We are delighted to share stories from our greater Pyoca community as we embrace 2019 as the Year of the Peacemaker. Today’s blog comes from Pyoca alum Brian Herald (camper and summer staff) who is currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in New Orleans, LA. Brian reflects upon what it means to be a peacemaker midway through his YAV year. You can follow Brian’s personal blog here.
The world today is full of conflict; external and internal conflict. Sometimes that conflict looks like two countries with different beliefs going to war, and other times it looks like two leaders not agreeing on a solution which causes an entire system to shut down for over a month. We have personal conflicts everyday, too. Sometimes they’re minor and other times less so. Conflict is something that allows us to grow as people. The problem is that we don’t always know or agree on the best way to overcome conflict, create peace, and move to a brighter day.
All throughout the New Testament Jesus talks about who He loves. The often quoted John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And in Mark 12:31 we get this, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” There are many more examples I could pull of Jesus talking about love and demonstrating love, but that would end up being a longer blog post than I really it need it to be.
At church this past Sunday I heard a sermon from Rev. Dr. Jonathan Barker, and he was talking about who is beloved by God. Beloved according to my friend Merriam-Webster means: dearly loved; dear to the heart. Rev. Barker went on to say, “Theists, you are beloved. Atheists, you are beloved. Agnostics, you are beloved.” What he said goes right along with what Jesus said in the Gospels. God loves the world. Not just people that look or think like we do, not just Christians. God loves the world. He loves people who don’t believe in Him, those behind bars, those who outright speak against Him, and those who are confused. He loves the world. And because of this, we should love everyone, as well. We should “love our neighbor.” Not just those who agree with us, but those who don’t agree with us (one might even say especially those that don’t agree with us), those who are different, those who are viewed as outcasts or undesirables. Everyone.
As a YAV who works with the undereducated population of New Orleans I work with the people that many would consider outcasts or undesirable people. And, if I’m being honest, that’s how I viewed these people before I came to New Orleans. I often thought, “well, why didn’t they try harder” or, “obviously they didn’t care enough.” But that just wasn’t the case as I got to know them. As I’ve come to know and work with the people at the adult literacy program I am a part of, I have realized that the people I’m serving are exactly that: people. They deserve love just as much as anyone, and I’m glad that is something that has changed for me throughout this year. I believe my faith is acting more as a filter on how I should treat others in the world. I try not to see people as undesirables or outcasts, but as people who are less fortunate or privileged than I am. My faith tells me that everyone should be loved, just as God loves all of us, and that no matter who they are or their plight in this world, we can show them the love and kindness that they deserve. Because we are all beloved.
We often don’t look at a man who is homeless and think about the humanity behind his sign that’s asking for spare change. We don’t look at the humanity of the refugees, or the immigrants, or the undereducated. We often see someone who is less than we are because of the situation they are in, and oftentimes that situation isn’t self-inflicted. We see so many stories about the negative things happening in the world that we begin to believe that’s the truth. But, if we step outside and look at our communities we will see that there is good in the world. It’s also just easier to not think about others because we have our own problems to deal with.
I think we need to challenge ourselves to be peacemakers. I believe that if we show someone that they are loved, it will help bring peace to the world. And showing love is as simple as a smile, a wave, a hug, a phone call, or a simple text message to someone in need of a friend. You are beloved. And so is the person on the street, and the person in jail. We are beloved.
An extended version of this post can be found on Brian’s personal blog.