Right now, many of us are separated from those we love. Because of various shelter in place/stay at home/safer at home orders in our communities, we have isolated ourselves from our friends and possibly some of our family members for fear of contracting COVID-19 or potentially passing it on to someone else. Even those of us who are introverts are having a difficult time with this new reality, and we might be starting to rebel against some of these orders.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, a time when many of us get together for backyard barbecues, trips to the beach, and boat rides on the lake. We use this time of remembrance of those who have died for our freedom as a way to remember the importance of family and friends. However, this year some of our Memorial Day plans are very different. Some of us are at home with our immediate families, trying to create new memories in a very different reality. And some of us are so tired of the stay at home orders that we have ventured outside our homes to enjoy the beach, the lake, or the park. And some of us have broken the orders by having backyard barbecues despite the warnings against them. These all demonstrate our deep need for relationships. We need one another in order to live, to thrive.
Currently, I am reading Desmond Tutu’s book, No Future Without Forgiveness, which describes the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid in South Africa. Throughout the book, Tutu discusses the harsh reality of apartheid in South Africa, including the various ways in which whites tortured and maimed blacks under the inhumane regime. However, along with these examples of human depravity, he also highlights the amazing ways in which human beings are able to demonstrate forgiveness and grace even in the face of human evil. Toward the end of the book, he discusses the way in which the example of South Africa has encouraged people to seek forgiveness and reconciliation in places like Rwanda and Ireland. He beautifully explains:
There is a movement, not easily discernible, at the heart of things to reverse the awful centrifugal force of alienation, brokenness, division, hostility, and disharmony. God has set in motion a centripetal process, a moving toward the center, toward unity, harmony, goodness, peace, and justice, a process that removes barriersTutu, Demond. No Future Without Forgiveness. Doubleday, 1999, p. 265.
This sense of unity, this desire for reconciliation is throughout scripture and throughout popular culture. In Romans 12:9-10, Paul encourages,
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each otherNew Living Translation
And I don’t think that it is coincidence that as I began to write this morning, Bob Marley’s “One Love/People Get Ready” started playing on Amazon Music. Sure, the song was written during a difficult political period of Jamaica’s history. However, it is clear that Marley was greatly influenced by themes of love and reconciliation, just like we see in scripture: “One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.”
We are all crying out to be with one another again. We are all craving human connection. That is why we are using Zoom, Meet, and FaceTime to see our friends and family members. That is why we are driving up to our friend’s house and sitting in the back of our car as they sit on the porch, just so we can talk.
But in the midst of this crisis, let us also remember that some of us need reconciliation with family members and friends. Some of us need to remember that we are all in this together. Let’s reach out across the various lines that we have in society, seek unity in one cause, and love one another deeply. God has placed this desire within our hearts, regardless of our political leanings or our religious beliefs. We are one, so let’s get together and feel alright.