the nation’s first African American President, Barack Obama, was sworn in for a second term on Martin Luther King weekend. As one writer has said poetically, “These are the best and worst of times.”
While we celebrate gains, we should grieve what we have lost. What has been gained matters less than what has been lost; because what has been lost is greater than what has been gained. Before we could be president, we had so much love for each other that we could even contemplate loving our enemies. Now, instead of celebrating King, we are cheering on the film Django Unchained. (And the “D” is silent).
There was a time that a central value of African American blackness was “the love ethic.” Even in our worst oppression, we knew that there was nothing greater than love; love of God, respect of self, and love of each other. God could even use us as examples of the strength to even find love for enemies. The love ethic is the true meaning of Dr. King’s lasting legacy. That is the love that we have lost.
The love ethic is first, unselfishness. We have trouble building families today because family cannot be built upon selfishness. To have family, church, and community, people must be challenged to embrace a love of something that is greater than themselves. Unselfishness simply means to consider the wellbeing of others before yourself.
Secondly, the love ethic is unconditional. God’s agape love for us is without conditions. (Romans 5:8). When we love like God, we love, not because of what someone does for us, but in spite of what someone has done to us. Love is a decision to practice charity or meet the needs of another without conditions. (Luke 10:25-37). Lastly, the love ethic is enduring. When everything else fails and gives up, love will still be loving. What we have gained in material good is fine, but unless we love one another, nothing else we have will matter. In in the end, in eternity, all that will allow us to overcome and enter God’s Kingdom is love. Love never fails. Only those who have embraced God’s love can love like God.
We need the love ethic now more than ever. The good news is that love is just as present now as ever. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). Christ is present to change our hearts and renew our minds, and rebuild our families and communities.
Spread the good news: Love is still the answer.