In-Sight: Now What?

With slightly less than a week behind us since we voted, we see the reality of a divided nation, and already we are feeling the renewed tensions which go along with our differences. It is a spiritual formation question to ask ourselves, “How then shall we live? ” In this post, I offer a few thoughts.

First, we must revive our commitment to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). This does not mean being silent or passive, or agreeing to anything and everything, but it does mean praying to be instruments of God’s peace, as per St. Francis’ prayer.  It means rooting ourselves even more deeply into being those who live the two great commandments and manifest the fruit of the Spirit in ways which remove walls that divide.

Second, it means what Richard Rohr calls “the practice of the better.”  As some of you will know, I felt strongly about this a year ago and decided to make “Practicing the Better” my 2018 Oboedire theme series.  The need to do this remains and intensifies.  We must constantly be looking into, through, and beyond current reality to discern means for overcoming evil with good.

Third, we must concentrate on the things we are “for” rather than on the things we are “against.”  Life energy is spent on the things we are drawn into, and we quickly become full of whatever we are stuffed with.  If we stuff ourselves with negativism, we will become bitter and cynical people.  And we never build anything positive on a foundation of negatives. Now is a time to follow St. Paul’s counsel to “think on things which are above” rather than the baser instincts and ideologies of life ( Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8).

Fourth, we must do all things in the spirit of Jesus, who when reviled, did not revile in return (1 Peter 2:23).  Put into today’s context it means living nonviolently. Thomas Merton believed that Jesus’ beatitude about meekness was his call to live nonviolently.  In the past couple of years (and even before that), we have seen anger erupting into acts of violence–many with tragic outcomes. We must not enact our frustrations in harmful ways.  For many of us, myself included, this means being educated in the ways of nonviolence. [1]  But while learning more, we must enact what we already know with respect to having the peace of God ruling in our hearts (Colossians 3:15).

These four things do not exhaust what we must be saying and doing these days. But each of them is an overarching principle that proliferates into many specific attitudes and actions.

The days ahead will challenge all of us in the nation.  We will see Jesus’ words played out, “by their fruits you shall know them.”  We must give ourselves to the sowing of seeds that are Christlike into our lives, into our communities, and into the overall environment –living in our character and conduct, in our words and deeds (as Oswald Chambers called it) our utmost for God’s highest.

[1] I recommend the ministry and resources of Pace e Bene as an educational medium, especially the books by John Dear.  There are also opportunities for ongoing, hands-on involvement in nonviolent activities.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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