Love And Justice

What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Courtesy of Unsplash

( Leviticus 19: 1–2, 9–18 Matthew 5: 38–48 )

“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” is a 1974 song written by English singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and subsequently covered by Elvis Costello and Curtis Stigers.

So you may ask yourself, what does a song written in 1974 by a British new wave song-writer and then resurrected in 1979 by another British punk, new wave artist have to say about the struggle for love and justice?

Well, listen to the lyrics

“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding”

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

’Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry.
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

’Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry.

What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love & understanding?

Nick Lowe has observed he has always tended toward the observational in his writing. His songs are rarely autobiographical. So it was with “Peace, Love and Understanding.”

“The song had a rather humorous birth,” he says. “It was written, initially, from the point of view of an old hippie who was still sticking to his guns and seeing his kind of followers all suddenly wearing pointy-toed shoes and drinking cocktails. … It’s like they had come to their senses, rediscovered alcohol and cocaine. … They were rather embarrassed that they’d ever been hippies … and thought the hippie thing rather funny.

“And he’s saying to them: ‘Well, you all think I’m an idiot. You’re sniggering now. But all I’m saying — and you can’t argue with this — is what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?’”

Lowe’s original version created barely a ripple. But five years later, in 1979, Elvis Costello (with Lowe as producer) resurrected the song and revved it up as musical trends were shifting toward labels of “punk” and “power pop.” Costello’s rendition is distinctive in the way it stays true to the song’s inherent sincerity within a musical style normally associated with rebellion and disillusionment. Nick Lowe says his signature song isn’t all that great.

Oh, rebellion and disillusionment, doesn’t that sound familiar? If you lived and grew up in the 1960’s those words will ring true. Remember the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Il and the demonstrators chanting of “The Whole World’s Watching?”

Fast forward the tape almost fifty years and you see the demonstrations we witnessed after the 2016 Presidential election and the cries that were heard of “Not my President ! “I have a Chaplain friend of mine in Vancouver, Wa who exclaimed to me “where is the outrage?” as he witnessed countless people in his office post -election who were crying, shell shocked as to what they had witnessed.

What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

The passages that we hear today from Leviticus and the Gospel of Matthew really sort of serve as bookends to each other addressing this whole intersection of love and justice.

I must admit that Leviticus is not one of my favorite books of the Bible. Reviewing it again, you notice all of these admonitions, i.e. don’t eat this, don’t do that, and don’t have sex with that person. Indeed, after a while you wonder if the writer of Leviticus isn’t obsessed with sex. Maybe, the writer could give Woody Allen some pointers.

But then in verse nine of Chapter eighteen, the tone changes and the writer addresses this agrarian community with following advice:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” ( Leviticus 18: 9–10 )

Wow, the poor and the alien! You certainly haven’t heard recently a lot of good press about them! You hear more press about concerns regarding current Presidential cabinet appointees. Yet, the writer of Leviticus says that in order to show love for someone, it’s not “set them free” in the words of Sting, but rather one is to show care and consideration and that includes leaving food that can provide sustenance for those who have no food.

The San Antonio Food Bank is one of the largest facilities in the country that is feeding the hungry. The San Antonio Food Bank provides food and grocery products to more than 530 partner agencies in 16 counties throughout Southwest Texas. In FY2015, the San Antonio Food Bank provided nearly 62 million pounds of food. The mission of the SAFB is to fight hunger in Southwest Texas through food distribution, programs, education, and advocacy.

Who receives emergency food assistance?

  • 36% of our clients are children, under the age of 18 years old
  • 46% of households include at least one employed adult
  • 67% have incomes below the federal poverty level during the previous month
  • 8% are homeless

About 22% of clients are non-Hispanic white, 7% are non-Hispanic black, 69% are Hispanic, and the rest are from other racial groups.

  • Eric S. Cooper. CEO of the Food Bank noted during a forum this past year on “Food Insecurity “ here in Bexar County that was sponsored by the students of my Advanced Social Work Policy class at the University Of Texas At San Antonio.

“we grow a lot of food, produce on the grounds at the food bank. We also encourage schools and churches to have gardens in order that those who are poor will have food to eat.”

What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding ?

The Gospel writers were well aware of the Hebraic canon’s emphasis of “taking care of the poor, the widowed, and the sojourner who is in your midst” ( Exodus 22: 21 ).

Here Jesus is heard to say:

“You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with two miles. Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” ( Matthew 5: 38–42 )

These words attributed to Jesus are hard for some of us to hear. Some may be asking “Where’s the personal responsibility here? Where is the accountability? “These are good questions and they need to be considered. When you are helping someone who is poor and who has limited resources, it is worthy to find out how they got to this place in their life and how they can be helped to prevent finding themselves in this same place potentially again in the future. “Instead of giving someone a fish, you teach them how to fish.”

At the same time, it’s not helpful for political legislators to cut federal funding for programs like the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), knowing full well that hungry families will be going without food while other constituents, including those in agriculture, will continue to benefit from tax subsidies.

Deuteronomy 10:19 declares

“So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners . Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

The story of salvation laid out in the Old and New Testaments points to a God who is faithful in being with and leading God’s people even in the most darkest hours. The call and admonition for us, as followers of Jesus, is to extend that invitation of grace to all, including those who do not look like us, those who do not think like us, even those who don’t vote like us.

This is a hard message, especially in a time when there are too few conversations regarding what is “common ground” for us all. For love to be real, there needs to be action. Just giving rhetoric, giving a speech won’t’ do. People’s lives are changed when they experience the expression of care, of hospitality, of concern for their welfare, to show charity to “the other.”

This is the radical message that Jesus brings to us. We are to be both hearers and doers of the word ( James 1:22 ). In the words of Henri Nouwen “Contemplation is action and action is contemplation”

May we know that love and justice can speak to one another, that they are not left as being distant polarities that have no connection nor congruence with one another. Our faith, as Christians, and as people from other faith traditions, can be one that is whole and which speaks to the comprehensive human experience now and always.

What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding ?


Originally published at

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