Are we paying attention? Can we say we are doing alright on our own? Probably most of us think we are. Much of the time, we are content with the world as it is, and our position within it. We might even be willing to say that we are grateful that things are not worse than they are. But then the unthinkable happens and we question what happened? Where did we go wrong, were we not paying attention and listening to what was going on around us?
This last week has been a difficult one for those living in the U.S. My initial instinct was to ignore what is happening and just stick to the lectionary reading, but I’m not sure that is the right answer. It is not my place or my intention to make this writing any type of political platform. However, I don’t feel we can ignore and not pay attention to what is going on around us. Instead, it is in such times that we must hear a word of hope. We must remember how to listen first to God and then those around us. For we cannot allow the weight and darkness of the world and its problems to become so much to bear that we don’t lift our eyes to the light of God.
Where is God?
Many may be asking, “Where is God?” But instead, maybe we should be asking, “Where are we? Are we standing up and giving attention to our surroundings for the consequences of not doing so are grave? When we decide to abandon or separate ourselves from God’s control, deciding that we are on our own and God has left us; it changes the way we think, act, and respond. And if we aren’t careful, we begin to think that those who are different from us might not be as good or capable as we are. These cracks open the doorway that makes giving up on God a bit easier. And if we go through that door then our thinking becomes skewed enough to decide we better take matters into our own hands.
When we aren’t paying close attention to our surroundings, we allow ourselves to feel disconnected, alone, and that no one understands us. So, we set out to solve our own problems. We began to ask can anything good come from them or it? But what we should do instead is ask ourselves, can anything good come from us?
Desperate for Love
Last week, the United States experienced what happens when people decide to take matters into their own hands. When God is put to the side and hate takes control. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we will honor next week, spoke repeatedly of using the weapon of love. He reminded us that at the heart of Jesus’ life and His message is the call to be peacemakers. King spoke about violence, saying it, “never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” Instead, he said we should match those with the ability to hate with our ability to love.
We live in a world that is desperate for a word of hope and thirsty for the gospel of peace. This is a time to give credence to both and announce it with integrity. As it has been said that the old law, “an eye for an eye” leaves everyone blind. The old law thrives on hate rather than love. This destroys communities and creates bitterness in both the survivors and the ferocity of those seeking to destroy. But to hear a word of hope, we must be paying attention and listening for it is only in this place that we gain so much more of life than we normally settle upon.
When we pay attention, we can experience deep and satisfying relationships as we trust in love. A love that knows us fully, all our weaknesses and strengths. A love so deep that it accepts both the beauty and the ugliness within us yet longs to know us better and love us still.
Love Requires Paying Attention
Are we listening and paying attention to that love? For it is only in that love that good comes. Let us lay down our prejudices and sarcasm and then with eyes that see and ears that hear be alert, so we don’t miss what God has set before us. Because when we allow our stereotypes of other people or about Christ to cause us to miss opportunities to love or be loved, we miss out on the trueness of life. Therefore, like Philip, it is important to gently invite others to come and see who Jesus is for themselves. But we must listen before we make a judgment offering instead an invitation. It is only then we can point others in the direction of God’s love because good can come from all of us.
“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.John 1:46 (NLT)
These days, we might be asking ourselves, can anything good come from this? Or anywhere for that matter? But through the love of Christ, we see and experience healing and grace. It is only through His love that an atmosphere of community and inclusion is built. Even during difficult times, transformations occur, and we must be paying attention to those stories and repeating them to others. As believers of Jesus Christ, we must witness to what Christ is doing in our lives to help us overcome our lack of vision and prejudices. Allow our prayers of confession to include words of grace that pour over us so we may take on the task of living a life worthy of the gospel. Then instead of asking can anything good come from those unlike us we can ask what good can come from us.
Turning the Question Around
When we approach others by asking ourselves first is there anything good in us that is worth God’s grace and Christ’s compassion, we begin to pay attention to what God is saying to us? For out of Nazareth came the one who knows and loves us still. It is in the darkness of life that a voice calls our name and remakes us. For from surprising people and places unconditional love can come. This is a love that builds us up and makes us whole.
Can anything good come from life? Only when we allow the light of God to shine within us to create a world of healing and grace. We are in a time to pay attention, to put out a call for hope. Call for the Lord to speak and let Him know we are listening. Because something good is already among us, so let us claim it and own it. Let us pay attention to our call and be what Christ called us to be.
Won’t you be challenged today to pay attention to the love of God that surrounds you and in turn offer healing and grace to others? Find your conviction in the love of Christ that says everyone is worthy of God’s grace and compassion. When you learn to pay attention and listen to others, you find your motivation to help them see and experience the love of Christ. This allows the comfort of His love to surround not only you but all those around you.
Love in Christ,
Tell me what you pay attention to, and I will tell you who you are.Jose Ortega y Gasset
What are your thoughts?
Are you finding it difficult to see good in others? Have you lost the interest to pay attention to those different than you? Share your thoughts on the necessity of paying attention to others with the love of Christ as your motivation.