The Unenforceable Obligations of Love

As I have watched the US election play out- and really the political landscape in Canada and abroad as well- it has been hard not to despair that politics offers us no hope. And while I acknowledge the importance of politics and our need to be engaged (responsibly and realistically) in it, I have come to believe that we give it too much primacy in our attempts to change the world.

While considering these points, I was reminded of part of a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he addressed the reality of legal segregation in America. Note, I have changed unnecessarily gendered language in the following quote:

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated… Desegregation will break down the legal barriers and bring people together physically, but something must touch the hearts and souls of people so that they will come together spiritually because it is natural and right. A vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws will bring an end to segregated public facilities, which are barriers to a truly desegregated society, but it cannot bring an end to fear, prejudice, pride, and irrationality, which are barriers to a truly integrated society.
“These dark and demonic responses will be removed only as people are possessed by the invisible, inner law which etches on their hearts the conviction that all people are our siblings and that love is humankind’s most potent weapon for personal and social transformation. True integration will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.”

Whether we are addressing governmental policy or LGBTQ+ inclusive theology, the wisdom of Dr. King’s words resonate. While laws and doctrines can (at times) serve to provide structure and safety in our pursuit of flourishing, the transformation of hearts and minds is essential for genuine reconciliation, healing, and wholeness as one people created in the Divine image.

So we are left with a powerful yet difficult question:

What does it mean for us to be true neighbours, willing obedient to the unenforceable obligations of love?

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