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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A time for love, forgiveness and acceptance

Look Deeper by Rev. Will Johnson

Everything right now is election-oriented, politically-minded.  And that is a good thing, because we should be involved in our democracy.  It’s good, but at the same time, elections are divisive.  They can be difficult, straining, aggravating, even depressing — no matter which side you take or who “your candidate” is.

This week I have been at a conference in Colorado, sitting in on talks by different pastors and church workers throughout the country.  There have been ideas flying around about the past and the future and the present and how all of these interact.  While each has been interesting in its own way, one stuck out to me more than the others did.  At one point, this speaker came to the subject of television shows. 

In each, apparently, there are the themes of love, forgiveness and acceptance.

I hadn’t thought about it before. But whether it’s a sitcom, crime show, or something else, these themes come up.  Even the shows about zombie apocalypses or normal people turning into drug dealers have these themes.  Sometimes they are hidden, sometimes they are obvious.  But they are there, spread over episodes or simply in bright spots here and there.

In the Church, those are three of the major themes —but sometimes we fail to live them out.  Love, and forgiveness, and acceptance — that’s what Jesus was all about, that’s what writers for hundreds of years continued to proclaim about God on the pages of the Bible and even between Bible-times and present-day.

Whether or not the Church states it well in our actions or words or anything else, that’s what we are supposed to get across — both within the church building and without.

God has given us these things to proclaim — not just to know or think about, not just to state or claim as we whisper into the wind, but to shout out loud to all people around us — hoping in return that someone proclaims them into our lives, too. Because while we easily see the needs others have for these, they probably see when we don’t our own need for them.

We need love, forgiveness, and acceptance proclaimed into our lives.  Right now, and in just over four weeks, and in the months that follow, we will need these.  Before we know who wins, who loses, we need to be thinking about these three things, and living into them so that when the election is decided, our attempts at understanding them can be put into real practice in all the interactions we have with people.

Love, forgiveness, and acceptance are hard.  These are things that invite and propel us to risk — risk our safety, risk our comfort, put on the line our understanding of how life is to be.  Love is not the fluffy perfection so many claim — it is hard work.  Forgiveness is not just saying “that’s OK” when someone wronged you, because that glosses over whatever happened — and frankly, the words “that is OK” make the action that wronged you “OK.”  Instead we need a forgiveness that wipes the slate clean and makes the relationship whole again.  Acceptance is not avoidance or tolerance, but open arms that take into them the things that are hard and rough and difficult.

These are three of the things that Christians are called to. But I also think that as citizens — non-Christians, Christians, Muslims, atheists, Jews, agnostics, and any other group that makes up our country — these are what we are called to.  We are called as citizens to do these three when we lose — but also when we think we have won.

Will Johnson is pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Glendive. He may be reached at pastor@zionlutheran.us.

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