Dear Family (Christians and otherwise),
I’ll begin by saying that I love you. I truly do. All of you, even those who slander me and spread gossip, threatening me with the very fires of hell itself, are my brothers and sisters in Christ. For if not by the grace of the almighty God, the one Jesus called Abba, none of us would be here. So I write this to you as a member of the family we call humanity, and as one who understands that we all need grace in the most abundant of ways.
As a family, we are at a crossroads. Call it a time of apocalypse (Greek for “an unveiling”). No matter what we think of the current sociopolitical situation, whether we endorse the present administration or bemoan it, we cannot deny the gravity of the state we find ourselves in. As a nation, and indeed a world, we are divided. In more ways than not! Political party lines, divided. Religious lines, divided. Racial lines, divided. Cultural lines, divided. And while division, or rather, differentiation, is not necessarily a bad thing, what we are experiencing is a crisis in which our divisiveness is being driven purely by fear of the other, where anything and anyone that doesn’t fit into our current myopic worldview is met with violent denunciation, rather than being driven by an acknowledgement of our differentiation, and a growing empathy and understanding of it.
Our message, more often than not, is “be afraid, be very afraid.”
Because of this, there will come a time when we will have to reap what we are currently sowing. I can’t help but think that a situation similar to the one in 70 CE isn’t beyond the realm of possibilities. And, because we are a globalized humanity, I fear it could be much worse. As French anthropologist René Girard warned, “When the whole world is globalized, you’re going to be able to set fire to the whole thing with a single match.”
So what are we to do?
A part of me wants to simply shrug my shoulders and say, “How the hell am I supposed know?” Sometimes a Rapture of the church sounds like a good idea after all. But that would be dishonest. That would be the escapist and defeatist in me wanting to give up because the burden seems too great. That would be the ego not wanting to pick up the daily cross that just seems too heavy. But this isn’t the attitude that the Spirit of Christ gave us, all of us, including me. I know that because I can hear her voice saying “Keep walking with me, this Path of Peace.”So, what is my solution to the problem?
First, we all must look in the mirror, one by one, and ask ourselves if we take seriously the itinerant preacher from Nazareth. Not if we believe some metaphysical truth about who Jesus Christ is, but if we take seriously the Jewish man named Jesus, enough so to follow him. It sounds crazy, given that he ends up on a Roman torture device, but it is exactly what he asks of us.
Admittedly, I don’t want to have to do this. It sounds terribly difficult. Actually, it seems downright impossible, as well as a bit insane. I like coming home to a comfy couch and sleeping in cozy bed, thank you very much.
What a dilemma!
Perhaps we aren’t meant to have to go through this burden of the cross forever. Perhaps we are supposed to start coming together as a family over bread and wine, rather than over each other’s broken bodies. Perhaps Jesus was serious about the power of human community, so much so that he said we will do greater things than he ever did (John 14:12). Perhaps this whole being-a-human-being-thing doesn’t have to be so damn hard!
But it is.
So, until we are finally all living with and among each other as one unified family, some of us are going to have to continue to carry these burdensome crosses. Some of us are going to have to preemptively forgive our enemies when seemingly every ounce of us wants to haul off and smack them or worse yet, end them. Some of us are going to have to stand in front of the cultural firing squad that continually mows down, generation after generation, the “least of these.” Some of us are going to have to do this, or else I fear the worst.
Who is gonna step up to the plate? Come on, who? The more that do, the easier the burden gets. The more who step into a life devoted to the Way of Jesus, the more shoulders there are to carry these crosses. The Bill Withers classic tune “Lean on Me” comes to mind. And like an avalanche that picks up speed and energy as it crashes down the mountain, the more that join this Way, the greater chance we have of avoiding the potential cataclysm that awaits us should we continue in our narcissistic and rivalrous ways.
May we heed this call. As a Church, may we exchange any violent ways that we might have for the Way of our Master, becoming a healing balm to an ever-increasing broken humanity. In all manners, and at all times, be at peace, and if you do, then, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Matthew J. Distefano
Image via Unsplash.