Love’s the Only House Big Enough for all the Pain

Reflecting on global

The past ten days I’ve listened to leaders of The United Methodist Church from around the globe talk about the issues and concerns they face in their daily affairs. It’s enlightening and humbling, especially when viewed from the current political environment in the U.S.

I listened to Gracia Machel speak of life during the war in Mozambique. She captured our hearts and our minds. Her understanding of the restraints imposed by poverty and illiteracy, especially among children, girls and women is impressive.

It’s also insightful to hear how the leaders of the church in the developing world speak of faith in spiritual and social terms. Belief is not segmented. To be faithful is to be concerned with both spiritual growth and addressing poverty, disease, illiteracy and violation of human rights. This unity of belief arises from living with the dispossessed and the poor daily.

I listened as the bishops of Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Congo, and the Philippines told of contending with terrorizing behavior in their countries, some of which has gone on for decades. Their capacity to seek justice and reconciliation is remarkable.

I also thought about how little we in the United States understand these struggles. There are some, of course, who partner with churches outside the borders of the U.S. and they are genuinely attempting to be in solidarity with these brothers and sisters. But the climate of fear that has been exploited after 9/11 has made many U.S. citizens afraid of the world. And the policy of pre-emptive war has lent support to a belief that the U.S. is besieged. I wonder how this is viewed in Congo where terror was imposed by cutting off hands and arms, or in Sierra Leone where it was ears, or Angola where it was lips? Physical mutilation, rape and kidnapping of children–boys forced into militias, girls as sex slaves–have been practiced in many places, and for long periods of time.

9/11 was a terrible act of inhumanity. It was said at the time that the world had changed forever. In fact, it was the first time terror had been brought to U.S. shores, at least in modern history–if we discount the forced walks of Native Americans, lynchings of Black men in the South or cross burnings by hooded men in white robes, or the destruction of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

To those who have lived with terror for agonizing years, 9/11 did not signal a changed world, it meant that no place was beyond the reach of our capacity to destroy each other. Inhumanity knows no boundaries, there is no hierarchy of suffering.

This does not minimize the pain of 9/11. It puts it in perspective. There is a world of pain out there and we live in it. And if we are sensitive to all the pain, perhaps we can expand our concern for each other to a point where we don’t need to build walls to keep people out but we can open doors and allow others who are suffering to come in. Maybe we could become so concerned for the health and welfare of all the world’s children that we will commit to seeing that each receives education, food, shelter, medicine, clothing and a safe place in which to grow. Perhaps we could see that terror harms us all, no matter where we reside.

I thought of this as Mrs. Machel spoke to us in a comfortable hotel dining room, safe and removed from the poverty that walks the streets of Maputo and other world cities and across the countryside. Only 20 years ago, Mozambique was engulfed in such terror that it seemed beyond the ability of anyone to bring peace. But courageous people, some of whom sat with us tonight, risked talking of peace and reached out to a nation destroyed by conflict and brought everyone to the table. The talks led to peace.

Mandela, Machel, Ghandi, King; our own Bishop Machado, and a score of others, peacemakers. It struck me that we need talk not of terror, but of peace. What must we do as people of peace? This is different from discussing how we protect ourselves from terror. It re-aquaints us with our humanity, and the humanity of those who have forgotten their own, and ours.

The challenge is to talk of peace, not terror, to live as Jesus called us to live, as peacemakers.

Standing in the hotel dining room in Maputo, I thought of Martina McBride, the country music singer from Nashville. Words from one of her songs kept repeating in my mind.

Love’s the only house big enough for all the pain in the world
Love’s the only house big enough for all the pain.

(Lyrics by Tom Douglas/Buzz Cason)
From the Album Greatest Hits (2001)
RCA Records

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