Seeing in the Dark (Part 4)
This is the fourth and final post of a series where I have been reflecting upon my grandmother’s words, “Keep your eyes open long enough to see the light in the darkness,” and how her council to me as child has come to shape my understanding of what it means to live as a faithful witness of the Christian gospel while also wading knee-deep into American culture. Find the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
I, like most of you, have the privilege of worshipping with and serving alongside people who stand along the entire spectrum of political and social beliefs. We are a group of people who on our best days love each other deeply even when we disagree, and on our worst days fail to exercise the humility and grace to which Jesus has called us.
I believe one reason we often fail to offer such generosity to each other is because we live in a polarized, not just politicized, society that leads us to picking sides, to over-simplifying arguments, and, quite often, to demonizing the detractors. Perhaps because we sometimes tend to see others as opponents first, we fail to see them for who they really are: those created in the image of God, who like us, are in need of redemption and reconciliation in order that we might all live in reconciliation with God and each other.
The same God who places luminaries in the dark heavens above also lovingly creates human beings to be lanterns on the earth below who are capable of reflecting God’s image and light. We are, all of us therefore, brimming with the potential to be an extension of God’s presence to the rest of creation.
So, just as we have to allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness in a room (or in this world) before we can then see the light, we must also look with eager expectation into the lives of those with whom we fundamentally disagree in order to see the light of God’s image shining through.
This is hard enough to practice among those with whom we worship and serve, but exponentially harder with those whom we do not know apart from that which separates us along the spectrum of social and political beliefs – issues associated with income, race, gender, and sexuality.
The way of Jesus, however, invites us to not only love in word, but to serve others in deed as well – even especially when we disagree with them.
During the night before his death, Jesus himself serves bread to a traitor and washes the feet of a room full of deserters – not because they fell in line with all of his beliefs and certainly not because their behavior deserved such intimate attention, but because Jesus demonstrates well this singular principle: to love people is to serve them. Then Jesus goes on to say to them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.”
While it may be entirely possible for us to serve people without loving them, we simply cannot love people without a willingness to serve them. Refusing to serve the one we claim to love is to refuse the way of Jesus.
What if, instead of being interested in protecting a Christian’s right to refuse service to another with whom they disagree, Christians began to understand the Jesus-given opportunity we have to not worry about drawing circles, as so many others in the world do (on both sides of the political spectrum) in order to determine who we will or will not serve?
What if, instead of pushing back against the idea of the government telling us who we have to serve, Christians embraced the way of Jesus that does not just tell us, but demonstrates for us the way to love and serve…all?
So, may you come to love well in these difficult days, may you come to love in both word and deed the people whom you find especially difficult to serve because of a fundamental difference of belief, and may you wait with patience and generous hearts to see the image of God peeking through.