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1 March 2021
It’s time to treat all people with the respect and dignity they deserve
Words Amanda Hart
2020 was a year that seemed to turn everything upside down. We had to find new ways to carry out our work, new ways to connect with others, new ways to live lives of purpose and meaning – all from within the four walls of our houses, for the most part.
The COVID-19 pandemic was the main performer in the 2020 scene of our lives – it dictated where we could go, who we could see, the latest fashions in facial clothing (read: face masks) – but there was so much more going on behind the scenes, occasionally taking the spotlight for a brief moment before being hidden once again behind the COVID-19 mask. Injustice, oppression, suffering, hate for fellow humankind. This can’t be what God intended for the world, can it?
One of the things that stood out for me during the year was the truth that we should already know – we are all equal. COVID-19 did not discriminate by race, gender, social or economic status. We were all affected in some way. For me, this was a reminder that all of humankind was created in the image of God; all of humankind was created with dignity and should therefore be treated with respect; all of humankind has the right to feel safe and loved.
Through reflecting on these thoughts, I was drawn to the words of Jesus in the Bible, in Matthew chapter 22, verses 37-40: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (New Revised Standard Version).
What does this have to do with social justice? Well, as my thought process continued, I was reminded of a phrase I heard a number of years ago spoken by philosopher Dr Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice is loving your neighbour in public. Treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Take some time to imagine it. Think about what would happen if we were to acknowledge and accept the inherent value, dignity and worth of our neighbour. And I’m not just talking about the neighbour next door who looks like us, talks like us and likes the same things we do. I’m talking about the neighbour who is ‘other’ to us.
Just imagine how we, as individuals, could be transformed if we did this. Think about the flow-on effect and the impact your actions would have on others. Think about how we, as a community, could be transformed if we started looking at each other and treating each other in such a way that we reflected Jesus’ words to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
It’s time to stop imagining it. It’s time to stop talking about it. It’s time to do it. It’s time to show our love for others in public. Let me leave you with these words from the Bible, in the book of 1 John chapter 3, verse 18, “Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds” (The Passion Translation).
Captain Amanda Hart is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Victoria.