Both Sides Now

As part of our sabbatical journey, we were in Berlin last week with family. On Saturday morning we walked through Mitte from Hackescher Markt to Alexanderplatz. One of the buildings we passed was the Sophienkerk, one of the more significant protestant churches to have stayed in business in the East during the years of communism. It was here that Martin Luther King came to preach in on September 13th 1964. Just three years after the city had been sliced in two by the construction of its wall, the civil rights pioneer said, “No man-made barrier can erase the fact that God’s children live on both sides of the wall.”

It was Jesus who asked “ “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Christians don’t get brownie points for loving Christians. Nor white people for loving white people. Nor straight for straight. The kind of love by which I honour, value and defend those very much like me is not the kind of love that builds the kingdom of God in this world. ‘Dog bites man’ is not news: ‘Man bites dog’ is a headline. The love God calls us to is not a cosy feeling but a creative force: it will always call us beyond ourselves; beyond our natural limits. It is by definition more than a tribal affiliation.

Where do we start?

We start with Martin Luther King in Berlin — with the assertion that the people on the other side of whatever wall we’ve built are God’s children. If there is someone on the planet who is not God’s child, please feel free not to love them. Treat them as strangers. Distance yourself from them. Dehumanise them if you must. But if they are God’s children, you have no such freedom. Ask yourself, who made them? What are his dreams for them? What blessing is he longing, even now, to pour into their lives?

I’m not sure there has been a season in my lifetime when it has been more urgent that we recover our sense of the creator as the father of us all.

God loves his children — on every side of every wall. Do we?