What I'm Reading Today: 1 John 5
I was talking with a member of the church I serve recently about issues of Justice and Peace. The individual said, "It's so discouraging these days. Having the conflicts in the Middle East continue, dealing with the economic challenges of the recession, thinking about the long term effects of global climate change… The list of problems seems endless. It's depressing – almost enough to make me want to give up hope."
I can certainly understand why the individual felt that way. The list of challenges we face these days IS overwhelming – and given the intransigence of many of our leaders (in terms of their unwillingness to reach across partisan divides and start putting the wellbeing of the planet before the demands of their own political parties), I can see why it might be tempting to contemplate throwing in the towel.
So why not do it? Why not throw in the towel?
Well, eac person has to answer that question for her/himself. All I can do is offer my take on why I refuse to surrender my sense of hope. The reason I refuse to give up is that for me – the central tenet of my faith is this: "One life can make a difference."
I mean this on two levels. First, I mean that Jesus – the one whom I recognize as Christ – came and affected a change in God-consciousness and manner in which millions of individuals relate to God: even across the span of two millennia. That's the first way I mean "one life CAN make a difference"!
The second level has to do with how individual followers of this God revealed through Jesus have profoundly affected the course of human history. I look at the way some of those followers (the abolitionists) put an end to the practice of slavery; I look at the way some of those followers (the suffragists) expanded the power and influence of women; I look at the way some of those followers (the human rights activists) have expanded the civil rights of African-Americans and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender people. All of these examples show me what a difference individual followers of Jesus can make.
While there were certainly periods when such individuals did not represent the mainstream "Christian" position (i.e. for decades mainstream "Christian" folks were the ones who instituted slavery, who denied women the vote, and who advocated withholding basic human rights to many groups), the AMAZING thing about our faith is that it teaches us if you hang in there and hold on to your foundational principles long enough, you CAN change the world! You can even change the course and practice of this thing called "Christianity" – sometimes the most difficult institution to change of all!!!
With that in mind, I am bold enough to think that it will be the actions of individual followers of God who will change the atmosphere of hopeless and despair that seems so pervasive these days. These followers will provide the impetus to get us out of Afghanistan. These followers will provide resources (and a sense of moral direction) that will help point us toward a more equitable and vital economic system in the 21st century. These followers will generate a culture of care for our natural world that will put an end to the ways we abuse our planet.
In fact, most days I can't wait to spring out of bed and do my part in helping turn things around! That's why it's easy to read the words from today's passage that say – "The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith!" – and believe it!!
So how about you? In the face of the multitude of challenges we face these days, how have you responded? Have you given in to despair and hopelessness; or have you found ways to connect with "the conquering power" that can empower you to do your part in bringing the problems of the world to their knees?
Til next time …