Faces on Faith: Necessary risks
Risk taking stirs up a variety of emotions; it invokes fear, doubt, trepidation, and anxiety. But all too often we are not even willing to speak of those fears, those anxieties. All too often, we try to cover them up with a nervous laugh – we scoff, and say, “Why bother taking the risk? It won’t change things. Nothing will get better.”
But sometimes you just have to take the risks. And this is such a time. We are being reminded by the events of the day of the promise held out by this nation so many years ago, the promise of liberty and justice for all. We’ll celebrate that promise this weekend on Independence Day. But to make that vision a reality for all people we will have to take risks. Real risks. We will have to be willing as individuals to look deep into ourselves and ask, how am I resisting change? How are my beliefs and understandings about race, gender, and sexual orientation contributing to inequity?
And we will need to take risks as a society. We will need to be willing to look at institutions and policies that have existed for years, institutions and policies that have benefitted some while holding back others. We will need to look at how we do business, how we provide police protection, how we take care of people’s health, and how we educate the young. No doubt it will involve some pain and discomfort for all of us, and for many of us who have been privileged, it will involve some serious changes. Of course, some of us are nervous. Of course, some of us are afraid. Of course, some of us are anxious. We need to acknowledge that, honor that, and then move past it.
Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote: “The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.” How true – and how striking that it comes from his book “The Strength to Love.” For that’s what will get us through, love. It is my belief that that love comes from God. But it is not restricted to Christians, or even people of faith. That love can be, and is, expressed in and through many people and many lives.
Is all of this challenging? Yes, but personally, as a person of faith, I am heartened when I am reminded that God goes with us no matter where the journey takes us. Even when we face the hardest challenges of life. And when and if we are willing to trust God’s vision of wholeness for all people, we will find we can move forward and take the risks, no longer nervously laughing, no longer scoffing in doubt, but rather emboldened by love. For when we confront our fears and take the risks we will discover, we can and will finally have a nation, which lives up to its promise.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.