The 2016 presidential election made apparent something that few in the United States fully realized: ours is a divided nation.
The nature and depth of those divisions surprised many, too. To express it that simply is indeed an understatement, I know. At the same time, as participants in Women of the ELCA we have all agreed to come together for a common purpose. That purpose is found in our constitutions. Like me, you have recited the purpose statement many, many times. You know the words.
As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts, support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.
Regardless of which political party you follow or candidate for whom you voted, as a participant in Women of the ELCA you acknowledge that you and your sisters have been created in the image of God. You acknowledge that Jesus has called you and your sisters in discipleship. You acknowledge that the Holy Spirit empowers you and your sisters to live as disciples of Christ.
Based on those significant foundations, you and your sisters have agreed, just as I have, to engage in ministry and action and to promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society and the world. How do you and I promote that healing and wholeness in our divided American society? Jesus has the answers.
[bctt tweet=”How do you and I promote that healing and wholeness in our divided American society? ” username=”womenoftheelca”]
Jesus tells us to begin by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Our neighbors are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Christian. Our neighbors are Black, Asian, African, Latino, Middle Eastern. Our neighbors are straight, gay, trans and questioning. Our neighbors are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Our neighbors are men, women, young and old, new to this country or here for generations. You see, everyone is our neighbor, and Jesus has clearly instructed us to love our neighbors.
What does that love look like? Jesus tells us that, too. If we see someone hungry, we are to feed them. If someone needs clothing, we give them clothes. We are to invite in and care for the stranger. We must look after those who are sick, those who are imprisoned, those who are homeless. In many examples from Jesus’ life, he shows us how to live out that love, always being with and caring for those that society scorns or holds in contempt (e.g., tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, widows).
So, sisters, if we are living out our commitment to promote healing and wholeness in the church, society and the world, as disciples of Christ, we will
- “help and support them (our neighbors) in all of life’s needs,” to quote Martin Luther’s explanation of the Fifth Commandment;
- “help (our neighbor) to improve and protect their property and income” (Seventh Commandment);
- “come to (our neighbor’s) defense, speak well of them and interpret everything they do in the best possible light” (Eighth Commandment); and
- “be of help and service (to our neighbor) in keeping what is theirs” (Ninth Commandment).
We will “claim and practice an anti-racist identity and actively seek full participation and shared power in determining its mission, structure, constituency, policies, and practices.” That’s from our churchwide constitution, and I encourage you to read the entire article, Article III, that describes our principles of organization.
We will speak out against acts of bias and hate. We will address sexist, misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-LBGTQ actions and comments. In doing these things, we will be disciples of Jesus who are promoting healing and wholeness. Some of us will do this critical work within our own families or workplaces. Others of us will do this work in schools and businesses. Some of us will confront politicians, whether local, state or national. Many of us will pray for our sisters as together we support each other in our callings.
This is what it means to be part of Women of the ELCA. We can do no less.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.