I often struggle with Christian language about sin and brokenness, not because it’s untrue, but because it seems to lose meaning so quickly. Many words are often thrown around, but few actually grip me and help me make sense of my daily life and the world I encounter. The question that is currently offering the most challenge in my spiritual life is, “What does this actually mean?” If our faith, hope, and love cannot speak to those who are experiencing violence, loss, hunger, poverty, and despair, then I’m not sure it can speak to anything.
I think the biggest problem in the world is simply my desire to feed myself first. Out of the desire to feed ourselves first eventually comes shame and fear, which in turn create broken relationships and violences against others. In a world immersed in chaos it is natural, even essential, to feed oneself first. Survival of the fittest is the way of life for all living creatures. But this is not the life that God calls us to.
Trying to confront this inner hunger for power and pleasure is often like chasing my shadow. It’s usually subtle and elusive. A section of a book I recently read says it well, “Growing in self knowledge and awareness evokes enormous resistance from within ourselves, especially when we start to discover aspects about ourselves that we would prefer not to know.” The thing is, when shadows are left to grow the world becomes covered in darkness.
I have an immense desire to interject some sort of powerful solution into the conflicts and tragedies of the world, but I’m learning that I’m confined to the limits of my own body. This means I cannot fix the world with my hopes, hollers, or hashtags. The only thing I can actually do is seek out the places where my desire to look out for myself first is consuming the life of another. If we’re honest with ourselves we never have to look far. I think, perhaps following the life of Jesus means acknowledging our complicit contribution to the brokenness in the world. When I read about this Messiah I don’t see one who fills his desires first, rather I see one who breaks his body and sheds his blood to feed those around him. What does it look like for us to model the same in our communities?
Perhaps a place to start is by acknowledging we have a shallow conscience that is easily whipped into a social media frenzy, but slow to commit to sustained efforts at change. Perhaps a place to start is by allowing refugees fleeing danger to find safety in our borders. Perhaps a place to start is acknowledging the racial history and current systematic racism in the US. Perhaps a place to start is by asking God to remove the log from our own eye before we try to remove the twig from the eye of our Republican, Democrat, Atheists, Muslim, transgender, poor, or otherwise “mistaken” neighbor.