Colossians 3:12-14 – As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (NRSV)
Several months ago, on March 21, I wrote about the experiences of a group of college students from our church who went to Cite Soleil in Haiti to build houses. It was, for them, an unforgettable experience. It was not, however, all sweetness and light. In addition to the poverty and squalor that are the trademarks of Cite Soleil, there was hostility from the various gangs that control the neighbourhoods and did not welcome their presence. During the first days, they would often be greeted by shouts of, "Hey you! Hey you!" as they were driven to the work sites with their Haitian escorts. "Hey you!" was a phrase the Haitians had learned from the United Nations troops when they occupied Haiti in the mid-90's. It is not a friendly greeting, but rather an aggressive challenge. Our students were most definitely outsiders, and, in many ways, some very obvious, they clearly did not appear to belong where they were working.
The students, however, did not let this hostility poison their attitude towards the people or their mission. Instead of giving in to it, they continued to work on the houses, and more importantly, to try to make friends, especially with the children. On the third day, as they were riding to the worksites, they were greeted in Creole with shouts of, "My friends! My friends!" instead of the customary, "Hey you!" As they stopped to exchange greetings, they knew they had been accepted, despite all their differences, as a part of the community.
Such is the power of God's love, when given expression, to overcome the differences and hostilities that divide us, if we can follow Christ's commandment to meet hatred with love and greed with charity, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, let thy Holy Spirit fill our hearts and guide us in our actions, so that we may return fear with faith; anger with understanding, and hatred with love. Amen.