It’s simply about love

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

By Res Spears

One of my favorite things about Virginia is its crazy weather. Of course, that’s also one of my biggest gripes about living here.

Whether the weather is one of the selling points for the commonwealth or an inducement to pack my bags and head south has a lot to do with the temperature at any given moment, and during the past week or so we have seen exactly how wild the thermometer’s fluctuations can be.

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Thursday was a day with temperatures in the 70s — my little convertible’s third top-down day of the week. But just one week earlier, we had the lowest temps of the year, with the thermometer struggling to rise above freezing for a couple of days.

I had the honor of working intake for the CAPS Night Stay program during the coldest of those nights, as our church hosted the program’s guests for the week, in partnership with a number of other churches in our part of Suffolk.

The Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk is one of the great successes of the church in Suffolk. Other ecumenical organizations have tried to bring churches together for various tasks through the years, but none have had the same kind of success as CAPS, and, significantly, most have failed miserably.

What makes this organization different from them, in my opinion, is that it has recognized that the Gospel’s call for social justice is anything but political.

Jesus has a heart for the oppressed. They are the people He loves; they are made in the image of God. But here’s a hard truth for those who pursue the sacred causes of social justice from a political perspective: Jesus loves the oppressors, too. And both oppressor and oppressed are equally in need of redemption.

Neither side of the political aisle has a corner on social justice. We are called to protect unborn babies AND care for orphans. We are called to demonstrate mercy AND pursue justice.

What would Jesus do? Well, Jesus would — and does — do it all. He holds justice and mercy and anger and patience and love and even hatred in perfect, holy balance. We, on the other hand, have trouble demonstrating a God-honoring understanding of even one of those characteristics, much less showing that we can juggle them all at one time without missing a catch.

And that’s why I like CAPS, especially the Night Stay program. For a week, we simply opened the underused fellowship hall of our church, laid out some air mattresses, set up a rotating schedule of food, greeting and monitoring responsibilities and allowed people to come out of the cold.

A man who was trying to trick Jesus one day asked Him what was the greatest commandment, and Jesus replied by giving him two: Love God and love your neighbor.

The point was that the two commands are actually two sides of the same coin. We cannot truly love God if we do not love our neighbors.

And loving our neighbors — without regard for political matters or social policies or anything other than the simple need to get people off the streets on the coldest night of the year — is what the Night Stay program is about.

It’s simply about love, and that makes it very much a representation of Jesus Christ in the community. I’m so glad we got to participate in it this year.

The Rev. Res Spears is the interim pastor at Liberty Spring Christian Church. He is a student at Dallas Theological Seminary and a former editor of this paper.