A Hesed Manifesto
“As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.’ … love one another as if your lives depended on it.” 1 Peter 1: 14-16, 22b. The Message
The multi-layered Hebrew word “hesed” describes the character of God’s love for his creations. Hesed is partially encompassed by the English terms “lovingkindness” and “mercy.” There are many similar words in the Old Testament attempting to give the fuller meaning of God’s love and God’s loving nature. A simple working definition comes from Michael Card: “When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.”[i]
Acknowledged: Humans display no lasting wisdom to guide this world. We live sin’s arrogance in believing we each know what is right. History shows our repeated failures. Only the God who made us is able to guide our affairs from abundant hesed—his merciful lovingkindness.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way…” Isaiah 53:6. “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:9-11.
Acknowledged: God created us for relationship—with him and with each other. Every aspect of our joys and sorrows, opportunities gained or lost in this life, results from the quality of our relationship with others and God. For this reason, we require regular rehearsal of hesed. Without hesed permeating through our lives to others, the world of our relationships shrivels into dystopian evil.
“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. “But he’s already made it plain how to live… Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.” Micah 6:8
Acknowledged: Jesus knew the dangers of division in his Followers’ relationships. He warned us against allowing dividing elements into the Beloved Community we call the Church. When we allow differing agendas to divide us, we diminish the flow of hesed between us. A divided community of faith turns off the hesed needed to keep members unified as the Body of Christ.
“…everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” Galatians 5:14-15. “…I’m praying… for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us.” Jesus’ Prayer for Unity, John 17.
- I will engage to view my brothers and sisters in Christ without scorn, separate from their political affiliations.
- I will treat my sisters and brothers in Christ as God’s dearly loved children, regardless of their treatment of me.
- I will refuse to engage in negative labeling or contemptuous remarks on social media or in person toward members of my faith family who differ in political stance.
- I will rehearse daily gratitude for God’s gift of hesed to me. I will work to channel this hesed to everyone I encounter, especially to my brothers and sisters of faith whose civic votes differ from mine.
[i] [i] “Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness” by Michael Card, InterVarsity Press, 2018.