Then pealed the bells more loud and sweet, God is not dead nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men
I think I’ve seen these lines quoted more in the past week than in several years combined. We’ve been stunned at the loss of innocence as seen through the lens of the Sandy Hook School tragedy in Newtown, CT. And lines like these from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” probably feel like a fantasy. But I have some ideas about how we can bring some peace to this earth.
As a Christian, I do believe in the reality of God incarnate, Emmanuel, Jesus Messiah. I wish everyone did, but since they do not, how should a follower of Christ respond to conditions around us?
- We should be careful how we speak for God. I do not believe it’s a winning argument to say God has chosen to abandon folks in times of great sorrow and tragedy simply because public prayer in schools is unlawful. While I understand that God chooses to allow us free will and does not always shield us from the consequences of our own decisions, I do not believe that God wanted anyone to die in Newtown, CT last Friday. Not even Adam Lanza.
- We can tone down the rhetoric. I don’t mean that we can’t speak passionately and even forcefully about the issues of our day, but we are really mean to each other right now. The recent presidential election was another good example. Eviscerating the opponent is now an essential part of the game. So, if our elected leaders are doing it to each other, why can’t we? It happens on Facebook and Twitter, in text messages and emails, and in restaurant booths when we think no one else can hear. It even happens between people who go to church together. Jesus was pretty clear about how we ought to treat others… It made his top two commandments!
- We can do something nice for someone, even if they never know it… But especially if they do! For example:
- It may not sound like much, but letting someone into your lane on the busy commute to work instead of trying to beat the traffic ourselves is a good thing. Wrecks on our roadways are often caused by someone whose schedule was just more important that anybody else’s.
- When we leave Target or Walmart or the grocery store, we could return the shopping cart that we used and two or three others that have been left randomly by people too busy or self-absorbed to return it themselves.
- Tip the server at the restaurant more than they deserve, not less. Most folks working in all but the swankiest of restaurants are working there because they have no other option or it’s a means of additional income. Tip bigger and complain less. If the food isn’t what you hoped for, it’s probably the fault of the kitchen staff, not the person who brought it to you.
- Let somebody – anybody – off the hook. I’m a Seinfeld fan. I don’t mean that I’d like to be like the characters in their shallowness of life, but I think it’s good writing and generally funny. It’s a show I can fall asleep to late at night. In the classic “Festivus” episode, George Costanza’s dad says before anyone can eat, there must be “the airing of grievances.” A potentially happy occasion is tainted by frustrations with others. Nothing we do today can undo the past… But we can choose to make the best of today in hopes of an even better tomorrow! We can hold on to the pain and resentment of what someone has done to us in the past, but we seldom feel better for it. It’s difficult, but with God’s help, we can find a way to forgive. I’ve tried it and it can work.
- Making peace with others could start an avalanche of goodness. I know we can’t solve the all the geopolitical issues of our day. I know we can’t keep nation from fighting against nation. I know people are hungry. I know there are so many things we can’t seem to control… But what if WE did just what WE could? What if our decision to be kind to whom we can, where we can, ended up making a difference in even just a few lives?
It’s possible that our world will still come apart at the seams, but at least we could say we gave it a shot. Who’s with me?? Who can you bless today with your peace?