It’s been a tough couple of days with the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans at the consulate in Libya.
My prayers and the prayers of our community go out to those families suffering, including Libyan security forces who died trying to protect the embassy and other facilities.
I also join with many around the world who continue to cry out for peace and justice.
Jesus called us to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Sometimes, that charge seems annoying, like when our friend, mentor, or pastor reminds us to have compassion and patience with our next door neighbor who plays music too loud in the evening or shares different political views than our own. But that charge seems impossible when we consider the people we share this planet with – a diverse assortment of folks with different religious, political, and cultural values.
How the heck can we be a neighbor to them?
Our world is interconnected now in some exciting and challenging ways. While we often turn our attention to local problems and needs, we understand that there is a global dimension to everything we do. I’m not sure if Jesus knew that we would understand the idea of a neighbor in such a large sense, but it is the way we our world has changed.
Ultimately, it’s never easy to live in community with people who are very different from you. That is why we bond in cultures, subcultures, churches, clubs, and so on. Rubbing elbows with people outside of our groups leads to anxiety and discomfort, but it also gives us opportunity to learn and grow. Gerald May in Addiction & Grace suggests one of the best ways to respond to this kind of complexity is the contemplative route – “the simple and courageous attempt to bear as much as one can of reality just as it is”.
Reckoning with reality, not easy to do at all, means that we refuse to stereotype, that we seek to understand, that we don’t dismiss the deep challenges and problems of our world, and that we don’t deny our own misgivings and pain in the process.
In other words, we try to figure out how to live together.
In the end, while we disagree on a lot of stuff, it’s also true that we share much in common. With God, there is always hope. For those who seek violence, there are more that seek peace. For those that respond in rage and anger, there are those who bind up wounds and care for the stranger in their midst.
May God guide us in that goal and grant us patience, humility, and compassion. May we know our neighbors as people. May we seek peace, even when it hurts. May those who take up violence find their paths thwarted. May we yearn and cry out and work for a better world.
That’s my prayer anyway. Peace to you all!