By Pastor Julie Wright
Current events have frazzled, if not confounded, even the most sturdy and stalwart among us. It seems that at such a time as this, so much has been called into question. Safety, security, travel, health care, immigration, and other urgent topics fill the airwaves on a daily basis. We even may wonder what our faith has to do with any of this. As I look around me, I see that the strain of this time in American history is taking a toll on some, if not all, of us. However, if our only view of the world comes through sound bites or snapshots of the history unfolding around us and our neighbors, then our view of the world is quite small, indeed. But who has the time or the emotional bandwidth to take in all of it? Where do we turn for hope in an uncertain time like this? And what does faith have to do with it?
One podcast that I heard this week gave me hope. Minnesota faith leaders representing various traditions of the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) sat down to talk about this current challenge and asked the question:
After listening closely to their dialogue, I realized that what they propose is not a question of uniting a nation, but rather uniting neighbor to neighbor to neighbor. See, if we think about achieving unity in the entire nation that sounds terribly overwhelming. But seeking reconciliation with our neighbors – the ones next door, the ones across the street, neighbors at work, the person who works at the gas station – that suddenly seems achievable – one person at a time.
These siblings in faith, who share common faith ancestry and a common identity as Children of God, are asking the same questions. In a time when society may want to separate us by our differences, whether ideological, political, ethnic or religious, now is the time to ask:
Can faith unite us with our neighbors?
Jesus expanded our notion of what we consider to be a neighbor. Which is, actually, everyone. In Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-48) he tells us to love – not simply like, respect, or even tolerate – but to LOVE our enemies. This means that to practice our faith in the world requires that we love those who don’t love us back. It means to love even when it doesn’t make sense.
If you chose to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, remember that loving our neighbors does not require flowers, or chocolates, or a fancy greeting card. All you need is love.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. – Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)