Sunday, November 13, 2016

How we are Called to be the Good Amid the Bad

3 John 5, 11 (GNT): Being the Good amid the Bad
My dear friend, you are so faithful in the work you do for other Christians, even when they are strangers” (5).
“...Do not imitate what is bad, but imitate what is good. Whoever does good belongs to God…” (11).

In a world where it is so easy to malign others, we are offered the daily choice to love. Sometimes that choice is a difficult one, however. And as we stand in the middle of disunity contemplating our next step, we often do the human thing and fall into the trap of despair. In that despair, we are often led to corrosive gratification, loss of hope, and an absence of faith. This is dangerous territory. Nonetheless, there is an antidote to the poison of despair. Through grace, God offers us an invitation to love.

Throughout Scripture, God calls each of us to live out a life of faith, hope, and charity.  For instance, the third letter of John is a testament to this call. The sacred author tells a faithful church leader, Gaius, to persevere in doing good for others, even in the face of a despairing world and dissident leaders. The author tells Gaius, moreover, to “imitate what is good” even though others do the opposite. To further this argument, the author commends Gaius for the faithful work he does for those in his church and, most importantly, for those who are strangers. This reminder to offer love and mercy to the stranger recalls Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Through loving others, especially the outsider, we love Christ in all of his disguises.

In looking through my Twitter news feed, I notice many people who fester negativity and counter-productive discontent, and I am often tempted to be one of them. I have to admit that the pull is intoxicating. Through God’s grace, however, I instead seek that “still small voice” in my heart that calls me to love. Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, it is difficult to hear God speak in our hearts amid the tumult of the times. But God is there if we stop and listen.

Choosing love in the context of hate requires cooperation and giving up our personal agendas. It means that we choose to be the light rather than the darkness. We are called, finally, to be the light of Christ. In No Greater Love, Mother Teresa writes, “If we do not radiate the light of Christ around us, the sense of darkness that prevails in the world will increase” (12). In the midst of a dreary post-political climate, a world already challenged by skepticism and hate, let us all choose to be the light of Christ for others.

Let us pray:
I love it when a prayer touches the center of who I want to be in Christ, so I am sharing a prayer written by John Henry Newman. It is the one that sits on my desk at work as a reminder of who I am made, called, and yearn to be in Christ. Please pray it with me.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence.
….
Let me thus praise You in the way You love best: by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
Amen.