"The instructions the Lord gave Jeremiah to pass on to the Israelites as they were dragged into exile in Babylon tell us what we must do. Rather than hunkering down in our enclaves out of fear or despair, waiting for the Lord to return and take us from this world, we are called to live our lives fully and 'seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…'
"Instead of cursing the nation and its inhabitants, pray and show compassion and care." ~ Ron Miller, "Seek the Welfare of the City"
I often tell my fellow Christians that the proper response to the ways of this world, a world in which committed Christ followers have always been strangers, is to "seek the welfare of the city", in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. It's important to note that Jeremiah gave these instructions to the people of Israel in one of the darkest times in their history.
St. Francis de Sales, who, according to the followers who revere his teaching, wrote extensively on "practical everyday spirituality for living in the modern world", advised us to "bloom where you're planted".
Booker T. Washington advised black Americans who emerged from slavery, only to encounter Jim Crow, domestic terror, and pervasive racism, to "cast down your bucket where you are."
The principle in all three proverbs is the same. Despite the fallen world in which we live, rather than reacting in despair, anger or anxiety to every change that comes along, we are to be our best selves in the time and place in which we live.
This article below is a perfect illustration of what I'm talking about. There are thousands more like it, but we need to be so pervasive in the daily practice of Christian love and grace that, just as in ancient Rome, not even an empire can stand in the presence of such power.
“Let us be who we are and be it well.” -St. Francis De Sales
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." ~ Genesis 50:20
The response of the people of Charleston, especially the families of those murdered by Dylann Roof, gives me hope that this evil act will, in fact, produce the opposite effect of what he intended. Keep praying!
Another liberal voice in the media speaks out against the culture of intolerance. Could we be at a tipping point?
In my personal opinion, partisans on both sides can be accused of being intolerant of different views - I've seen it when trying to forge common ground on matters of race - but the ones who control the opinion-shaping institutions of society, namely the media, academia, the entertainment industry, advertising and politics, bear a greater responsibility for shaping the tone and tenor of the national dialogue. Those with the power and influence bear the burden of leadership and all the responsibility that entails.
"Liberal" once stood for freedom of conscience and tolerance of differing views. It's not a violation of liberal principles to return to that definition.
One of my favorite writers, Rod Dreher, points out that, despite the very real challenges in our world today - he doesn't dismiss them, and says he hates false optimism - and the need for us to regroup, reaffirm and reinforce what we believe and why we believe it, which he calls "The Benedict Option", there is still great hope in the Christian life. As he writes:
"First, and foremost, the reason for hope is that God exists, Christ is risen from the dead, and all things work together in the fullness of time for goodness and harmony. More particularly, Christianity imbues suffering and loss with meaning. Paul Claudel says that Jesus did not come to save us from our suffering, nor did he come to explain our suffering. He came to inhabit our suffering. This means, in part, that there is meaning even in loss, and that suffering does not have to be in vain.
"...[T]here is simply too much pleasure and goodness afoot to despairs. 'The world remains sunlit despite its vices,' said Russell Kirk. True, that. As long as there are boiled crawfish, raw oysters, faithful wives, dear friends, good music, church on Sunday, bookstores, cheese, Louis Armstrong, France, and all other things that make life worth living, there’s hope."
And the Louisiana boy in me really appreciated this line:
"As long as you can still make a roux, everything’s going to be alright."
"No one wants to follow someone, however, who is angry or anxious about the current state of society, or doubtful of its redemption, and therefore chooses to wall themselves off from the world, hurling curses over the partition. History and God’s Word tell us how human hearts are won to Him, and we need to shake off whatever behavior is inhibiting us from seeking the welfare of the city.
"Even in that act of sacrifice and other-centeredness, God makes us a promise – 'in its welfare, you will find your welfare' (Jeremiah 29:7). ~ Ron Miller, "Seek the Welfare of the City"
Let us remember the history of the early church; whatever they lacked in numbers or political influence, they had love in abundance, and that is what put the Roman Empire to shame.
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you" (Proverbs 25:21-22).
I've mentioned Ms. Powers book before, and those who've read it say it's a compelling and disturbing work. This complimentary article by Eric Metaxas, however, brought to mind a couple of interesting questions I'd like to pose to you.
From what I know of these two people, one of whom (Ms. Powers) I've had the pleasure of meeting in person back in 2010 in the green room at the Fox News studios in New York, they are both Christians, but they have differing views on a few high-visibility social issues. Redefining marriage comes to mind as at least one issue on which they are on opposing sides.
Yet, Eric Metaxas begins his article with the phrase "My friend Kirsten Powers", and begins his concluding paragraph with the statement, "I’m proud to have Kirsten Powers as my unlikely friend".
So here are my questions:
Are differing political opinions a deal breaker for you when it comes to friendships, or are you able to forge friendships regardless of political beliefs or affiliations? Do you have "some unlikely friends"?
“The Church in England was central to the development of legal and human rights centuries before the French Revolution . . . the first parties to the charter were the bishops—led by Stephen Langton of Canterbury, who was a major drafter and mediator between the king and the barons; and its first and last clauses state that ‘the Church in England shall be free.’” ~ Church of England's Synod of Bishops
As Britain commemorates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it's important to remember that from it sprang many of the principles which influenced the creation of our founding documents, and one of those principles was religious liberty as reflected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
How many of today's school children even know of Magna Carta?
It is also true, however, that somewhere along the way, we have distorted the chronology of work. We now seem to believe we're entitled to begin our journey through the world of work on third base, or we should receive mid-to-high skill wages for unskilled work, or we're not interested.
Anecdotally, an energy company is investing nearly $9 billion in a new ethane cracker and derivatives facility in my hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and there are hundreds of well-paying jobs available to help build the plant and supporting infrastructure. My parents tell me, however, that the company cannot generate enough interest in the local community, and so the company is building migrant communities to bring workers in from outside the area.
Something is terribly wrong with us. I commend Mike Rowe for handling this accusatory inquiry with great grace, and making a powerful case for work in the process.
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." ~ Genesis 2:15
"Ron's Reflections" is the Google+ Page for Ron Miller of Lynchburg, Virginia, an associate dean and assistant professor with the Helms School of Government at Liberty University. Ron is a commentator and author of SELLOUT: Musings From Uncle Tom’s Porch. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for numerous online sites and print publications.