Living in the Tension of Love
*Reflections on Anthony Pickett’s Sermon by Pastor Sears
As I’ve had a chance to reflect and process the service last Sunday, I wanted to pass on some thoughts that I hope will be helpful for you as well. First and foremost, I continue to be very grateful for the genuine warmth and hospitality of this community. Your welcome of Anthony and Phyllis, who no doubt felt a bit conspicuous, was very Christ-honoring and made them both feel at home in our fellowship. Thank you!
To Love Is To Risk: I’m also grateful for our Elders and their willingness to risk for the sake of the gospel. Indeed, the issues of social justice and racial reconciliation, especially in light of the explosive cultural events over the last several years (Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, etc.), are complex and fraught with emotional danger. For many the path of least resistance is the one preferred, choosing to remain comfortably safe in the confines of a shared suburban lifestyle, rhythm, and values. But leadership and love require risk: risk that challenges us to move beyond our assumptions—assumptions often more culturally constructed than biblically grounded. Our hope is to strive as God enables, to shape our lives after the Word of God, and through our community to make visible the glory, beauty, and diversity of God’s invisible kingdom.
Sitting in the Tension: Did you feel any tension and/or were you offended by some of the examplesAnthony shared in his message? My guess is that was most of us. I have always grown up on the good side of institutional and governmental authority. As the son of a career military officer, uniforms, medals, badges, and high-powered weaponry all nicely coalesced for my good, security, and safety. I never questioned that the presence of authority in uniform was anything but a good thing (unless, of course, I was caught doing something wrong, but we’ll save that confession for another time). So, Anthony’s perspective that challenged the foundational assumption of my experience was threatening. All the defensive clarifications, qualifications, and rebuttals began to form in my brain, and to be sure, many with legitimate points of view and perspective. But all missing the main point. To love is to be willing to sit in the tension of someone elses story and not to discount their story because it threatens my assumptions.
Entering into the Narrative: The compelling power of love that Jesus commanded as the sum of all revelation in The Greatest Commandment presupposes knowledge. As we often remind ourselves on Sunday mornings in our call to community, “To love is to know, and to the degree we don’t know, it is to that degree we can’t love.” Love requires the intentional pursuit of knowledge, and therefore "to love my neighbor" necessarily means I am willing to know and understand the narrative that has profoundly shaped my neighbor’s life. Anthony’s story is much different than mine (ours); in fact, it is the exact antithesis of mine. His experience with institutional authority is not one of safety and security, but of fear and threat, so it stands to reason that his conclusions and interpretations of events will be different as well. To be sure, we both view and interpret life with imperfect and distorted lenses, but until I am willing to understand and enter into someone elses narrative with empathy, it will be difficult to fulfill what Jesus has commanded. Becoming that bridge that crosses the racial, cultural, and ethnic divides with the reconciling power of the gospel means we must be constrained by love that pursues knowledge.
Just some thoughts to share as we process together what it means to live out the gospel in the community where God has called us to serve. I’m eager to continue this conversation and get your feedback as you are able to I count it a great privilege to serve and walk with you in the never-boring journey
*In February our leadership invited Anthony Picket, the head Deacon from First Missionary Baptist Church in Franklin to preach to our congregation and share his story.