I’ve mentioned that there are two things that God’s been leading me to think about as the year comes to close.
The first is our public sphere. After the most fear-driven, divisive, and utterly insane election season most of us ever remember, we’re both exhausted and compelled by our public sphere – what’s happening in the world we share, beyond our own personal day-to-day affairs.
This year’s public sphere – not just the presidential election, but all kinds of things out there in the big world – has for me renewed my commitment to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. If that sounds sort of familiar or at least a bit more poetic than you’d expect from me, it’s because it’s a (translated) line of poetry from the Bible.
The prophet Micah, somewhere late in the 7th century B.C., was inspired to say that this is what God wants out of people: for us to do justice, to love mercy and to talk humbly with God. He said this to people who were beleaguered and confused and troubled in ways that would feel familiar to you and me in its essence, if not in in detail.
This is probably the closest thing I have to a “life verse”, a single line in the Bible that motivates and inspires me to live as I hope to live.
Who’d argue that our public world couldn’t use more mercy and justice and walking with God that is both devout and humble. I could say a lot about each of these phrases, but for now, I’ll just state that all three of these qualities seem patently in too short supply – in our churches, out politics, our leaders, our followers, our business people, our educators, and, well, everyone and all our institutions. Mercy, justice, and walking humbly with God are frankly often enough lacking in my own heart and actions.
But to be those and to advocate those is where God’s leading me.
The second thing is to be engaged in community building.
We continue to discover just how divided and fractured the United States is, let alone just how divided we are from the rest of the world we alternatively sell things to, and give things to, and bomb, and bless, and ignore.
The rest of the world aside, though, our country is more racist, less hospitable, more judgmental, less united, and angrier than may of us thought it was. From all corners, really.
On this second work of community building, I expect I’ll do some more blogging in the days ahead on insights from the powerful, insightful book Disunity in Christ, by the social psychologist and Christian leader Christena Cleveland. It’s really an extraordinary book that you’ll want to read, but I’ll at least share a few of its insights and applications with you.
Mercy, justice, and a humble walk with God.
Diverse community building of empathy and love.
Both of these things seem counter-evolutionary to me, contrary to our nature. We evolved to be tribal people, to protect our own. Our tendencies to hive off are shared with most of the animal kingdom and serve well to protect us against external threats.
But they’re contrary to the thing that Jesus seems to long to do in human story – to break down dividing walls with love and forgiveness; to establish societies of justice and mercy; to teach us to walk humbly with God; to restore all things.
This is purely speculative, of course, but I can picture God looking at our pale blue dot of a planet, seeing the human society that he created through physical and chemical and evolutionary processes set into motion billions of years ago, and thinking it’s too bad about the underbelly of all that worked out.
The story of my faith tradition, though, is that in Jesus, God has entered into human history to redeem the sin of the world and to reunite humanity to God.
I’ve got to think some of the fruit of this is a maturation of human society toward justice and peace and mercy, and the creation of communities of unity and love. Much of the New Testament of the Bible is a testament to the spiritual power Jesus has to move cooperating people and community toward these ends.
That’s what I’m leading in toward Jesus for as well.
It’s what I invite you to as well in this Christmas season.
When people lean in toward mercy and justice and a humble walk with God, and when people – as individuals and with the institutions we are part of – when people love as God loves, Jesus is there.