Posted: July 8, 2016 by Rob Voyle
The Good Samaritan story was Jesus response to someone who wanted to "justify himself."
I often hear or see people claiming God is on their side as they seek to justify their perspectives and actions. Our political processes are rife with such justification in ways that were very rare when I arrived in this country 34 years ago. And the actions taken in the name of these justifications leaves me wanting to have nothing to do with the God these people proclaim to honor.
I also hear people in churches, and I have said it myself, "what is God calling us to do?"
Which rather than creating a clarity of thinking and action has often lead to rationalization and a lack of action. I have also seen and recoil when God and a perception of God's will is used as a huge club to coerce people into action.
The use of God language as a stamp of divine authority to justify a pursuit of unjust actions leaves me thinking we would be better off as atheists. So much of our country's God language leads to hate and fuels the bigotry, hypocrisy, and violence of our times.
My friend Ron English, who was raised in Ebenezer Baptist church and ordained by Martin Luther King Jr., asks the question differently. Rather than asking, what is God calling us to do he asks: What is love calling us to do?
I have found asking "What is love calling us to do?" leads to a very different response both within me and the people that I am working with.
And I wonder what would happen if our politicians began asking: "What is love calling us to do as a nation?" rather than justifying their actions of hate-filled power mongering with mindless god talk.
By love I am not meaning a sentimentality nor a tolerance for evil. In my teaching on love I use Stephen Gilligan's understanding of compassion: tenderness, fierceness, and mischievousness. Fierceness is a single minded pursuit of a just future.
I distinguish fierceness from anger. Anger is what we experience when we look back on a past injustice. Fierceness is what happens when we transform that anger into a fierce pursuit of a just future. Without that transformation anger, focused on the past, will lead to hatred and a desire for revenge and retribution. We cannot fix the past but we can create a new future.
One of my role models for fierceness is Martin Luther King Jr. His "I have a dream speech..." is a fierce proclamation and desire for a just future. It is not an angry rail against an oppressive and evil past but a fierce vision of a better future. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are other role models of the fierce rather than the angry way.
There is no place for hate.
And as Jesus reveals in the story of the good Samaritan.
There is no place for indifference.
There is no place for self-justification.
There is only a place for love.
Praying for us all to have the courage to love tenderly, fiercely, and mischievously, in this time of darkness.
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute
P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.
The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.
Rob's Approach to Training