On the first Sunday in February, I was involved in a discussion about two questions asked by Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered by saying, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus answered in Matthew 16:17-19 “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth will be lost in heaven.”
This incident and Jesus’ words are stunning and reveal the power of God and Jesus. Scripture also teaches about the importance of love.
First, the assurance of God’s love can be found in many verses including 1 John 4:16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” John 15:9-10 reveals Christ’s love, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
The second point is the expectation that we love and care for each other and is recorded in 1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
February is important for two reasons: It is the month with a love day, Valentine’s Day, and the month to celebrate Black History as officially designated in 1986 as National Black History Month.
To celebrate these two things in the same month might be seen as irony. One could ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” After highlighting the importance of the Black History Month, I will dig a bit deeper to connect the role of healing love.
Celebrating Black History includes an effort to share the African-American history and the contributions of those who were brought to America by force.
We are still facing the lingering impact of slavery. The Civil Rights Movement changed the laws, but did not change the hearts and minds of some people. The country has made some progress in honoring the constitutional rights of all people, but prejudicial behavior is still a sad reality. This celebration provides an opportunity for people to understand that the scars are deep, but that the will to become the country whose people value diversity and equity is well worth the effort.
It is interesting to note that many of the people who were violently treated over the years were devoted to their religion, and many continue to uphold their beliefs. Contemporary Pew surveys of religious beliefs and practices of African-Americans reveal that 88% believe God exists; 87% belong to a religious group; 76% pray each day; and 53% attend church at least once a week.
Perhaps the belief that love was given by God could serve as the foundation for the moral imperatives to change more hearts and minds.
Langston Hughes wrote, “When peoples care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul.”
With a change of heart based on love and as commanded by Jesus, people could be open to learning more about the suffering caused by slavery and to understanding the strength and will of these Americans who have made and continue to make significant contributions in all areas of life in our country.
The events planned for the Black History Month will provide the opportunity to explore the contributions.
Those who are interested can read books written by talented writers, see plays and movies written directed, and performed by artists, listen to the works of talented composers and performing artists.
May all remember to pray for the healing power of love and respect. “O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.” Langston Hughes
On Feb. 14, remember 1 John 4:19, ‘We love because He first loved us.”