Last month the Northern California Nevada Conference Annual Meeting passed resolutions concerning welcoming immigrants and limiting gun violence. Both topics are very important. Both topics are related to something larger, which was the theme of the whole weekend: “Have You Seen Your Neighbor?”
There are many who are promoting the paranoia that the government wants to take over the country and the only way we can prevent that is to have guns, lots of them. (Paranoia is by definition an unreasonable fear.) This idea seems to be deeply seated in some Americans, resulting in constant suspicion of their neighbors and anyone else who is different. This manifests in racism, obsession with weapons that kill, and even calls for killing people simply for being “other”, namely other races, religions and sexualities.
We have to overcome this fear. For me, this starts with the faith that “perfect love casts out fear”. It does not mean that I must love perfectly, no one ever can. The word “perfect” in this case comes from the idea that something has reached its goal, attained its purpose. So divine love will have fulfilled its purpose in us when we are not controlled by our fears. Instead, in love we are willing to accept others, share with others, even, as Jesus said, lay down our lives for others.
There will be less fear mongering when the vision of a society in which all are accepted defines our ideal world. Since I don’t have a magic wand to make that happen instantly, I hope we can all work on making this vision a reality one brush stroke at a time. Little acts of kindness, great sacrifices of generosity and seeing our neighbors as fellow human beings all paint a picture of what can be.
We see our neighbors, not through riflescopes, but through the lens of love. We see our neighbors, not as aliens, but as human beings in which God lives. We see our neighbors this way when we cast out our fears and choose to love as God loves us.