Walking Our Faith: Called by beauty and truth (column)
February 23, 2018
On Wednesday I listened to the meeting between the student victims of school gun violence, their parents and the president. I was impressed by the sincerity of their suggestions which ranged from gun bans to arming teachers. But what caught my attention were the words of Darrell Scott, whose daughter was killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Mr. Scott spoke about the need for connectedness between students, a goal of the organization he founded in the aftermath of her death, Rachel's Challenge.
When we are at one of our most divided points in our history, connectedness can feel impossible when we want to retreat to the safety of our tribes to find solace with people who look like us, believe as we believe and have solutions we deem acceptable.
Yet, this is not what God calls us to. "Beloved. If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us." (1 John 4:11-12)
Still, as I listened to Darrell Scott's comments, I thought, "How could connectedness be the answer?" Then I read about Rachel's Challenge and what they are achieving in schools. Rachel wrote a "Code of Ethics" a month before she was killed, which included this line: "Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer."
Compassion doesn't require that we share the beliefs or even like the other person. In fact, it isn't about the other person at all. It's about our willingness to put aside our need to defend our way, in order to make a way for the other person to experience a connection with us.
"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9)
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Later that afternoon, I listened to a Lenten devotional on Formed.org. ECHO is a gorgeous meditative series consisting of a 5-minute commentary followed by a question for contemplation. On Wednesday it was: How would our society be different if everyone truly knew and believed that every person is made in the image of God?
In the video, Bishop Donald Hying said that God calls us to beauty and truth because we are all made in God's image, who is the epitome of beauty and truth. But when is the last time that you or I looked in the mirror and saw beauty and truth reflected back? Or looked at someone whose beliefs were different than us and saw God in them?
Yet, if we believe we are all created in God's image, as he promises us in the Bible, then beauty and truth is our ultimate identity. One that is buried and often lost beneath labels given to us from a very early age.
What can we do to convince ourselves that we are loved? That we are created in truth and beauty?
As we seek God, we realize we are loved by God. As we accept that God loves us, we see ourselves as loveable. If we can love ourselves, and see that God loves others and asks us to love them as we love ourselves, because God loved us, our love for our brother becomes an outgrowth of our love for God.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his brother." (John 15:12-13) In God's eyes, we are all brothers. We are all God's children.
How can we help others to see the same in themselves and to bridge our mutual isolation?
From my own experience with depression, I know its most insidious lie is that I am alone and unworthy. These thoughts isolate me and deprive me of the most vital ingredient to my mental health, which is the ability to accept connection with others. When I can accept that need in myself, I can accept it in others and give as it has been given to me.
We are created in the image of God to be God's hands and feet here on earth, to be the purveyors of God's love. Our differences become less relevant when we acknowledge that more importantly we are created by the same Creator. As we discover the luminous beauty and truth of God's love for us, we are able to love ourselves and love others.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love is kind… it does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; it bears all things, hopes all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
What can we do this week, in love, to make a connection with another person who is not of our tribe, but whom God calls our brother?
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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