This clip from the Ghandi movie is incredibly inspiring. The moral authority of the British Empire shifted as a result of this non-violent action.
I am coming more and more to the conclusion that in this community, filled with it's brokenness, in fact in all communities, the most needed response is love. Love is our most powerful weapon. Love is the only force behind true healing and restoration. Love looks prejudice, hatred, violence, indifference and injustice in the eye and overcomes.
When we respond with love we disarm the enemy. In fact, love means both you and your enemy win because it transforms you both. Clever arguments never bring lasting change because true change is not rooted in our heads but in our hearts. Threats of violence or force also does not bring true change because they only control the external. Love works deep down in our hearts. Love challenges selfishness. Love breaks into the darkest places. Love motivates sacrifice and releases joy.
Of all the weapons Christians have, unless they are used with love they are ineffective. Love ALWAYS overcomes. Prayer, testimony, even the word of God not used with love is formulaic, dry and ineffective.
So if Love is so powerful, why do we not see more of it?
The greatest challenge I find in releasing love is the tendency of my heart to become hard. When this happens I cannot respond in love. To love effectively, therefore, we need to guard is our hearts. We need soft hearts for the work we are called to do because pure love can only flow through soft hearts. We guard our hearts by being ready to forgive, by living at peace with our fellow man and through intimacy with God.
As we have loved people we have seen them begin to flourish, sometime even miraculously. I think of Sandile, the homeless guy who now calls me his father and Trish his mother. On our first encounter with him, he threatened to kill Trish. Love changed that, it changed him and it has been changing us.
So what challenge are you facing... ask this question... What would love do?
1 Corinthians 13 v 4 to 8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
So last week saw our whole family joining the church throngs representing many different congregations, which gathered at the 2012 Equip Conference held at Cornerstone Church in Bedfordview, from Wednesday 3rd to Friday 5th October. Except that this time we joined rich and poor by bringing our 2 special Zimbabwean friends and their daughter and small baby girl( Jethro, Thandiwe, Gugu and Triumph) who live at the end of Eloff Street in Joburg CBD in the old Supa Quick warehouse.
This was the building we moved about 34 families to last year in September when their lives were physically threatened by others living with them at Doornfontein Chambers, which was at the time, very dark, very dirty, and an extremely dangerous place to live (even to visit!) with rats running in and out of every room. Their new accommodation at Supa Quick has electricity, ablutions and is a lot cleaner but the rooms are very small. Thandiwe cooks, sleeps and lives with her family in a 2.5 by 3m room made out of office partitioning and with no ceiling.
So what a joy it was to include them in a church conference of this kind where they could have a break from the very difficult conditions they are used to, and meet people who could become new friends! And, of course, get a rich diet of biblical teaching at the same time! In addition, we were able to reconnect Thandiwe with the occupational therapist from Hillbrow Clinic, Nicole Mattarelli, who was also at Equip, and who has subsequently taken over the clinic care of Thandiwe's 3 month old baby, who has special needs.
Seeing this family in the comfortable surroundings of Cornerstone Church, well-fed and cared for, and Thandiwe in a very well-equipped and even luxurious mother's feeding room, made me appreciate the dignity we were able to give their family, knowing the living space they were returning to each day. It also made me realise again that many people do not choose their poverty but, like Jethro and Thandiwe, are often victims of gross injustice. What has happened in Zimbabwe has literally left millions of precious people, just like you and me, abandoned, living in a foreign country, excluded from access to opportunities.
This week I saw that very small acts of kindness in real friendship with the poor is a key to bringing hope.
In the words of the old 1980's Nashua advert: "Makes you think, doesn't it?!"