Some of us – sisters and brothers in Christ – lift up Philippians 4:8 as a life verse: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Generally speaking, we focus on what is beautiful and wholesome. We post uplifting images and stories. We live comfortably and securely and we want that for others.
Others of us – devoted sisters and brothers in Christ – lift up Matthew 25:37-40 as a life verse: “‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Generally speaking, we focus on social injustices. We post provocative images and stories. We live uncomfortably if only because the realities of the world weigh heavily on us to the point of trying to do something beyond writing a check for the offering plate.
These are ridiculously extreme descriptions, but you get what I mean.
What I’m talking about here is not necessarily a political divide. There were followers of Jesus at this Romney retreat meeting here to discuss American leadership last week and there were followers of Jesus at this Democratic leadership retreat meeting here last winter. There are Christians living in gated communities separated from danger and unpleasantness, and there are Christians living in intentional communities in the inner city in the thick of danger and unpleasantness.
How do we reconcile living the beautiful life with living in an ugly world.
Someone posted on Facebook yesterday – with the now famous photograph of children being held by our own government – these words:
“If you are a Christian and this doesn’t anger you, then you need to repent. Jesus was a refugee. His followers were law-breakers. If protecting the borders or ‘American culture’ are more important to you than compassion to children and aliens, then you need to admit that Jesus’ opinion means less to you than the opinion of Rush Limbaugh.”
Some of us are moved to the point of trying to Do Something (from writing our members of Congress to serving undocumented people in our own neighborhoods.) And some of us look away and post another picture of happy children.
How do we as followers of Jesus indeed follow Jesus in light of what is not true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise in this world?
If God has blessed us with abundant life, what are we doing in response to this blessing? How is it possible that we sit and admire what is beautiful without a concern about what is not?
Image includes the time stamped May 27, 2014 which – if true – shows a Texas holding station for unaccompanied immigrant children.
The Buddhists have a practice called Mindfulness that I think is similar to the Christian practice of focusing thoughts on what is pure and just and lovely and worthy of praise. Mindfulness teaches you simply to pay attention; just be fully present to everything around you which, of course, includes what is ugly, violent and unjust. But it also includes what is beautiful. The most challenging practice is to be mindful of both at the same time and, by that very attention, allow the Spirit to move you to what action is required in the moment. I love the Dostoevsky quote from the mouth of epileptic Prince Myskin in The Idiot, “beauty will save the world.”