What’s your perspective?
I think many of the feelings I have experienced theses past weeks/months/years, while riding the election roller coaster, were challenged and shaped by the perspectives I maintained. Whenever I found myself considering how any particular result was in line with my own wishes, my anxieties were more likely to be heightened. On the rare occasions when I mustered the temerity to step back a bit and to consider the bigger picture, the one beyond myself, I was rewarded with a sense of calm and even reassurance.
Just as my angst was nearing its boiling point last week, I happened across a reflection from the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. I was familiar with it but, in light of present circumstances, Niebuhr’s words challenged me anew to reconsider the position from which I was contemplating the state of the world around me.
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetimes; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”
As I have been before, I was frustrated with my presumption that Niebuhr’s point somehow suggests that my present efforts or concerns lack in worth, and in the case of last week, that my one vote in this one election didn’t matter. But, reading a little closer and further, this isn’t at all what Reinhold is saying. “Take a step back!” is another way to interpret the charge of this gifted theologian.
Your actions do matter, they matter deeply. But the richness of their purpose and the breadth of their impact cannot be fully realized in this one moment. You and I are a part of something much bigger. We are characters in a story so grand that it’s impossible to take it in only from our one vantage point. And, perhaps more importantly, all the progress we hope to make is uniquely tied to how we treat each other.
I give thanks this day to be a part of a community of faith that connects me to so much that is beyond myself. My prayer for our church is that we take a step back and to consider all the ways in which God is so powerfully at work in our midst and all the people with whom God has bound us. And, as we take in the view, especially knowing that we may have failed or fallen, be reminded that we still have everything we need to reach out in love.
Take a step back this day and may you find peace. -Pastor Peter