New Year - Kindness and Love
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” --Galatians 6: 9
I know many of us had high hopes for the new year, as if turning over the calendar might have the magical, mystical power to reset the myriad of messiness and mayhem of 2020. Then the horrific events in Washington DC on January 6 happened. And the blinding reality of the disunity, discord, dysfunction, and division, which are so prevalent in our country, came rushing back.
Yet before we shrug our shoulders in defeat, withdraw into sentiment, or joke about being only a few days into a new year and we can already see the ways 2021 could be a wash of disappointment, I would encourage us to step back and take a collective breath. I believe there are a few things we need to acknowledge and challenge ourselves on.
First, the emotional climate of intolerance, hatred, cynicism, and mistrust which exist in our country is not new. It did not develop overnight, so it will not disappear overnight. It will take time, and it will take incremental work to transform ourselves. Transformation only comes when there is a change of thinking, a change in perspective, and a change in one’s heart, mind, and spirit. It is an internal job. And the hardest truth is we cannot make other people change.
However, we can create atmospheres, environments, and spaces which allow people (including ourselves) to experience something different.
For example, if we have come to expect judgment, indifference or even cruelty, we can be disarmed by the experience of acceptance, care, and kindness. If the experience of genuine love and kindness is a consistent contrast to what is experienced in other places, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance which occurs.
If wrestling with others is what people have come to know and expect, the relief of genuine love and kindness will be welcomed as something quite different. It can soften our hearts and cause us in turn to reciprocate genuine love and kindness in our interactions with others. In other words, what we experience is often what we pass on and contribute to the world. This is why we claim and hold to the truth we sing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Ideally, I believe the church can and should be the place where we can come to expect and experience the life-changing power of love.
Therefore, we must not give up hope. We must continue to do good as Christ calls us to. Now more than ever the world needs, you need, I need to know and experience that kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, and love can still exist and still has ultimate power over cruelty, intolerance, blame and hatred. Even when it is hardest to do, even when we are weary and wonder if we can make any difference at all, we must not give up. For the power of Christ’s love can prevail. But it must be seen, experienced and expressed through us. May it be so in all of us.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister