THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
By TERRY CAGLE
I really like my neighborhood. I feel very blessed to live just north of Hardin-Simmons on Hickory Street. I love the fourth Monday of each month when we have a “Neighborhood Dinner” at our house. It’s always a great time as neighbors come and bring something to go with the burgers or taco stack-ups or whatever my amazing wife decides to fix. I love to welcome any and all to a time of good food, good conversation, good laughs! All blessed by a good God who loves every single person!
I’m thankful for this community. I think the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken in a 1956 speech given at a rally following the Supreme Court decision desegregating buses in Montgomery, Alabama, describes it well. He said, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” I believe that each month I get to witness a miracle in the hearts of my neighbors as we are transformed by God into his beloved community. Or to borrow the words of Jesus, we are transformed into the kingdom of God. As we gather around the table we are all beloved and all a part of the kingdom coming on earth as in heaven.
To be among the “beloved” starts with an understanding and belief that we are the beloved of God. And amazingly, God knows everything about us—the good, the bad, the ugly—and loves us! I love how Henri Nouwen puts it: “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’”
To be beloved is to be committed to mutual regard and concern for others. The beloved is committed to empathy and care for others. And right now, especially in an election year, this has been glaringly deficient in our country. The beloved should be loving. In a beloved community there is a radically inclusive spirit that manifests itself in love for others as the norm. It is a community that is seeking to build and restore right relationships. It is a community where the needs of the most vulnerable are recognized and prioritized, because the great moral test of any society is how the most vulnerable people are doing—the children, the stranger, and the marginalized. How are the people who are constantly pushed to the side, the back, the margin?
Here’s how the beloved community is described at The King Center, in Atlanta, Georgia:
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigoty and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.
You are beloved. I am beloved. So are all “those people.” In the Beloved Community it is we the people. And every person, all of whom are made in the image of God, is equally valued, respected, dignified, and inherently valued. The Beloved Community is love being lived unconditionally.
Terry Cagle is executive director of Connecting Caring Communities