Occasional Reflection---Porter Taylor
Tomorrow we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. Before we think about food and fireworks, let’s remember what freedom means for us as followers of Jesus. The Collect for Peace reminds us that our service to God is “perfect freedom.” As Americans we celebrate that we are not under the yoke of foreign powers—namely England. But as Christians the foreign powers are what St. Paul calls the “fruits of the flesh”: strife, jealousy, anger, dissentions, factions, envy” and so on. Instead we are to embrace the fruits of the Spirt: joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, kindness, self-control, gentleness.
I have been thinking about the spiritual state of our country and our Christian response. While we need to stand up for the common good and while we need to have the voice of the Church in the public square, the way we articulate our concerns is just as important as the message itself. Our goal is not to prove our own righteousness; our goal is mutual conversion. We desire to go from a country that resembles the Tower of Babel to an experience of Pentecost: many languages but all in community.
What if we declared our independence from the constant rancor that exists? What if we don’t brush over our differences but find ways to speak to one another from a deeper place? What if we called one another to remember who we are as Children of God and, therefore, our duty is not to annihilate our political opponents, but to live holy lives? What if we focus on how we think about and relate to those with whom we disagree? What if we began by praying for those whom we think are ruining our nation and our prayer wasn’t that they agree with us, but that they grow into the person God created them to be?
There’s a way to work for change that widens the circle, and the first step towards that is to think about how we embody the Fruits of the Spirit in our interactions with one another. Our Lord didn’t demonize those who opposed him. He invited them into a new way of seeing and he gave them a glimpse of what the Beloved Community looks like. Let’s remember we are in the mutual lifelong conversion business and conversion begins by seeing the Other as your neighbor. Conversion begins by paying attention to your own actions and speech and motives. Conversion begins by asking God to widen your heart so that you can see those you oppose as sinners in need of redemption—just like you. Most of all conversion begins when our lives become testimonies to the Fruits of the Spirit.
Let’s remember, each week we taste the bread of heaven so that we will remember not only where we are headed, but the communion God wants all of God’s children to experience here and now.