The urge for so many across the globe to act - marching, moralizing, lecturing, ranting, from right and left, claiming to be the most enlightened and righteous - gives me pause. How would I best serve, were I an elected official, in such an environment? Rather than feeling driven to the streets, compelled to make signs or to wear slogans on my t-shirts, I’ve felt driven to think, pray, develop perspective and account for myself.
My roles in life are many:
- Business Owner
- Board Member
- Congregational Member
- Property Owner
I also believe I am a child of God who so often disappoints and fails in these roles.
In some roles I lead; in others I follow. In some roles I am independent; in others, dependent. In still others, I am interdependent. In them all I view myself a steward, accountable to those who bestow on me these gifts, for those to whom these gifts will be given.
Where others choose polarities, I find it a struggle to take sides politically, culturally, organizationally, or religiously. I’m gifted, yea cursed, with almost instantaneous grasp of complexity, nuance, context, insight into my neighbor’s point of view, and ability to see multiple scenarios and approaches to an issue. It is a gift because it makes me a creative. It is a curse because so many people my life touches are angry that their simplicity, their calm, their assurance of being right, and their sense of keeping what belongs to them and theirs can feel threatened. They so easily focus on what grows fear in them and can no longer see sympathy, respect or understanding. It feels devastating to have people from left and right to revile you as an enemy because you refuse to shout their assurance that there is but one point of view: theirs.
In all these reflections, I’m left with four principles that have guided and continue to guide my life. They are not answers but they do create a process by which answers might be gained - at least until we need to work our way through the questions again. They are expressed as a hierarchy; that is, while I would want to honor all of them in all things at all times, forced choice, or a limited time frame, or lack of insight sometimes limits that possibility.
Faced with so many polarities, dilemmas and pitched cultural and political battles, and with seemingly more to come, I navigate according to:
- that which is loving and just for those who are born.
- that which is loving and just for those who are unborn.
- that which is loving and just for those not yet conceived.
- that which is loving and just for those who are no longer living.
Pick a polarizing issue or any political fight. Think about what you might be shouting yourself. Think about what others are shouting. How does your conviction and call for action satisfy these principles?
More than exposing flaws and limitations of positions people take, these principles invite deeper reflection and more clarity. They invite greater balance and far more awareness of and appreciation for others.
These principles do not fit well on a sign. They do not seem to contribute well to winning elections. They don’t attract television cameras. They wear well, however, as I relate to aging parents, try to offer wisdom to my children, seek to engage in sustaining enterprise, serve my neighbor, cast my vote, and kneel at the altar, where I’m reminded that the grace I receive fosters the grace I show—the legacy of how I lived in human community in all those roles I’ve been granted.