Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
[Ephesians 5:1-2]

I’ve mentioned previously on this blog that I have a retired pastor friend with whom I walk regularly  twice a week. (Click HERE to see my post of March 29, 2021).

Last Friday, as we were about to begin our stroll, he asks, “What would you like to talk about first, football, baseball, or politics?”

I thought, “what a strange question?” So I replied, “What makes you ask that?”

“Well,” he responded, “there’s something going on in all of them. And I’m giving you the choice.”

We normally let our conversations develop naturally, usually checking in on each other’s activities since our previous get-together, and then progressing to the day’s hot topics. This checklist approach was a little jarring.

Now, mind you, there was a lot happening last week. Football training camps were getting underway, baseball was approaching its trade deadline, and politics…well, when isn’t something remarkably ridiculous going on in politics?

So we took his suggested approach, leaving politics for last.

Lately, politics has made my blood boil. The petulance of some of our elected    so-called “leaders” has been nothing short of shameful. It’s not anything new. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s become much more irritating.

These twice weekly jaunts with my walking partner are a blessing to me in that they provide me an outlet in which to vent, an escape from the madness of the toxicity that seems to dominate our political, as well as our social climate.

Later, as I reflected on our wide-ranging discussion, it brought to mind the words of the letter to the Ephesians, which many of us will hear this upcoming Sunday.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. [Ephesians 4:29]

The entire reading is wise counsel for those of us who find it challenging to hold in tension the Good News of the Gospel against a backdrop of the severely polarized political times we are experiencing.

During my time as bishop, this fourth chapter of Ephesians was a reading I would always have at the ready when I visited with churches in distress. I would meet with church councils and lead them in devotions, using this chapter as my text.

Disagreement is normal. There’s an old saying that states that if two people were to agree on everything, then one of them wouldn’t be necessary.

In the same manner, anger is a natural human emotion. It’s how we act on that anger that we must strive to maintain under control.

But in our society today there seems to be a general lack of courtesy in the way we talk to each other. The way we treat each other is, more often than not, divisive, and hurtful. I’ve become more aware of road rage than ever before. We have become far too acquainted with bullying.

As people of faith, we are called to make God fully present in our lives and in our interaction with others.  To create those places where God can be seen.  Those places where God’s grace and love can be known. 

Imagine what our communities would look like if each of us would make a serious commitment to create cultures of peace within us, and among us, living lives of peace, not of violence and division.  Lives that transform division into unity.

Call me naïve, but I am optimistic enough to believe that such a way of life is possible.

Many of us are familiar with the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Making this prayer a part of our daily prayers would be a helpful guide and reminder for all of us in times like these:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life

Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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