I’ve been working on these thoughts for a few days, since the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last week and the ongoing issues of mass violence, harassment and domestic violence that came before last week.
Before my thoughts are my feelings – feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and fear. These feelings are attached to the value of people, particular people, young and old, some I know and some I don’t, past and future. God has called us to love one another and give care to each other, as He loves and gives care to us. But that doesn’t seem to be a major objective anymore as we increasingly move to polarization and our favorite side, and seemingly forget or excuse bypassing the central tenant of our religious/spiritual foundations.
I’m reminded of a post entitled, Respect, from Wheat Ridge late last year authored by Bishop Wayne Miller, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA. In his post, Bishop Miller reflected on his past definitions of “respect” and how they are similar to his present definitions of “grace.” He referenced grace as “having a two-part definition; namely, that grace is the love of God embracing us completely exactly as we are… AND… the love of God calling us to become something more than we have ever been before.” In his post, he expanded that to say “this two-part quality of grace seems to me, now, to be very close to identical with my understanding of respect… which calls us be able to embrace ourselves and one another no matter who we have been and no matter where we have come from… and yet, I am also called to respect you too much to leave you where I found you. Challenge, encouragement, and steadfast belief in a new possibility is inseparable from either authentic respect or authentic grace.”
This emphasizes the previous point - we are all important and valuable to the God who created us and that value is larger than anything else. Most importantly, that value is to be held and honored within ourselves and within all of our relationships, including our relationship with our community, with our fellow citizens of this nation and the world, young and old alike ” …embrace ourselves and one another no matter who we have been and no matter where we have come from.”
And the second point, “I am also called to respect you too much to leave you where I found you...” It seems that means caring, listening and being present regarding direct, indirect and hidden victims of these tragedies and not to "leave you where I found you." If we see someone who is hurting, angry, even dangerous to self or others, let’s figure out a way that we can help them or get help for them. I know that’s such a simple statement. Taking an action to refer or to report another who needs help seems intimidating, but it is also important to show authentic grace and respect for all people potentially involved in what could take place if we don’t take action.
Some will say there is more than this that needs to be done. This is true. But it seems that the value of care for others is an important place to begin.