By Steven Norris
Another election season is (mostly) behind us and we are left to ask, “What now?” I feel compelled to offer a pastoral response.
The past months and years continually remind us that this is a time of deep division. I admit that my inclination is to want to erase the division. I have frequently lamented the lack of unity among neighbors and in our churches. Yet, I am also aware that merely erasing division can be little more than perpetuating the temptation to “cancel” those with whom we disagree — to silence, eliminate, or just ignore them.
Instead of erasing the lines of division, I am convinced that we need to begin the hard work of healing those fissures and mending the divide. I would like to suggest that, as people of faith, we possess many of the tools needed to begin such repair, if we are willing and courageous enough to use them. Try these:
Confession. The scripture says, “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Many of us have said things and done things — whether online, to neighbors, or merely in our own hearts and minds — that were hurtful. Through our words and actions, we have damaged relationships and caused deep pain to those who are different from us. Healing begins when we are courageous enough to name those hurts and confess our complicity.
Repentance. Once we have admitted that there is a problem, we are called to change the direction we were heading. Jesus’ first sermon consisted of this one sentence, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance means turning around and going the opposite direction. It means working to repair the damage we’ve caused through our words, actions, or attitudes. It means to make amends.
Reconciliation. Healing begins with simple acts of kindness and connection. To those neighbors who had a different candidate’s sign in their yard or on their car’s bumper, maybe we could begin a conversation — not one of anger or gloating, but of genuine concern and a desire to know one another. The scripture says that Christ’s primary ministry was one of reconciliation and that he “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Service. Jesus said, “I came not to be served but to serve.” Time and time again, Jesus led with the towel, not the throne. I know that I have never stopped to ask about the party affiliation of someone working next to me at the food pantry, soup kitchen, or community garden. Instead, we have been united in focus on improving the lives of our neighbors and meeting needs in Jesus’ name. Maybe that is an important next step in healing — serving together towards a common cause or goal of meeting the needs of our fellow neighbors.
Instead of looking at the Church and thinking, “wow, look at their love for power,” my prayer is that the world might look at us and say, “wow, look at the power of their love.” Under such circumstances, healing might genuinely be possible.