Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To Be Seen

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

Psalm 4.6

A Prayer for Our Time

I’m suffering right now from bad-news fatigue. The moment something good happens, here come the doubters and defamers to throw sand in our eyes and make us feel like fools for thinking anything can get better. When society comes under the grips of bad news boors, though, it starts to break down in crucial ways, because a society without hope is one without drive. And nothing gets me more tired than pundits whose warped worldview is based entirely on what’s good for them rather than what’s best for all.

In America, nearly 50 million people have no access to health coverage; either it’s not offered to them or its cost prohibitive. (Yesterday I spoke with a bright young woman—a mother of teenagers—who told me because she can’t afford healthcare on what she makes, she’s taken a second mortgage on her home.) Listening to some overpaid, under-challenged, cable-news nabob argue about the “inconveniences” and “inefficiencies” of a nationalized healthcare plan depresses me no end. People worrying about their stock portfolios above showing concern for their fellow humans exhaust patience and understanding. (And, by the way, protecting people and profits is not mutually exclusive. It’s just not easy.) Now that we’re in the thick of trying to rebuild so many areas of life that went neglected, fatigue is starting to take its toll. The work is hard, the tired ideas more tiresome than ever, and the will to do good wanes. When I read Psalm 4.6, I hear a prayer for our time: “People are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.”

Basking and Beaming

“Let your light shine before men,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “so they’ll see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” The world needs our light, and our light is not our own. It’s God’s light shining on us, reflecting through us to the world. We should bask in God’s light. In the midst of this dreary and cold world, we should wrap ourselves in warmth of hope and luminescence. (It’s much, much brighter and inspiring than the dim bulbs of TV, by the way.) But we can never absorb all of God’s light. It’s more than any one individual can contain. So as we’re basking, we’re naturally beaming—showing the goodness of God to those around us, radiating kindness, energy, love, forgiveness… all the goodness that shines on us should shine out of us, too.

Each Other and Everyone Else

In 1 Thessalonians 5.15, Paul writes, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” Each other and everyone else—it’s not an inside brand of kindness, it flows out of our hearts to everyone around us, Christian and non-Christian, friend and enemy, supporter or detractor. We’re kind to all for three reasons: First, kindness is a hallmark of Christ’s laws of love for our neighbors. Second, we have no right to judge anyone as unworthy of our kindness—indeed, some of the most difficult people we’ll ever know are the ones most seriously in need of kindness. But third, treating each other and everyone else kindly ensures our potential to be seen—for others to observe God’s love and light at work in us.

We can’t afford not to reflect what’s good in this life and this world. We can’t afford not to be kind. It’s good for us. It’s good for others. It’s good for all.

Being kind to all, randomly even, ensures others can find good they're hoping to find in the world.

(Tomorrow: If Only We Would)

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