“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” These words from Mother Teresa seem strikingly appropriate for our current time and the challenges that we face.
Surely the Coronavirus crisis has inspired us to re-think how we live together as a community. We see people helping and caring for others in beautiful and heartwarming ways. We are learning the value of using less so we can leave more for those in greater need. We are discovering new ways to be in community and even reflecting on what community truly means. We are reimaging how we worship together in new and exciting ways, not just to maintain a sense of church community, but also to use the new platforms to allow others to experience God.
There is also a rising of voices for long over-due racial justice and change from the status quo that does not offer equality, justice and freedom for all people. This coming together in solidarity for real, positive change inspires hope for our future, a future that will look very different from the past. All of these ways of coming together brings out the best of who we can be when we realize we are all in this together and work for the greater good of all.
But this time is also bringing out another side of our collective being that is far from the best we can be. The politicalizing of the deadliest pandemic in modern history has caused fear, distrust and division at a time when we most need trust and unity. Most disturbing is that the missteps and conflicting messages of the seriousness of Coronavirus has resulted in tens of thousands of needless deaths. With the rising of people demanding racial justice, there has also come a backlash from the white status quo. And just this past week we chose death over life when the federal government sanctioned the killing of a human being by lethal injection.
All because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. All because in this time of real crisis, we have too often put our own perceived private and political privilege ahead of our responsibility to care for one another; and the most vulnerable among us are paying the greatest price. All of this because we have decided that some lives matter more than others. But these things not only separate us from one another. They separate us from God. And God weeps.
In the first chapter of Genesis in the Hebrew Canon, we hear that “God created human beings in God’s own image.” Each and every one of us were created in the Imago Dei – the image of God. It feels to me that what is at the core of our division – this forgetting that we belong to one another – is our inability to embrace the image of God within ourselves. Because if we cannot see ourselves as created in God’s image and beloved by God, how can we possibly see others in that same way? But just because we cannot know that for ourselves and for others does not change the truth of our divine imaging. It may be obscured by layers of wounding that produce anger, judgement and shame; it may be manifest as internal protective mechanisms that create a false sense of privilege and superiority over others, but it is still there. The Divine Spark within each of us can never be extinguished. The goodness of God within us will never die. What does need to die are all of the things that prevent us from fully realizing who we are – children of God, created in God’s image. Once we begin that work, then we can begin to inspire love instead of hate and unity instead of division. But it’s not easy.
The opportunity is upon us now as individuals, as a nation, and as a global community to do the tough work of dismantling the falseness that keeps us from fully living into the life of equality and freedom that we were created for. It means that we need to be more interested in our responsibilities to one another rather than our own perceived personal rights. Because just because we may feel we have the right to do something, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should. We need to look beyond ourselves and to the common good for all. When we begin to claim our responsibilities for one another’s health, safety, dignity and equality; then we are closing the gap that separates us. We are then flattening the curve of the chasm that divides our human family.
The process also requires that we claim our own responsibility for the harm we have done to others, embracing our need for mercy, and asking forgiveness. Then follows reparations. This is the only path to healing and wholeness of being. This is the path of salvation. Never has the need for this kind of honesty, truth telling, and reconciliation been more apparent and urgent. There is too much at stake right now to turn away from our false self. We must face the truth. What awaits us is a glimpse of the Imago Dei within. Once we catch a glimpse of our own divinity, then we will be able to see it in others. Once that happens, we can never again diminish the dignity or deny the humanity of another human being because we will never look into the eyes of someone whom God does not love. Then we are truly free.
We need truth now. We need justice. We need healing. We need to do our part to help us come together in unity and in love. I pray that we can all turn away from our falseness that only harms and divides us. I pray that we can all fully embrace truth, mercy, justice and compassion. This is the only way. Anything else is an illusion.