Lately, I’ve felt that our culture is like a house full of teenagers left alone for too long without any adult supervision. There’s a lot of noise. The television is on, music is blasting, and nearly everyone is talking to, or texting, someone who isn’t in the room. Basic chores aren’t getting done: dirty dishes are piling-up in the sink; the trash cans are overflowing; and homework isn’t getting done. Nobody seems to care what time it is, except when it is time to eat. Things are generally a mess.
No one seems to be in charge; or those who are in charge have no more idea about what to do than the rest of us. It feels increasingly like we’re on our own. The noise—the news—is constantly blaring, and almost all of it is maddening, heartbreaking, or both. To escape from the bad news, we pump up the volume and enlarge the screens of always-available entertaining distractions. All the noise makes it hard for us to do “homework”—to tend to our fearful hearts, nurturing relationships, and preparing our minds and spirits for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. Things are a mess, and we don’t know where start with cleaning up, so the problems keep accumulating.
This unsettled season invites us to remember and trust that, as the beloved Christmas carol puts it, God “rules the world with truth and grace.” In the middle of hype, spin, doublespeak, and bombastic rhetoric, God persistently offers us the truth, which is that fear, violence, harshness, greed, and unaccountable power lock us in a downward spiral.
By contrast, love, peacemaking, mercy, generosity, and servant-leadership enable us to build and rebuild shalom from the rubble of the damage we have done to one another and the earth.
God rules with grace by giving unconditional acceptance which heals shame and leads to previously impossible transformation, second and seventieth chances to begin again after failure, and guilt-lifting forgiveness which makes possible the healing of fractured relationships.
God’s rule with truth and grace is non-coercive, persuasive, and invitational. God woos us into the radiant joy of new life and draws us into the way things can be by revealing to us a vision of the world made whole and free.
God does not rule by fiat or force; God almost never acts unilaterally or independently. Instead God calls us into adventurous partnership with God and each other. Together, empowered by God’s presence, aware of the alternatives to the way things are which God wants us to choose, and inspired by the future God longs for us to have, we work with hope to remake our ruined world.
We are in God’s hands, and we are God’s hands. We rest in God’s heart, and we give the gracious truth and truthful grace we are constantly receiving.