What is your choice?

 

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”   ~James Baldwin

The morning is dreary as the wind howls over the mountain. A hurricane blows into the Gulf of Mexico towards Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee is the place where God played a funny joke on me that turned out to be the best experience of my life: internship as a vicar at St. Stephen Lutheran Church of Tallahassee. Hurricane Michael shares the name of the archangel we call St. Michael. The angel Michael, is both a warrior and protector, so as I type, I pray that the angel protects all the people in the path of the hurricane. Many of the good people I know from Tallahassee are those who taught me what it means to be a warrior for social justice in the name of God.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Family matters of life and death seemed to fill up August. September, well, what happened to it? Oh yes, sickness. Life and death seem to be the theme this morning as I awaken from dreams of my aunt’s house. Aunt Imogene recently died and it was a shock because she seemed immortal, even though we knew she wasn’t. When a family member of that importance dies, it strikes close to the heart of a person, but also a family unit.

Truthfully, it’s unclear what this writing is about this morning. I am only aware that it has been a while since I wrote. While families face the lives and deaths that happen in the course of a day, politics happen. Whatever “side” one may choose politically, the events of recent weeks have been harmful to us all. That such vitriol is spewed on national media and filters into every conversation allows the poison of hatred to seep into the fabric of daily moments.

Am I sad that I have lost family members? Of course. Does the world’s current political situation sadden me? You bet it does. One of the things we forget in all of this hullabaloo is that through the current use of social media, we are torturing one another in new and profound ways. I only say “profound” to address the depth of how we are allowing hurt to be proliferated and even celebrated as a viable way of being a “leader” in our world.

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jesus was a Jew who did address the political. Ironically, his harshest words were for the religious leaders of the time. For EVERYONE ELSE, there was love. Frederick Buechner states in his description of love, that even in calling attention to their wrongs, Jesus was loving those leaders. Sadly, those who call themselves Christian have begun to chose only condemnation as the way to be a follower of the historical Jesus. The gospels and the entirety of the New Testament, however, testifies to LOVE and COMPASSION.

The main reason Jesus was crucified is that of how love and compassion spread through his life and ministry and went against the norm of the day. Mercy, forgiveness, kindness were his tools to undermine the political structures of both the Israelites and the Romans. Jesus’ goals in life were not to make a political statement, but to make a faith statement. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” His answer was silence in one version. In another, Jesus did not agree, but only said, “You say that I am.” Jesus spoke only of the kingdom of God and the only weapon used was love.

In writing that last paragraph, I thought of a table or a list if you will. We can add to this list. What would you add?

Jesus had mercy on: Jesus spoke against:
prostitutes pharisees
tax collectors Sadducees
lepers judging others
murderers
fishermen
soldiers
adulterers
old women
Samaritans (those of different cultures)
the unclean
Romans
non-Jews
Jews (or only Israelites at the time)*
doubters
sinners
the mentally ill
children
“Love as a disposition does not primarily act on abstract principle. Instead, it is a way of seeing habitually and responding to the real, separate, individual needs of each of the people we encounter in our lives every single day.”
― Roberta C. Bondi, To Love as God Loves

The list above is not definitive or complete; only one that came to mind quickly. I know I left things off of both sides. What my point is, however, is not what I know about lists or tables, but the fact that the life of Jesus is weighted in favor of the underdog. Jesus’ message was and is about true justice. Justice that is courageous in the face of power. Justice that proves itself not by might or right, but by love; by working for the well-being of all people.

We live in a world of pain. Each of us has prejudice of some sort; it’s just the nature of humanity. It’s why we needed someone like Jesus to teach us how to live differently. Yet, though we have this example, we still more often than not choose judgment and condemnation first. Is it because we want to fit in with the community around us? Possibly. Do we want to be someone other than who we are? Perhaps. Do we make errors in our visions? Often.

The first counselor I ever worked with had me use a book that’s title escapes me. However, the point of the book was to get each reader looking at life in a more realistic way. As best as I can remember, the book was teaching one through practice how to see the errors of one’s own life and take responsibility for the errors. The book also encouraged taking the credit for the good things in life. That is actually harder for me. How about you?

If I had an answer to the problems that face our world today, that would be great. Of course, I don’t. There’s only the pondering, the wondering how different the world would be if each of us truly lived out a life of compassion and mercy. It’s easy to talk the talk, but much harder to “walk the walk” as many say. I see a world of injustice right now and it hurts me to the core. The choice that faces me now, is do I face the pain and allow it to be transformed into love? Or do I try and avoid the pain and allow it to rot into hatred? What do you choose?

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”  

J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

 

 

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