Sometimes, we learn best about God by looking at those around us. Among the many things I have learned as I‘ve grown older is a great appreciation for how my parents and teachers were learning as they went along in life. It always seemed as though they knew just what to do, but I am more and more confident that they were largely making it up as they went along. Clearly, they were guided by life rules and philosophies, by faith, and by the “best practices” they had seen (kind of like Google Map directions), but there must have been a lot of improvisation!
As citizens of a society and as people of faith, we are in the same boat today. The U. S. Constitution gives us guidance about our freedoms, but we have to work out just what that means. How much freedom of speech can we practice and where does it cross the line? How much freedom do we have to “bear arms,” and where does it cross the line? The hardest part of these questions is that we don’t just have to decide for ourselves what the boundaries are. We have to decide as a society of responsible human beings. In other words, we have to find enough agreement to move forward together. This is what we will be trying to do around the large issue of curbing gun violence over the next several weeks.
As people of faith, we fool ourselves to think that our scriptures provide ready-made answers for us. They provide guidance and great understanding, but they also challenge us to think and act for ourselves in light of the values we perceive as fundamental. And the problem is that we do not always share the same fundamental values! That brings us to faith.
One of the oft forgotten dimensions of faith is that there is a power beyond our wisdom and beyond our interpretation that shapes a great deal of life. If each of us, representing a wide variety of faith traditions, can be faithful to our interpretations and also relinquish the need to control the conversation—in other words, trust that God will shape the grand scope of life—we just might find ourselves accomplishing some good as citizens and as faithful people. May God bless us—every one!