I am writing this on Wednesday evening in my brother’s Fort Lee, New Jersey condo. On Monday morning, I flew out to Newark and have spent a couple of days with my family. In the morning, I will be flying to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the Advisory Committee meeting of the Presbyterian Church Hunger Program. On Saturday evening I will be returning to Los Angeles.
Tonight, I am writing this with a grateful heart as I reflect on the past three days with my family. On Monday, my brother picked me up at the Newark airport, and we had dinner with our sister in Manhattan. This was the first time the three of us got together in over seven years. On Tuesday, three of us went to visit our mother at the Fellowship Village, her residence in the Senior Independent Living facility in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, about an hour outside of Manhattan. When we took a picture together, I realized that the last time we took a picture of four of us, my mother and her three children, was at our father’s memorial service in 2007.
Then today, my brother and I traveled two and half hours to Canaan, NY, to see my youngest child. The last time I saw them was Christmas in 2019, so the first greeting was a lingering tight hug. It was good. Due to the snowstorm, they had the day before, they were without power, but we still had a great visit; even though the house was cold, the visit was warm because of the company.
This time has made me think about the concept of family. Even though I had not seen various family members for years, love was the same. In Korean, the word “jung” refers to affection or love between individuals or within a group. The word is a noun, and it is used to say that this thing called love is present. I love the concept because this emphasizes the presence of love between people, not only the emotion we feel at the moment, but something tangible is there. Remembrances of our childhood years in Wisconsin reminded us of the bond of love that is still present between us.
Christians use the word “love” or the phrase “love one another” regularly and rather easily, but too often, the love is conditional. Conservative NOT-christians talk about loving their neighbors who believe differently as long as it is still possible to convert them. Their being nice is for the purposes of salesmanship, but not genuine concern for the people. However, once the neighbor declines to agree with their version of sectarianism when their neighbors are no longer a target for possible conversion, the love vanishes like the breath in a cold morning. The neighbor is labeled as “non-Christians” and are avoided as if they have a communicable disease. It is as though since they said no at that time, the person is now permanently lost to God. The sad part of this is that “non-Christians” can feel the hypocrisy. The neighbor is left to believe that the love of God is not real and God is made out to be a liar.
What if Christians “loved” others as if they were family members? How would our love for our neighbors look different if we did not see them only as a target for conversion but saw them the same way we see our biological brother or sister? If they were members of our family, we would not try to get them to change, but we accept them for who they are and enjoy them for who they are.
What would happen if we enabled them to experience what they would experience every day and forever as a part of the community of faith? Wouldn’t it be something if we decided that we would love our neighbors and not worry about how they disagreed with us? Wouldn’t it be something if Christians could love their neighbors as if they were already believers of similar faith?
The love between siblings was present when I met with my brother and sister. Can we show the same love when we see our friends, both in and out of the institutional church?