By Whylie Cook, ELCA Advocacy 2018 Summer Intern

Over this past summer, in response to this zero-tolerance policy, our office started to use the #FreedToLove as a faith-filled response to “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). “Faith is active in love; love calls for justice in the relationships and structures of society. It is in grateful response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ that this church carries out its responsibility for the well-being of society and the environment” (ELCA Social Statement Church in Society). As Lutherans, we are committed to loving our neighbor because as we love our neighbor, we love God.

Although we often joke about Lutherans always avoiding the first two rows of pews in worship, when it comes to living into being freed to love, Lutherans have started to move up closer to the Gospel. In response to the policy of “zero-tolerance”, I have witnessed the incredible force of love demonstrated by Lutherans across this country. We have shown up, rallied, marched, and advocated all over this country for just immigration reform and to resist policies that separate children and imprison families.

Here are just a few of the ways I have been freed to love my neighbor this summer:

  • rallying and working with interfaith partners to respond to the immoral policies of family detention and child separation.  
  • putting my body on the line besides simply posting on social media and drafting letters.  
  • coming together, young and old, advocating for migrant families because of our care for God’s sacred unit. 
  •  financially supporting and volunteering with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services who provide direct service to our migrant neighbors.
  • standing alongside Muslim siblings at the Supreme Court of the United States because our faith does not cause us to discriminate, but instead, to love.  
  • learning to pause, listen to the needs of my neighbor, and then advocate accordingly.

The other week, I was deeply moved helping film a video of interfaith leaders speaking against child separation and family detention. Amidst the constant buzz and desensitization from the media as well as the promotion of the idea that this is “justifiable” or “normal”, I never really had a chance to fully comprehend how our government was ripping apart families, incarcerating children, while also somehow misplacing them and failing to provide for their basic human needs.

However, in a single voice, a voice of love, the voice of God through religious leaders convicted the heart of America. The world God created was created in love and has freed us in Jesus to love. The normalization of criminalization and “othering” is not God. Putting conditions of whether or not to love, honor, and uphold another’s humanity is the antithesis to God’s unconditional love. Yes, it has been a long summer and we have not yet finished the race, but just like God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, our love and advocacy for our neighbors should be steadfast, never let up, never cease, nor grow weary. I continue to be inspired each and every day when people asking me what individuals and synods can do to better live out their baptismal calling to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. We are freed to love. Let us do just that.