A Visible Expression of Love

By: Lauren Cumbie
On Behalf of Natalie Adame
| August 1, 2020 |

Enjoy this article from Natalie Adame, one of the 5 sister writers from the Knots and Embers blog, where she discusses the importance of diversity, understanding, and the gospel.

Honestly, I was appalled. I was sitting in the passenger seat as my Hispanic husband tried to explain to the University security guard that he had forgotten his wallet in our other vehicle. We were dropping something off to my sisters at their University and had to check-in at the security gate. Alex (my hubs) had a long, hard day at work and had hopped in the car with me to rush to the school to see my sisters (we were most likely late for something, lol).

All the times before, I had driven my car past security and had given a simple wave and they would nod me in without a second glance. This particular time Alex offered to drive because I was pregnant and exhausted and had a tiring day at work. We drove up and I expected security to wave us on by like usual.

The white male security guard was quick to slow us down and asked us to pull over to the side. He asked for Alex’s name and license. Alex shared his full name, Alexandro Adame, and explained that he had forgotten his wallet. The security guard gave him a long, hard stare after hearing his full name and getting a good look at him.

In a very judgmental tone, the guard retorted, “I shouldn’t even let you come in, you’re not a student and don’t have your ID.” I started to take offense. Especially after I watched the security guard wave in the two white guys with confederate flags flying high in the bed of their trucks. I noticed that they didn’t have student stickers on their trucks either. I was ANGRY. Alex respectfully told the officer that he would wait by the security gate while I drove inside to see my sisters if that would make him feel more comfortable. The officer thought for a moment but ended up taking my ID and allowing us in “this time.”

I WAS LIVID. Surprised with my sudden burst of anger as we drove away, Alex asked me why I was so upset. I told him that this guard had not treated him with basic human respect and looked at him with such skepticism just because of his ethnicity. What he said next stuck with me, “Well that’s just the way things are…. it’s fine Nat, it’s not a big deal.” 

The Reality

Bias is real. Prejudice is real. Racial profiling is REAL. RACISM IS REAL. 

This is not the first incident where Alex has been treated differently because of his ethnicity and culture. This is also not the first time someone I love has been treated differently for their skin color. In light of recent events, I have realized the very REAL and dire need for me to not hesitate in being loud on this topic.

I have Asian friends who have had ugly remarks made to them while grocery shopping, as people shove their face masks harder onto their faces. I have had Black friends who live with an underlying fear for their sons and husbands when they’re driving late into the night and stop to get gas or happen to get pulled over by law enforcement. I’ve had Hispanic family members shamed and judged for not “knowing enough English,” and have been passed up for promotions simply because English isn’t their first language.

The few realities out of a long list of experiences that I have shared have left me outraged and angry, but mostly broken-hearted. I am broken-hearted for our oppressed and fellow image-bearers. I am broken-hearted for the centuries and centuries of prejudice, racism, and outright disrespect to groups of people. I am broken-hearted for the sin that has gripped onto hearts and spread like poison. I am broken-hearted for my own sin of past inaction and hesitancy to speak loudly for the sanctity of life on this matter. I am broken-hearted for the lack of unity within the global church family. I am broken-hearted for the ignorance of white believers.

When will we decide to take part in CHANGING the narrative of hurt and injustice? HOW will we take part in this action and change? 

Thankfully, we serve a God that is in the work of TRANSFORMATION, RECONCILIATION, and REDEMPTION. He has placed a specific call on the Church as a whole to model Him. This should be our daily mission and lifestyle. What does this even look like in REAL life? 

From the time I was young, my parents were intentional in finding ways to open our eyes to the people that surrounded us. We found ourselves celebrating and discovering culture at the annual International Festival, making friends with our local Mexican Restaurant owners, and ministering as a family in the inner city of Indianapolis. We would learn about missionaries all over the world and the people they were serving. We were challenged to think deeply as we observed Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month.

The heart behind what we were being taught was spoken by Jesus himself, found in the gospel of Matthew: “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT)

Regardless of culture, skin color, or background, my parents exemplified the importance of extending kindness, love, and friendship to all people. Our love for God should spill out onto others and how we care for them. We shouldn’t simply love DESPITE differences, but BECAUSE of our differences. We were taught to celebrate and work to understand the other person. While my parents were intentional, there were still gaps in our understanding and connection to those who had different ethnic backgrounds.

A Community of Love

Moving to middle-of-nowhere Liberal, KS was the most beautiful culture shock to my system. Coming from a town that was seldom diverse to a town where more than half of the population is Hispanic, was quite intriguing for me. As my father pastored the First Baptist Church there, it became very apparent that the Hispanic ministry was separate from the Church as a whole. This very much reflected the town and how two major ethnic groups lived among one another. This is not God’s heart for His people.

Being immersed in the Hispanic community opened my eyes to the reality of what many of my Hispanic friends dealt with and had to worry about on a day to day basis. As I immersed myself into this culture, I was met with new tastes, new sounds, and a new language, but most importantly a people who treated me like family. When I walked into their lives ready to initiate friendships, they welcomed me with so much generosity and love.

Not only was it important to be immersed in the culture and initiate friendships, but it was vital that I embraced what made them who they were as a people. The food, the music, the joking and laughter, the language, and the way of connection. It all created a space of acceptance and unity. Loving your neighbor cannot happen if you’re too concerned with your own comfortability and convenience. Loving your neighbor can only come from a heart that is dedicated to humility. 

Liberal, Kansas (but mostly God) gave me my best friend and love of my life. Marrying Alexandro Adame has been the best adventure. I believe I have been given such a gift to have married interculturally. We are able to showcase the beauty of experiencing unity as we express our diversity. We have been given the opportunity to experience and extend more grace in approaching normal life events in light of deep-rooted culture. We have learned and are still learning the beauty of being quick in repentance and humility in misunderstanding.

A few years into marriage, Alex and I moved to Mobile, Alabama. Again, I was met with cultural differences. Most of my coworkers were black women in whom I found family and friends. They welcomed me into their family circle and for that, I will always be grateful. It proved to be vital in building our friendship that I again would have an attitude of humility, and a willingness to immerse myself in their culture and lives (even when it felt different, unnatural, or inconvenient).

It was important that I approached our friendship initiating kindness and love, a heart to empathize and embrace black culture. It was important to have uncomfortable conversations about race, skin color, and white privilege, and to enter these discussions with an openness to LISTEN, learn, and adapt. I did NOT by any means do this perfectly, but I believe that God guided and cultivated a connection that I deeply cherish.

Oftentimes our black brothers and sisters can feel like their “presence is accepted but not their perspective or priorities.” It was my goal to prove that this was not the case. I desired for the friends who made me feel so loved, seen, and heard to have those feelings reciprocated. I wanted my love for God to spill out in the way I loved them. 

An Expression of Love

Matthew 22:37-40 brings our sole mission as believers to the forefront. Jesus point blank confronts the religious leaders of His day with the most important command, one which every other command and the gospel itself hinges upon: to love God with all that we are and love one another. What Jesus is saying here is that one cannot go without the other. So, we must ask ourselves this question first, am I whole-heartedly devoted and surrendered to God as my Savior?

In response to Jesus’s work for me and in me, through His death on the cross for my sin and resurrection from the grave to relinquish my debt before God, this should produce a love for Him and devotion to Him with the TOTALITY of who I am. Am I committed to this day in and day out? The ONLY way we can live out the second part of this command is through relationship with God. God produces a real and genuine and supernatural love in our soul to lavish upon others.

We must have communion with God and a willing heart for Christ to work this out in us. In 1 John 4:7-11 it says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” (CSB version) Our whole-hearted, whole-being love for God should spill out onto others and how we care for them.

This insert from a Piper sermon depicts how loving God affects our love for each other: “Loving others is the visible expression, the practical demonstration, and therefore the fulfillment of what the Old Testament is all about. So, there is a sense in which the second commandment (to love your neighbor) is the visible goal of the whole Word of God. It’s not as though loving God is less important; rather loving God is made visible and full in practically and sacrificially loving others. I think that is why the second commandment stands by itself when the New Testament says that love fulfills the law.” [1]

Christ humbled Himself, embraced humanity, immersed Himself among our sin and lives, and initiated friendship with us. As image-bearers, as BELIEVERS, we MUST MIRROR HIM. God requires unity, and it is our mission and role to live out this love.

So, I leave you with this last question. Are we loving others in a way that is selfless and sacrificial? My prayer is that God would make us very aware of others in our differences of culture and ethnicity. That we wouldn’t only be aware of others, but also our need for Him, that we will be transformed by His love, and by this, we would spill love out on those who surround us….especially the oppressed. We are in fact, on a mission for unity. 

[1] John Piper, “Race and the Christian”, March 28 2012

This post was originally shared here at knotsandembers.com. If you have a submission that you would like to share, send it our way!

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