Saturday, March 24, 2012

How Do You Say Something Meaningful in Harsh and Confusing Times?

“People moving out; People moving in; why? Because of the color of their skin! Run! Run! Run! ‘Cause you sure can’t hide!” A funky thumping base line and those super-charged words introduce one of my favorite Temptation tunes, “Ball of Confusion – That’s What the World is Today!” The state of the world hasn’t changed. In spite of noble attempts at a Great Society, A Peace and Love Revolution, D├ętente, A Moral Majority, Sinai Peace Treaties, Racial Reconciliation Movements, all sorts of liberation movements, and endless seminars, consortiums and think tanks, our societal problems and challenges seem as daunting as ever. We continue to deal with a multitude of issues as significant as any we’ve ever faced in our history: wars that seemed to make sense when we started them but whose purposes are now much more difficult to grasp and explain. Economic stresses loom ominously on the horizon, growing divides in complex and unsettling to ways. Decades after sweeping Civil Rights legislation, racial struggles continue to plague us, leaving us with the residue of clumsy political correctness and placing us on the threshold of violent upheavals as some of our chance encounters still end in inexplicable conflict and even death!

Having been made in God’s image, God has given us a basic understanding of right and wrong, good and evil. It is not that we don’t know how to behave; we know how to do “The Right Thing”. Nevertheless, our sinful and rebellious nature against God drags us downward and bends us towards ungodliness in every conceivable way. In a world that longs for unity, division persists as a stubborn reality. In a society desperate for civility, hostility clings to us without relief. Not even our technology helps us. Utilizing the amazing medium of internet communication, people who would politely greet you on the street in passing, effortlessly engage in scathing and often demeaning banter behind the safety of a computer screen and a lack of the accountability of flesh and blood presence. It’s so easy, after all, to be an internet aggressor. I can take on the biggest bully, berate him to no end, knowing all the while that he will probably never be able to have real-world access to me in a way that will to force me to face him. We’ve become the ultimate couch potatoes. After all, it’s much easier to play Call of Duty, than it is to answer one! Perhaps that ease explains the contrast in higher military-themed video game sales to that of lower military enlistments in a time of war!

What’s the point? This real-world disengagement has fostered a laziness that has made us more prone to reduce each other to caricatures based on outlandish stereotypes than to engage each other in the complexities of reality that might actually bring about meaningful dialogue, practical solutions and positive results. I can lazily reduce my “enemy” to a label: “brainless conservative”, “godless liberal”, or any other label I might choose rather than getting up, getting involved, shaking my neighbors’ hands and getting to know them in the complexity of who they are in the real world.

This troubling trend weighs heavily on my mind as the nation tries to understand the confusion surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death. As this tragedy continues to be analyzed I feel led to remember what I am called to do as a follower of Jesus Christ. As a Christian I am called to extend grace as I pursue truth and to preserve peace as I promote justice. I am called to deal respectfully with those who do not understand me or my point of view and to put the well-being of others before the rights I myself possess. Above all, I am called to love without condition or reservation, remembering that while we were sinners and enemies against God, Jesus died for us and demonstrated the full extent of mercy, justice and grace as He suffered on the cross. As he was hated, reviled, mocked and punished he prayed; expressing forgiveness for His oppressors, mercy towards his enemies, acceptance for his detractors, support and encouragement for His friends and ultimately, victory as he gave up His spirit.

Those of us who know Christ must now devote ourselves to emulate Him with a renewed vigor as the winds of dissonance whirl around us. We must resolve to remain calm when others become flustered and to stand steady as a voice of healing and reason when others cave in to the pressures of frustration and hurt. If there is any good to come out of the tragedies of our day, it will be found in the actions of those who, like Jesus, are willing to shake off the bonds of apathy, laziness and self-centeredness to be engaged with concerned action that others might see the power of the Gospel lived out in everyday terms whether face-to-face or through social media. May God give us the ability to shine in the beauty of holiness when others fade that all who look on might see Christ in us, the Hope of Glory. Until next time…