Of Fear, Viruses & Unity

I'm not feeling all that great this morning, which is why I've been slow to publish the Devo today.  I got my Covid booster yesterday, and as expected, I'm feeling pretty sluggish and achy. 

That's the way vaccines work, though--no matter what sort of vaccine it is.  You get just enough of the virus in the vaccine so that your body learns how to fight it, and this keeps you from getting deathly ill or dying if you actually get sick from it. 

Inviting a virus into your body is a scary proposition when you think about it too deeply, which is something I have a bad habit of doing even in the best of circumstances. 

But in the end, I made the decision to get boosted, in spite of my trepidation.  

There's a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation, and downright ridiculousness surrounding this very topic in our culture right now.  But when you drill down into all of it, what you find is a foundation of fear.  

Fear has often driven even reasonable people on all sides of this issue to abandon their common sense and say and do things that defy imagination.  

And here's the real rub in all of this... 

Fear also drives us to selfishness because when we are afraid, the temptation to become self-centered is often too great to resist. 

Fear makes us withdraw from people, lash out when we feel threatened, or keep us from seeing the hurts and struggles of others. 

Fear can keep us from being united as a society, and even as a community of faith. 

There's a difference between being uniform as opposed to being united.  Far too many people who claim to be Christians don't get this in spite of the fact that almost all of the Apostle Paul's letters in the New Testament seem to be obsessed with this fact. 

When Paul wrote to early Christians and told them they were united in Christ he was fully aware that the unity he sought would not translate into uniformity. Each community was different, unique, and filled with a diverse group of people. 

The tension between unity and uniformity was what drove Paul to move away from a dogmatic, black and white, and dualistic theology toward something more expansive and universal.  

Paul's way of interpreting the Christ event was to highlight all of the ways that through Christ, God is working to redeem and restore all of Creation, including us. 

He wanted to put aside all of the issues of uniformity (which do nothing but divide) and focus on the great big story of how God is saving the world. 

In Brian McLaren's most recent book on faith and doubt, he writes this: 

In a world that desperately needs a sense of meaning, belonging, and purpose beyond individual, religious, national, economic, or political self-interest, the responses we need are not either/or but both/and and all of the above.  

It's time for us to let go of our fears and learn to see one another better.  We will never find uniformity if we are truly in a community with others, but we can discover unity over the things that matter most. 

And perhaps when we do, we'll discover that our decisions, actions, words, and beliefs will shift outward toward others, and away from ourselves.  We'll learn how to show compassion, mercy, and grace---the very gifts we ourselves have received. 

May it be so for all of us.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 

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