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February 2019 Family Ministry by Kathy E. Smith

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Words to Live By 
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” Dr. Cornel West

Love in Action = Justice in Progress

We Unitarian Universalists say love will guide us. That is, when we are faced with moral decisions, we can ask ourselves “what would love do?” and the answer will usually guide us to making a good choice. But what do we mean when we say “love”?  We say we love ice cream and our parents and the person we are attracted to and the idea of vacation. Love is a complex and slippery word. We can get tangled up when we think about it.

The kind of love we are talking about in the spiritual sense isn’t about our favorite things. It isn’t about where we find pleasure and it isn’t about how we feel towards our family. It really isn’t about feelings at all. When we talk about love as our guide, we mean “how would we act if we considered the best interests of the other person?”  It’s about how we act, not how we feel.

Asking “what does love call me to do right now for someone else?” doesn’t necessarily come naturally, although with practice it can become second nature to us. (To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives and our character … what we are worshipping, we are becoming.”) 

It isn’t just about the dramatic moment – the opportunity to rescue a trapped animal or step up to a schoolyard bully – although those things are often what come most easily to mind. Love in action can be the small everyday actions that create small moments of justice. Love in action can be seeing someone standing alone in the cafeteria (or the fellowship hall) and moving over to invite them in. Love in action can be learning to pronounce someone’s name correctly. It can be speaking up to correct a negative stereotype in a joke someone just told, or it can be speaking your feelings of discomfort at hearing the joke at all. It is these small moments of love for our fellow human beings that move individuals and therefore the world, ever so slightly, towards justice.

And what about the larger picture?  Love for humanity certainly motivates us to work for a better world by carefully considering the propositions we will vote for, whether we will join a protest march, or how we will vacation. But it motivates us to countless small actions as well. Love in action can be choosing to buy – and use – a water filter and a stainless-steel water bottle, because draining aquifers and producing an endless supply of plastic bottles affects us all. Love in action can be writing a letter or making a phone call to a public official about a policy that unfairly impacts transgender individuals, because public policy is in part guided by public response. Love in action can be staying compassionately engaged with a conversation on social media even when it gets difficult, because it is only in relationship and community that minds and hearts can change. It is in these small moments of love for humanity that the world can move, ever so slightly, towards justice for all.