Emerging from a global pandemic, many people feel that life has been happening to them, rather than them feeling any strong sense of control over their own lives. Yet, even when external conditions are in seismic upheaval, we still have control over our responses. We make choices all the time how we will react or respond. A driver cuts us off on the road, almost causing an accident. So, how do we respond? Does it upset us or merely irritate us? Do we feel compelled to make a gesture or utter a curse, or do we simply chuckle and shake our head. Do we stay calm and let it go, or does it raise our blood pressure and hang around? How we respond is up to us, regardless of what is happening around us.
We are living in a culture of extreme volatility, hostility, brutality, inequality, and feelings of futility. But are these the “litys” we want to define us? Is this the best we can do, simply accept the external conditions with no counter offer? I believe Christian disciples are taught to be better than this. Where we meet hostility, we should respond with hospitality and civility. In the face of volatility, we can offer humility and collegiality. Brutality can be displaced by equality and accountability. Inequality could be met with commonality and universality. Futility countered by vitality, fidelity, and spirituality.
We make life too hard. We have very simple choices before us all day every day. Do we add to the grief, misery, violence, prejudice, and injustice in the world or do we contribute to the good and the beautiful and the hopeful and the merciful and the loving? Do we expend our gifts and energy to tear down or to build up? Are we destroyers or creators? Are we selfish and short-sighted or are we communal and generative? Do we primarily seek a personal and private good or a communal and social good?
I confess a deep confusion and frustration with attitudes of entitlement, self-aggrandizement, superiority, and exclusion in our Christian faith. All of us have sinned, continue to sin, rationalize our sin, excuse our sin, and it is only by God’s grace that we have new life in Christ and inclusion in the incarnate body of Christ. Who are we to exclude anyone else? How dare we see ourselves as “better than” others, when in fact we are simply “more fortunate” than some? Why in the world would any Christian resist wearing a mask when it is the absolute least we can do to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us? It is our choosing irrationality in a current reality of fragility (notice more -lity words?) and widespread vulnerability.
Words are sometimes just words, but in fact, words have power, and we need to use words of grace and hope and love and peace. The time for Christians to replace politics with polity (citizenship), civil war with civility, and self-centered and harmful hubris with humility is long past. It is our responsibility to make Christian spirituality a witness of respectability, desirability, and unlimited possibility.