Whenever we speak in public about large-scale problems that affect a myriad of people, we must speak in code. But coded language is useless to the extent that it is abstract. You cannot conduct a relationship with another person in terms of the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, or biblical theology, or women’s liberation philosophy.

At Westwinds we tell others we are here to “heal the world.” Yet, how can anyone actually do anything to heal the entire planet? The suggestion that anyone could do so is preposterous (short of the total annihilation of the human race), since we are the primary cause of the world’s sickness.

Large-scale solutions to large-scale problems serve mostly to distract people from the small, private problems that they may, in fact, have the power to solve.

If we describe our problems accurately, they are all private and small (at least initially).

We must tell new stories of good homes, good neighborhoods, and good friendships that reverse the trend of destruction. If we don’t, we’re left only with the meddling that comes from theory and bureaucracy. We might change our principles, our thoughts, and our words, but these are changes made with air. Our lives go on unchanged.

Our understandable desire to heal the world must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence. And we can only do this with love, since love is never abstract.

We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to love much more than we do.

Love is not propositional truth, but prepositional truth. It is truth revealed through our treatment of others. Love exists from me to you, between us, and is pressed forward into the world as a manifestation of our commitment to one another.

Of course it’s not wrong to speak of healing the world. It’s useful language, especially when we’re addressing our congregation.

But it’s better to talk about loving your neighbor.

It’s better to remind people to be good to those they know and to those they’re near.

It’s better to ask for forgiveness, and to give it, to forget old offenses and celebrate glad tidings with a friend.

After all, if these aren’t the manifestations of God’s desire to heal the world, what are?