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Renée Lewis Glover invites us to remember that the physical structures built are a symbol of hope, opportunity, dignity and beauty.

Psalm 127:1 reads, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

First Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love.”

These two verses help guide my life and my leadership decisions at Habitat for Humanity. They remind me that the work of building homes and communities — and ultimately helping to change societies — is sacred work, and God must be at the center. These passages further remind me that we must demonstrate God’s love in all our dealings with families, the community and each other. First Corinthians 13 explains why — and how. I like this translation from the New King James Version of verses 4-10.

We are living in a time where there is so much conflict in our world around religion, race, culture and class, among other things. Rabbi David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, stated at a recent conference, “Religious wars and conflicts are seldom over religious doctrine but territory.” Similarly, I believe class wars and tribal and racial conflicts throughout the world are mostly about territory, resources and access.

All the terrible news stories we see each day are occurring at a time when the world is getting flatter in terms of the speed of connections and the need for collaboration. We are a more interdependent and more diverse people, yet fewer people than ever before possess a greater concentration of the world’s wealth and opportunity. To resolve these conflicts, we must look to God for answers. We know that an essential part of the answer is to expand access to opportunity (which includes a safe and healthy home) to a larger and more diverse segment of the world’s population. A “zero-sum game” philosophy in which we are content for some to prosper at the expense of others will be the undoing of us all.

Psalm 127 and 1 Corinthians 13 set a very high bar, but when we step back and reflect — particularly during this season of Lent — we realize what an awesome responsibility it is to build a home, to revitalize a community and to change the world. We must hold ourselves to very high standards lest we think we are doing this work to glorify ourselves rather than God. This knowledge and humility will guide our paths and unleash a deeper understanding of the universal humanity of all of God’s children, regardless of race, nationality, religion, culture or class.

Dear God, please help us remember our work is not merely building physical structures but also constructing places of hope, opportunity, dignity and beauty where children of God can love, nurture, teach, learn, heal, grow spiritually and use their God-given gifts of unlimited human potential for the betterment of the families, the community, society and God’s world. Amen.

1. How is the work of Habitat sacred for you?
2. How do you react to the continual stories of violence and conflict in the news?
3. How does the concept of the “zero-sum game” influence you and your behavior?
4. How have you seen God glorified recently in your life and in Habitat’s work?

By Renée Lewis Glover, chair of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity International in Atlanta.

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