There’s a lot going on around the world and no doubt in our communities and extended families. It’s like every week we are shaking our heads at the news, the tragedy, the injustice, the incompetence, the chaos. How many conversations over a meal or a coffee include the statement, “If I were in charge. If I were Biden. If I were in Haiti. If I were Dr. Fauci. If I were such and such a politician…..?”
It’s the easiest thing in the world to utter those words, “If I were….” from an armchair, from a distance, from a safe and anonymous untested, and unobserved place. Perhaps when we’re tempted to speak those three words we should pause and converse with ourselves. “What would you do? And what then? What if your best attempt doesn’t work out? What if people you trust turn on you? What if you discover other factors of which you were unaware? What if corruption, political opportunism, fanatics, gangs, religious zealots, hypocrites, and thieves upturn your applecart? What if you speak and no-one listens? What if they don’t care about your message and great intent and they savage your character or your past failings? What if you wished you’d asked for help, listened to others, and now it’s too late? What if you’re out of your depth and don’t know which way to turn anymore?”
There’s a whole lot of reality out there that is way beyond our control, let alone our understanding. And with the communication tools we have at our fingertips and flooding into our earbuds – the noise is deafening. It’s probably always been this way. Only in the past communication was limited, resulting in a merciful insulation from having to know and process so much, from so many places at the same time.
I don’t know about you, but wherever I travelled in the world I have met people, just like me, bumbling around trying to make the best of the life they have. They all have fears and concerns, dreams and aspirations, failures and inspiring stories of overcoming. On the ground anywhere in the world is merely a different backdrop to our common experience of humanity. Beauty, compassion, chaos, and corruption all mixed up, intertwined, and never ending.
And God? We read that he so loved the world that he gave. He gave his son, he gave his love, he gave time, patience, rain and sunshine, mercy, grace, a million chances and choices, and more than we can imagine. The same world that humanity has fought over, abused, and disfigured. The world that scares us, attracts us, overwhelms us, and confuses us. He so loved that world. He so loves that world. He continues to give…
The nasty catch with giving is that what is given has to be received if its purpose and value is to make a difference. We are painfully aware how much human aid and resources distributed around the world have been syphoned off to fuel violence, corruption, and dictators. Similarly God’s gifts and generous giving only bear fruit where they are received and utilized. Unlike human aid that passes between humans, hand to hand, God’s gifts are only accessed and distributed through human hearts. A far more profound and complex journey that demands integrity and authenticity. It means that I can only pass on a gift from God that I have first received personally. “Love as I have loved you.” “My peace I give, not as the world gives.”
That’s why it’s not hard to detect fake gifts with God labels. When they are passed hand to hand in his name they bring no power, no sustenance, and no help. God’s gift with fake labels cannot be sustained under pressure. They are withdrawn when the giving demands endurance and sacrifice. However, when those gifts are passed from heart to heart transformation is an inevitable by-product. Those heart gifts are still far to rare. God always expresses his love through human relationship and contact. In the first instance he so loved the world that he sent his son, Jesus. Jesus walked among us, taught, touched, healed the sick and lepers, and eventually laid down his life. Even the gifts of God through a perfect human heart can be rejected and destroyed by us. And after Jesus, God’s gifts are delivered and manifest through his followers and disciples.
Consequently it seems that followers of Jesus would be the last to criticize, point fingers, and say, “If I were…” Instead they are called to be salt and light…. an ever present help in trouble. People who pay forward and give away what they have received. They can’t help themselves. They know and rejoice that they are jars of clay like everyone else. But they contain a priceless treasure found in the person of Jesus, full of grace and mercy, abounding in hope. He has overcome the world. He who is within them is greater than all that energizes chaos and confusion in the world out there. They understand with great humility that we can only give away what God has already done in us. If I have not received his love I cannot pass it on; the same goes for peace, forgiveness, grace, mercy, generosity, hope, humility, perseverance, truth, wisdom, and on and on…
The simple truth is this….. God, in Jesus, in us, holds the solution for the chaos and confusion of the world around us. Instead of ranting and raving about what others are not doing, perhaps we can offer a little more salt and light within the context in which we live and influence. Who knows how that may ripple out and change the world for good?
Two thousand years ago Paul write from prison to the Colossians.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
If I were….. God….. I’d live through….. you!
If I were…. me…. I’d receive……. and then……