Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.Hebrews 12:14-15
Okay, so I think I can say that we are all agreed, this world is pretty much a fractured mess right now. Along with that fact, most of us have this companion sense of helplessness, even hopelessness at times, because we feel ill-equipped to do anything about it, powerless to effect change.
So I was thinking about this on my walk this morning – with this sense almost of dread pushing in at the edges of my consciousness – when I was reminded that each and every one of us holds the potential to make a tremendous difference, and it is simpler than we think.
What we all can do is to lower the temperature.
What I’m talking about is the atmosphere, this overbearing climate of heightened negativity that – I believe – is making it so much easier for people to escalate, to launch into whatever the next level is:
- A disagreement slips into name-calling on line;
- A rude gesture turns into road rage;
- Throwing insults becomes throwing bricks;
- Will Smith jumps out of his seat and attacks a comedian on stage;
- A traffic stop evolves into assault;
- A political protest moves into anarchy and brutality;
- The constant undermining of institutions leads to civil war;
- Neighbors fight to the death;
- Rhetoric explodes into bombs;
- Peace – however uneasy – dissolves into war.
And it is on us:
My point is that we all contribute to this: That time I would not let another driver merge; that day you didn’t give the tired, underpaid cashier the benefit of the doubt; that restaurant where you were unkind to the wait staff; that hateful comment someone left on your Facebook feed; that repeated unkindness that tipped a relationship beyond hope; that unwillingness to listen, and to trust, that made another friendship fall victim to politics; that hardening edge of self-righteousness that destroyed love in a church….
Little by little, like the proverbial frog who never thinks to climb out of the pot of once merely warm water, we are on the edge of boiling; we are brittle and about to break; we are dry tinder and it only takes a small friction for a fire to break out or, worse, a conflagration.
But what we can do is to lower the temperature.
Again, we can look to the scriptures for guidance: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).
Maybe those acts of kindness should not be so random any more. Maybe they should be intentional and practiced. Maybe they should define us?
In other words, if we are interested in ideas such as communicating God’s love, living as disciples, spiritual practice, following Jesus, living faith, witnessing and more, then – collectively – we can usher in an age of peace and we can do it one moment, once act of love, one person, one day at a time.
Because, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this” (Galatians 5:22-23).
I believe we are up to this. I believe such a world is possible. I believe. I have to – DEREK