Each week as we gather prayer requests for our life together, there are a lot of concerns raised. One I am seeing with more frequency is prayer to heal the divisions between people in families, in our communities, our nation and all around the world. We are divided over a public health emergency that one would think would bring us together. The news today is full of developments in the increasing tensions in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. Will war erupt at any moment?
The divisions and hatred we see all around us seem intractable and far too global for us to do anything about them. After all, what can I do – what can any of us do – to bring people together? The problems seem insurmountable. While I will be the first to admit that I get caught up in the fear and anxiety produced by all this division. I too feel helpless – a little doomed. Is this what life will be like for the foreseeable future?
That feeling of hopelessness is a product of fear, not faith. As I mentioned two weeks ago, the most frequent command of the Lord in scripture is, “Do not be afraid!” I cannot help but wonder if I let faith cast out my fear and hopelessness, I will maybe find a way to do more than throw up my hands.
In Ephesians, the writer gives common everyday advice to the members of the congregation. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) The power to choose my words is within my power. What if we all employed this filter before we spoke, responded, posted a snarky response on social media? Instead of blurting out the emotional bilge generated by our over-active “lizard brain” (see two weeks ago), what if we let the emotions pass, engaged our frontal lobe, and sought to build up rather than attack?
In Colossians, the writer instructs us to “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Colossians 3:13-14) What if forgiveness became the habit that replaced our addiction to win an argument or “score points?"
Paul is certain that there is a ministry we have all been given to address the divisions of the world. We have, through the waters of baptism, been ordained to be the peace in this world. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
In a world of conflict and division, you and I have been made ambassadors of Christ, ministers of reconciliation. What if we begin this work by just learning to hold our tongues, to seek understanding instead of choosing up sides? What if we form habits of building up instead of tearing down? What if we look at the problem and instead of throwing up our hands in resignation, we become the peace that we seek?
If the world is to change, it begins with us. Be the peace.
Tim Olson - Lead Pastor