The stench is nearly unavoidable. In the last twenty-four hours, it seems I’ve been unable to avoid the division rising all around. Yesterday I was on the phone with a longtime friend who I’ve had many conversations with routinely throughout my lifetime, but, it didn’t take long before the topic of controversy about political spins regarding the pandemic began to dominate the dialogue. Then, later in the evening, similar topics made their presence known at an open-air, backyard small group gathering with a handful of local church members. In the same 24-48 hour period of these pandemic-related exchanges, controversy and protests have erupted surrounding the death of George Floyd, a seemingly cooperative African-American man who died with his neck pinned to the ground by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN.
I’ve been raised in a country where, by and large, I’ve always had a sense of protection and dedication to the common good that was reflected by government leaders and, perhaps, a notable dose of naiveté. But, as I’ve grown older, and particularly at this point in history, I’m coming to realize how misinformed my assumptions have been. With both sides of the aisle in Washington D.C., amplified by equally-polarized media outlets, more invested in fanning the flames for political gain than they with respect for the dignity of human life, our culture is left grappling with a vacuum of hope and direction. The reality is that there is nobody with their feet on the ground on this shaken planet to turn to that is going to be able to pull us out of this mess.
The only hope that I can conceive of for a way out of all of this is rooted in the words and actions of a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth who taught that we should look to God, first, loving Him above all, and then to all other people, loving and living out as much tangible concern for them as we would naturally have for ourselves.
Concern for self is natural. Babies have no concern for anything beyond their own immediate needs, but, it is by God’s design that, as we grow older, we find meaning and purpose in cooperative relationships with others. It is by His design that we feel love and are encouraged by others who lend us support in our times of need and it is by His design that those who are humble, not thinking of themselves as being higher or better than others, are the most blessed.
So what does this have to do with you and me, now, in the midst of all of this turmoil? The path out of the mess to hope and peace is a singular, narrow path that begins with a recognition of how small and limited our individual perspectives really are. If we can admit how little we really know and offer Him the chance to guide each of our next steps towards showing love to those around us in tangible ways, we will have taken the first step. If we can admit how wrong and broken we are, setting aside our own self-centered objectives, we can begin to walk toward the light. But, it all starts with you and me.
For just a moment, close your eyes and pray for wisdom from the Source of infinite wisdom. Pray for humility. Then show proactive, sincere respect and compassion to those around you who have different political views, fears, or skin color from your own. Decrease the amount of media you’re consuming and increase the amount of time you are spending with your Jesus in prayer and with your bible.
Continually trying to win an argument or get the last word will only continue the downward spiral of polarizing fear and self-interest that has already caused so much damage.