You cannot love an abstraction

Sometimes I am asked: “Do you like (–or know—or trust–) the African?” My answer is always, “No.” I do not like the African: but I love many Africans very dearly. I do not know or trust the African: but I know and trust hundreds of Africans as my closest friends.

You cannot love an abstraction: neither can you trust it: you can only know and love a person.

Fr. Trevor Huddleston, C. R., Naught for Your Comfort (London: Collins, 1956), p. 247.

Words from an English-born Anglican priest who was himself loved and known and trusted by many Africans, including Desmond Tutu. Words that are relevant even today as we think about relations between groups of human beings. Ultimately, it is only in the face-to-face interaction of people who speak for themselves that the work of justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation is possible. This is a most direct corollary of the doctrine of the Incarnation and the doctrine of the human being in the image and likeness of God. Our faith calls us to put love into practice face to face, no matter what the cost. And, it is why the work of building human community, however messy and inefficient it may seem at times, is always worth the time and effort it takes.

The Rev. Bill Carroll serves as rector of Emmanuel Parish, Shawnee in the Diocese of Oklahoma. His new parish blog is Emmanuel Shawnee Blog

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