The other day while a friend and I sat discussing a complicated social issue, she turned to me and said something along the lines of wishing there were a book that would simply outline for her, how to handle the issue specifically–preferably with a bullet-point list of action points. I quickly shot down her fantasy with my own admission that I’d once hoped for the same thing, but after reading several books written by “experts” concluded that no such book exists. “It’s too complicated” I told her. “Every situation is different, and there’s no prescriptive solution that can cure the struggle.”
We nodded in agreement, both of us slumped in a long exhale.
This Advent, as I wait for Jesus’ coming, I’ve been thinking about what it means to live out the gospel call to love my neighbors, my family members, and strangers alike, in a way that demonstrates grace, rather than judgment, and how I can hold to my own convictions in the midst of such a love. Because as difficult (impossible?) as that seems, I do think it can be done. I think it must. But what that looks like? I have no list. No written direction other than the Word, which repeatedly tells me to love my neighbor.
In one of the Advent books I’ve selected for myself, this season, Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt wrote, “those intent on Christ’s coming have to bring a different way into their situations.”
I’ve been thinking about this different way, as it relates to the complicated socio-political issues of our current culture. What does this mean for me, in real time? In actual practice? This is a question I’ve been rolling around for nearly 5 years and like my friend, have sought answers in stacks of books, only to find myself back where I started, lacking a bulleted list, instead, holding onto the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
If I claim Christ, then I am to live differently than the world at large (2 Corinthians10:3-4). I am called to love where others hate and reject. I am called to serve, where others insist on being served. I am called to open my door where others turn the lock and darken the lights. I am called to give where others tighten their grip. Bringing this different way is an opportunity for hospitality for me, and for those I may encounter, as I consider creative ways to demonstrate that I believe that the gospel outlines for me, an alternative lifestyle.
Blumhardt’s answer to the question, “how shall I do it differently” is this: ” First you will have to become poor, and see where you have acted foolishly, like someone who has no light. Then you must grieve that you are not any cleverer than anyone else when it comes to opening the door to the Master.”
The answer to bringing a different way to our situations lies in humility.
In Advent we repeatedly recount the story of Jesus’ birth, we talk about the lowliness of the physical environment into which Mary labored and panted the King of Creation into the world. We talk about mangers and stables, and a King born without a crown, but what we sometimes forget is that Jesus wasn’t only born in humility, but lived and died in it as well. The different way for us is to do the same.
As we open our doors to others this season, we don’t have to allow the lack of clear-cut methodology for what loving our neighbors looks like to prevent us from simply loving them. We can pursue humility, we can repent of our foolishness and fear and let God’s love light us, we can share the light with others not because we’ve got it all figured out, but because as we lower ourselves, we find ourselves in the same humble place of our Lord. Low with Him is where we learn what love looks like.
*Christoph Friederich Blumhardt is one of the essayists included in the Advent book, Watch For The Light.* (*affiliate link)