Practice Makes Presence
There has been a lot of talk lately about power, supremacy, and division. Tensions are high in the United States and opinions are as diverse as the people who make up the country. I certainly have my inclinations and feel the pressure that demands action. But, what action? What will actually help our situation?
In the New Testament book of Galatians the author, Paul describes his first encounter with his former enemies as “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” This is the reaction of the first audience of a transformed Paul. In our modern world, it is tempting to take all spiritual or religious tales and label them as an irrelevant fantasy. However, regardless of your faith tradition (or lack thereof) Paul’s experience points to a powerful experience of reversal. What causes this?
It seems that falling off of your horse will do this to you. As the story goes, Saul (soon to be renamed Paul) had a vision and encountered the force he thought he was serving only to find out that had been leading the opposition. The book of Acts does not tell us whether it was a “high horse,” but we are told he falls to the ground and the effect was powerful. Imagine the moment when you realize all of your life’s work is counterproductive, harmful, and disgraceful. How does he recover?
Blindness and solitude will do this to you. We are told that for days he lost sight and for at least three years he was mentored in the desert of Arabia. The unpacking of a wasted life is done by listening and depending on a close group of people that will demonstrate an important balance between love and justice. Many would have demanded justice toward Paul since he had been part of groups who murdered others with whom he disagreed. But this story demonstrates how love is the foundation of justice. How can this be today?
Justice that restores entire societies and communities but it’s love that restores a human being. Regardless of our history, our suffering, and our personal inclinations the restoration of our whole society depends on our ability to make amends with our brothers and sisters. Sometimes “love your enemies” and “love your neighbor” are different labels for the same thing. When hate and separation are the tools of the trade, it’s someone in deep pain doing the work. When we see a complete reversal it is our duty to meet their change with acceptance. Love and justice are the tools of unification yesterday, today, and tomorrow.