White Space Conversations #1: The politics of love, an alternative way by Andrew Norton

White Space Conversations* are a series of short papers by Andrew Norton (Moderator of the PCANZ) addressing issues of life, faith, order and imagination inviting generous, open, grace filled and robust conversations within our church.
This is the first in a series of six that will be posted each week on the moderators web page and on the PCANZ Facebook page

The word ‘politics’ is the coming together of a number of Greek words, polis- city, polites – citizen and politika – the affairs of the city.

There is a thread flowing through these words pointing toward something greater than the meaning each word contains in itself; the well-being, safety, protection, provision and benefit for everyone in the community; The creation of an ordered and civil society.  Notice the two words “order” and “civil”. Order is the way we structure ourselves (most commonly referred to as the ‘law of the land’) and civil is our way of being in our society (our values, beliefs and behaviours). You cannot have one without the other, each giving life to the other. The law cannot make us civil but civility creates civil laws for the well being of everyone.

Today politics has become a dirty word. It is synonymous with power, manipulation, entrenched positions, party spirits and back room deals. The goal of this kind of politics is to gain power by majority via a win / lose process of debate and decision making. Where this is not possible, the backup plan is compromise, where each side gives a little to the other. Compromise is usually lose / lose; a simple truce until the numbers swing back to the monopoly of the majority.

Sadly, the church is no different. Our politics of win / lose does not serve us in building a community of love and reconciliation where everyone is afforded the grace of belonging, well-being, protection and provision.

The provisions of our Book of Order 1.5(4) when talking of our life together states, The Church stands in opposition to any view that favours one culture over another as holding a monopoly on the interpretation or transmission of the Christian Gospel.” 

There is a better way; the politics of love!

This is a radical community where those on the margins are offered disproportional grace and hospitality. Even our enemies have a place at the table!

This is a counter cultural community where divisions are healed and reconciled.

This is what the politics of love look like . . . [1 Corinthians 13 The Message]
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

At the heart of a politics of love is heartbroken open in love, for a love that is not able feel the joy or pain of another is not capable of love or being loved.

This kind of love starts with deep listening. It is prepared to shut up and be silent long enough to hear beyond the words and feel the beating of another’s heart.

There is no attempt to convert to your way of thinking or to coerce to your way of being; this kind of love simply listens.  Love sees into another’s eyes, and is able to recognise joy and pain without saying a word.

This kind of love is beyond toleration of difference and dissent. It transcends grievance by its ability to call the very best out of self and other. It is the embodiment of the mystery of grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ who calls us into mission by loving one another.

For conversation
The politics of love has a curiosity that seeks to know rather than judge; rather than domination, love seeks a common ground of understanding, enabling the whole community to flourish.

The politics of love asks very different kinds of questions.

  • Where do you have your greatest doubts?
  • What in your own position troubles you?
  • When do you feel deeply listened to?
  • How might you offer the gift of listening to the other?
  • What do you like in the others view point?
  • What could be the benefit of seeing and understanding the other?
  • Are we not of interest to one another?
  • What would love call for?

It is a way of being in community with one another where community is civil.

It is a way of belonging and order in community that carries with it care and responsibility.

It is an invitation into relationship with one another that is beyond agreement and greater than all that could divide.

We are far from perfect but there are three things we can do now that will make all the difference; save us from ourselves and transform the world in which we live.

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” [1 Corinthians 13:13 The Message]

*White space is the gap between words and lines. It is the silent partner to the text; a voice not shouting to be heard. White Space Conversations are an invitation to conversations that go between the words and beyond the lines of the noisy centre.

3 thoughts on “White Space Conversations #1: The politics of love, an alternative way by Andrew Norton

  1. Book of Order 1.5(4) refers to cultures in the context of ethnicities – but I can delight in its wider application. It can really earth me – make me humble – to realise that where I stand (my culture) should have no automatic priority. And if I am to become part of a community across cultures (a gospel community) I must commit to the hard work of compassion: truly seeking to understand the other – every single other I may encounter.

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  2. Andrew, I would be interested in teasing this out a bit. I may have misunderstood, in which case, please clarify it for me.

    Of course, listening and caring – even for those with whom we disagree – are important but would Jesus recognise the type of love that you describe? Take for example the paragraph that says, “There is no attempt to convert to your way of thinking or to coerce to your way of being; this kind of love simply listens. Love sees into another’s eyes, and is able to recognise joy and pain without saying a word.”

    Jesus does attempt to convert – because He loves people. He doesn’t simply listen. He doesn’t see pain and remain silent.

    You might say that Jesus is different from us but would that mean that the love you describe is not the love He modelled and that we cannot be like Him?

    Jesus challenged some people in most confrontational ways. He didn’t simply listen and look into their eyes.

    I am not sure the love you describe was true of the prophets. They confronted, and pleaded with people to change – because they loved them. I don’t think this love was true of the apostles. They pleaded with people to repent of their sins – because they loved them. Biblical love does not simply watch people on their way to hell without being moved to plead, or confront, or whatever is necessary.

    You quote 1 Corinthians 13 but that passage says that “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.” Biblical love recognises evil when it sees it and it recognises truth. It delights in one but not the other. That makes biblical love discriminating.

    Biblical love does not assume that everyone is right and simply listen to them. Biblical love recognises when people are wrong and pleads with them. Biblical love tries to protect the vulnerable from what is wrong (e.g. false teaching.) Again, consider Jesus, the prophets and the apostles. To protect the vulnerable, this love must point out false teaching.

    I suspect that any so-called love that doesn’t care enough to take a stand, is not the love Jesus modelled and taught.

    Andrew, this article is an example of trying to convert people to your way of thinking. Does that make it unloving? I find myself a little confused.

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  3. I think you have understood me very well. There is not such thing as simply loving. Love is most powerful in transformation of another. Yes, somtimes love is silent and at other time speaks. We need to know the difference.

    The cross is the most powerful act of the silence and love of God.

    Look at the silence of the father in Luke 15. Love was always present even at a silent distance. Love did even run after the son to correct him. Look at what breaks the fathers heart – two brothers who will not be reconciled.

    Yes, we can always quote verse to fit our position – there are plenty to choose from. What if we just got on with the task of loving one another with the radical love of Jesus – might that make a greater difference in the world?

    Not trying to convert anyone to my way.

    We all need to point to the way of love. That was the summary of what Jesus lived and said. That is where we start.

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