Faces on Faith: Work to help the people around us
No doubt you, like me, are being inundated with news reports of COVID-19 spikes in Florida and around the country and violence in places all over the country. I suppose I’m too old to be surprised by the stories of people refusing to wear masks or observe social distancing to protect others from what they might have, or of looters and thugs using protesters as human shields. Nor am I surprised when I read of angry people coughing on others to express their anger, or of individuals turning violent because they simply can’t tolerate people who disagree with them. I may not be overly surprised by this, but I am deeply saddened.
What are we to do? Paul, I believe, put his finger on the solution in his letter to the Philippian church. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus ” (Philippians 2:3-5). Paul also said we are to become increasingly Christ-like in our relationships with other people, those to whom we are close as well as those we don’t know well or don’t know at all. Since confession is said to be good for the soul, let me confess: this is a work in progress for me. I suspect it is a work in progress for most of us but one definitely worth pursuing.
John Wesley described the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus as sanctification. And I find comfort in knowing that it is a process rather than a present condition. So there is my goal – sanctification. And I would propose it as a goal for all of us, especially in this time when many people seem to be turning away from looking “to the interests of others.” It will be challenging to keep ourselves focused on the interests of others, especially when that calls for us to give up the things we want, or the way we want things done. But God is on our side in making just such a change. With his aid we can do it. So again, I propose that this time of uncertainty, anxiety or depression is the right time to take our focus off ourselves and work to help the people around us.
The Rev. Alan Kelmereit is the assisting rector at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.