By Lauryl Hebenstreit
I’m in love with August.
Maybe I am partial to the month because of its close proximity to Fall. Maybe it is because eight is my favorite number. But truthfully, I am in love with August because ever since my first day at UNL, August has meant new faces, new explorations, new knowledge, and new friends.
I work as a resident assistant in Schramm Hall on city campus. August in Schramm means the beginning of one of the best things in my life: welcoming new students and affirming that they belong here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When I signed up for this job, I was confirming on paper that not only do I love the newness of August, but I also have a deep love for people.
But August of this year was not the same. September will not be the September I know. October, November, December and maybe the months after that will not be what I want them to be. I will not throw a floor Halloween party. I will not hear about the freshmen girls eating turkey with their families. We will not sit together as a community and cringe at Hallmark Christmas movies.
For every ounce of love I feel, I am served a double heaping of sadness and hate for 2020.
Ceaselessly, I find myself shouting to any being that can hear me, “is love enough to conquer fear and hate?”
A few weeks ago, I read Matthew 22: 35-40 as a part of my Lutheran Center Hives meeting. I am not a scripture loving Christian. Despite my best efforts, reading scripture never suited me, and I certainly was not looking for its comfort in the darkness of this past year. But, this passage was a reminder that to love and be loved is fundamental to faith. To love one another as we love the Lord is nourishment for our world. This passage does not put stipulations on who is worthy enough of the title neighbor. Instead, the category of neighbor is open to all, regardless of race, gender identity, faith, or socioeconomic status.
If you would’ve asked me a week ago, I would explain this experience with scripture as a one off but God was at work again when this week, as part of our Wednesday night service, I read 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8. This fairly common passage outlines that not only is love essential to a Christian heart, but it is the very thing that has the power to conquer all else.
But the power of love is useless if we refuse to engage it meaningfully.
If loving your neighbor means hating others, then it is not love. If loving your neighbor does not mean all of God’s creation, then I certainly do not want any part in it. If love is used as the mold for a tool of destruction or condemnation, then it is not love
But to love our neighbor is to love our neighbor unconditionally. We must not do it for our own profit. We must not expect love in return. We must dare to love even when the world and its leaders tell us differently.
Jesus so radically loved the world that he rebelled against world powers to preach a Gospel of hope and everlasting joy to all the people only to be crucified for his compassion, to be condemned for love.
To love each other in this way is to conquer fear, to conquer hate, to be the ember in the burning bush, the light in a year of darkness.