15 November 2011

Not on One's Own Strength

A short word about an uncomfortable fact, introduced by Langston Hughes:

Gather up
In the arms of your pity
The sick, the depraved,
The desperate, the tired,
All the scum
Of our weary city
Gather up
In the arms of your love—
Those who expect
No love from above

How often does God speak to us through each other when our ears are dulled to Him? And how often are we effective vessels? If I am lost and alone, vacillating between fury at God and denial of his existence, do you realize that you are his representative…his translator…the carrier of his words and love to those who don’t even believe in it?

From a Jon Foreman song based off of verses in Isaiah and Amos:

“Give love to the ones to the ones who can’t love at all
Give hope to the ones who have no hope at all
Stand up for the ones who can’t stand at all”

At first blush it’s a deeply intimidating, if thrilling, commission. I am not up to that task in and of myself. I get irritated nigh to the point of violence with the people who stand on the walking side of the escalator and with anyone who uses valley-girl speak…and I’m supposed be a representative of God’s love?

Thank goodness it isn’t my capacity to love and serve I'm dealing with here. I'd be done for. It’s God’s capacity we’re talking about. That changes it from an “assignment” or an impossible command into something different…not an outflow of some frantic humanistic flailing to ‘do the right thing’ (whatever that is on the given day or decade), but an outflow of God’s nature.

Can’t this:

“Gather up
In the arms of your love—
Those who expect
No love from above”

Somehow lead us to understand this: that it is God “who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

It is precisely because of my (extremely) limited capacity to serve and love that know I must learn to lean on God’s. I know now more than ever that the only other option is eventual, complete hypocrisy…slowly wasting away and running dry, like a rank body of water without inlet or outflow.

Don’t want that to happen. So, as God offers in the book of Amos, let’s argue this out, so that we don't mistake the world's ideas of justice (or our own) for God's:


  1. The other part of God's complaint was that the people were doing all of the right religious things--the festivals, the sacrifices, the great worship and making sure their shoes were shined...but they didn't know Him. They knew about Him but they didn't know Him.
    Justice without relationship with God, justice that doesn't flow out of God's heart for the poor will become diluted.
    Provocative song...

  2. Thank you. That was a delight to read.