In today’s complex times, I am aware of the importance of the words of the prophet Micah, who encourages us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Sadly, it sometimes seems today that the spirit of justice, mercy and humility is all too often met with more than just mild resistance to these spiritual principles. It can sometimes feel like the loudest voices are those who favor discrimination over justice; punishment over mercy; and arrogance over humility.
But there are other voices calling out to us now. It is the voice of Micah encouraging us to justice, mercy and humility. It is the voice of Isaiah reminding us that the spirit of God is upon us and that we have been anointed so that we can bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty and freedom to those imprisoned, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. It is the voice of Jesus who calls the peacemakers blessed as children of God.
These are anxious times in so many ways. Now is the time – and always is the time – to help the world elevate the conversation to a higher plane. We can bring the voice that speaks the language of the heart of God to the world, and we can do that best by living authentic lives of peace, justice and love. Because if not from us, from whom will it come? We must help others know what we know. That there is no “us” or “them,” that there is only “us.” We must help others understand what the prophet Martin Luther King meant when he said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We also must stand firm in our resolve for unity and peace. Sometimes that means we must join the protest, and that protest is not just with our lips, but with our lives. Sometimes we must march as we strive for justice and peace among all people. Sometimes we must defend our defenseless brothers and sisters in respect for the dignity of all people.
So from where, as the Psalmist asks, is our hope to come? It comes from the profound awareness that the way Jesus comes to us in peace and humility, the way he lives his life for non-violence, peace and justice; that is also the way we should live our own lives for God and for the world. It is staking one’s life on the fact the God we see in the life of Jesus is alive within us. It means that when Jesus looks government or religion or society squarely in the eyes and says, “Something is wrong,” we too can never accept the status quo if others are being injured or treated unjustly or marginalized because of national, societal or religious interests.
But is also means that the pattern of life we see in Jesus as he forgives his persecutors, this is to be our life too. When he forgives those who are putting him to death, that pattern of forgiveness is a freedom that can never be match by hatred or vengeance. It means that when he gives himself to others in love – selfless love – we too can do that, and find that there is true liberation and real freedom in such acts of love.
This is no time to be timid in faith. This is a time to remind the world of the spiritual values that are characteristic of a God-centered life – values such as truth, honesty, respect, forgiveness and love. The God-centered life also stands boldly for justice and freedom for the most oppressed and marginalized among us.
The Dalai Lama once said, “It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” This is surely a time of great adversity for many. We are learning much about the truth of who we are as a nation and as a society. Some of those truths are hard to swallow. But this is also an opportunity to discover – or rediscover – some of the better attributes of who we are as people of God – our goodness, kindness and our compassion, because that is who God created all of us to be. This is our most authentic self – our Sacred Self. Just as the prophets of old called us to elevate our self-understanding, in our own time we are called by God to help one another remember who we are at our best.