It is hard living in this world of pandemic and politics. It’s true that there is Netflix and novels to distract us, but we can’t help but knowing that we are living in the midst of fear, isolation and polarization. There is the echo of Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, where he writes, “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Did he foresee our time? Or perhaps has every time held this reality in its midst for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear?
Is it asking too much of our religion to offer us answers? Isn’t one of our problems that too many people assert an absolute religious perspective as the answer, and that in turn becomes a source of division and conflict? Or again, don’t certain kinds of religion offer peace by a complete withdrawal from the public square?
Jesus warns when the salt has lost its flavor it is useless and needs to be trashed (useless religion). But he also reminds his listeners that they are the light of the world.
It seems to me that following the example of Jesus leads us in three interrelated directions. First it leads us into a radical connection with our soul. I see this in Jesus’ baptism, the temptation stories, his teachings on prayer and the various times he seeks to be alone to pray. Secondly, I see Jesus moving out into a radical encounter with all sorts of people. Because of his soul work, I see him encountering the soulful needs of people. These needs manifest physically, and emotionally, but they all derive from and interact with wounded souls in need of liberation and healing. Finally, I see where this life inevitably leads into resistance and rejection by those invested in a world marked by the exercise of power and violence.
In short, the way for the Christian to be in this troubled world is to be committed to an encounter with our Creator through, prayer and introspection. This leads us to an encounter with real people in need of being seen, heard, healed and liberated from the effects of oppression. And finally allowing ourselves to bear the brunt of hostility as our efforts offend the world as it is. In this way the world system is exposed to a light that begins a process of justice.
No one can say in advance that your journey will look like anyone else’s journey. Each of us will find different truths, paths and expressions as we follow Christ inward and then outward. But it is in this process of discipleship that we can find a centre that will hold and make a difference in these chaotic times.