Witness

We want to solve everything don’t we?  How do we fix the economy? Which candidate will be better? How do we cure cancer? Or obesity? Or poverty? What about violence in the Middle East?

It is, of course, natural to be solutions oriented.  When there is a problem, we try to fix it. If someone is crying, we want to help them stop and then fix their broken heart. And yet we’ve all heard or known someone to say, “I don’t need you to fix my problem, I just want you to listen.”

As Church, we must be cautious of the fix-it mentality.  No doubt, there is a call to fix things in church and world at times and Christians should play a part when needed.  But we are not called as Christians to be fixers first.  Jesus didn’t say say, “Go therefore into all the world and fix it.” So what are we called to do?

Witness.

jean-vanierOne of my Catholic heroes is the philosopher Jean Vanier.  Vanier is mostly known for founding L’Arche, a coalition of communities throughout the world for people with developmental disabilities and the men and women who live and work with them.  To understand the philosophy behind L’Arche, Vanier describes it this way: “Look, there are two realities, two cultures. There is a culture of power and there is a culture of relationships. The men and women I live with see that it is good to be together and we don’t have to solve all the problems of the world when we are together. They teach me to lighten up.”

Indeed, the point of L’Arche is to be taught by those who value relationship over power. Power is deemed of greater value in the world and we often spend too much time adoring it and those who have it.  The community of L’Arche is a witness to a different way of being, a gospel way of being.

If we believe that our role as Christians in the world is to fix everything, we can become tempted to power over relationship.  Jesus did not come in power, but in weakness.  And he came to be in relationship with us, which is the witness we offer to the world.

Interdependence Day

We are just coming off a federal holiday in the United States, Independence Day, or Fourth of July. We recognize the founding fathers who, through their efforts composed and adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. Of course, we continue to celebrate the freedoms that independence brings.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Paragraph 2, Declaration of Independence)

John Adams captured the significance of this event in the following letter to his wife: [This day] in July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. (“Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, ‘Had a Declaration…'”)

Offering a more global perspective, Franklin Roosevelt later added: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.”

We are fully aware of the costs of freedom over time. Our citizens have fought and ultimately died for the freedoms we embrace. In fact, many service men and women are actively protecting these rights today. The thing is, is anyone or anything truly independent of anyone or anything else?

What if we humbled ourselves to the fact that we are not truly independent but interdependent? In our global world we depend on each other. While celebrating our independence, let us today reflect on the need we have for God and each other. Not discounting our independence, if we are being honest, we might call today, and every day, Interdependence Day.

For reflection (or comments):

What freedoms do you enjoy today because of someone else’s support or sacrifice?

Who or what do you offer or sacrifice so that others may succeed?

What if we held back?