JANETTE WILLKERSON

Real positive change requires courage and much work. The seemingly daily reports of racial unrest, confusing messages regarding COVID-19, and political-based rancor make it difficult to know what one should do and how.

Yet, doing nothing is not an option for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. We hold that God considered the world worth saving and still does, and therefore so should we.

Our task is to do our part to usher in the reign of God wherever we find ourselves, and in whatever ways we are able. We are called to do what we can, when we can, to heal the brokenness, violence, injustice and division of the world.

We are to be points of hopeful light in a too-dark world.

It is a worthy assignment and a tremendous responsibility. But given the complexity of the task, we often tend to seek easy answers and simple solutions.

One unfortunate shortcut too often taken is to focus only on the evil outside of us. In doing so, we inevitably ignore the evil within us. When the entire problem is “out there,” we become very self-righteous, judgmental, and even aggressive. We tend to project all that we see as wrong with the world on “those people.”

Such a view allows us to then quickly draw boundary lines, apply labels, and claim the high ground of what we define for all as the “correct ethical living.” Such actions seem good and appropriate, and at least help to maintain our own sense of being in the right.

However, what is needed first is to face and heal the brokenness and violence within our own hearts. We need first to recognize how we have been complicit in the world’s ills by what we have done, or more often, have failed to do. Until we have addressed these issues within us, we will not be effective agents of God’s healing for the world.

Without working on ourselves first, we risk our actions, even if well-intended, to be contradictory at best. Without first doing the hard and courageous work of self-examination, reflection and correction, we are apt to believe that peace can be achieved through war, unity through judgment, and justice through domination.

But these are not the ways of the one who claims our lives.

Christ came to show us a different way… a way rooted in love and grace, openness to all people, and a willingness to risk personal safety to serve as the champion of the least, lost and alone.

Sharing that same love and grace with courage and dedication might be just what the world needs right now. May it start with you and me.

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.