Guatemala 2016 | Compelled By Love

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A nightclub in Orlando. An airport in Istanbul. A bakery in Dhaka. A crowded street in Baghdad. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. And now today I have to add a peaceful protest in Dallas. Sadly, by the time that this is posted there will likely be more names and more places. Lives ending, families shattering, communities unraveling.

At my church’s annual summer outreach this week I looked into the faces of two sweet children whose hard-working and fiercely protective father was picked up by immigration just a few days earlier. Undocumented, he will be deported soon. They don’t know if or when they will see him again. A family that’s been living on the edge with very little margin, now broken apart.

Today as I contemplated these events, both close by and on the other side of the globe, I found myself asking some questions. “Who wins here? Who benefits from all this death, destruction, division? Who thrives on the hate, violence, and injustice?” The answer to these questions points to the intersection of social justice and Christian spirituality. Jesus said that there is one whose purpose is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). This is who takes delight in the current atrocities and this is the one with whom we fight in the battle for justice. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers of this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

There are both human and non-human combatants in these battles, but the ultimate power lies in the very real realm of the spirit. If I am going to participate with God in the struggle for justice I must be equipped and prepared to confront powers both seen and unseen. Failure to do so in either realm is like spitting on a forest fire. In their book The God of Intimacy and Action Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling declare, “What we do and how we pray so interact and feed each other that there is no way to adequately maintain either without the other.”

This holistic understanding of life, embracing both the contemplative and the active is challenging and nurturing me. I am being compelled by the love of God to engage the world around me. I am finding the courage to speak and act for justice, but not out of a place of anger or frustration, but rather from a place of centeredness in Holy Trinity. Spiritual disciplines like silence and solitude are forming me more and more into my true self, created in the image of God. That is why I love the pilgrimage that I am on in the MSFL program and am looking forward to our transition from academic work to field work, and continuing the heart work, as we journey to Guatemala.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.32.28 PMTim pastors a small country church in rural Vermont where family, community and creation all come together to help shape a way of following Christ and provide ample space for reflecting and writing about this journey. Read more of Tim’s writings on his blog: timjfranklin.wordpress.com