‘Why I believe love can defeat poverty’
The first African-American presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, known for his supercharged preaching and political activism.
It will be remembered as a sermon that captivated millions. In a rousing address at the royal wedding on Saturday, Bishop Michael Curry said that love could change the world. Here’s how…
The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”
There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise it. There’s power, power in love.
If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved.
“Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.”
Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.
Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives.
Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.
A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world — and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.
I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says there is a balm in Gilead... a healing balm, something that can make things right.
They said: “If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.”
Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead! They got it. He died to save us all.
That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.
If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine.
Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way — unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room for all of God’s children.
Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family.
When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.
My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.
This is an adapted extract from the royal wedding sermon by Bishop Michael Curry on Saturday, May 19.
- Do you have to be religious to believe in the kind of love that Bishop Curry is talking about?
- Imagine, as Curry suggests, that you are founding a new nation “where love is the way”. In groups, come up with some founding principles and laws that its citizens must abide by.
- Dr Martin Luther King Jr
- The minister and civil rights activist was an early embodiment of what is now known as “liberation theology”, the idea that Christianity and the church should be used to improve the lives of ordinary people — originally the poor, but also ethnic minorities and, more recently, LGBT people.
- A city in Israel where Jesus is believed to have grown up.
- Antebellum South
- The word “antebellum” means “before the war”. In the US, it specifically refers to the time before the Civil War (which ended in 1865) when slavery was still legal in the southern states.
- Christian songs by African-American slaves, which drew on the Bible’s teachings while also describing their suffering.
- Balm in Gilead
- There Is A Balm in Gilead is a traditional spiritual. Gilead is a region in what is now Jordan, and the “balm of Gilead” is a medicine referenced in the Old Testament. It is now used as a metaphor for salvation.
- Down by the riverside
- This is the name of another spiritual which can be traced back to before the American Civil War.