The Rev. Randall Monk: Focus on how to change the way you experience the world

A total solar eclipse is seen in Pelzer, S.C., as a the celestial phenomenon leaves the United States after crossing the country on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. JULIO CORTEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“And the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overpower it.” — John 1:5


This past week, I received word that someone is in need of some encouragement. Believe me, I feel you. The last couple of weeks have been difficult, to say the least. As a pastoral response, I want to share a few words that I hope will be the encouragement you and I and everybody else seeks.

1 John 4 reminds us that God is love, and because God is love we are called to love one another. That is an incredibly important thing to lead off with. What we have been watching in the news has not been loving. Depending on one’s perspective, it could be characterized as political partisanship, social action, violent protests, freedom of speech and the more sinister undercurrents of racism, hatred, and bigotry. Whichever one of those you call it, you can’t call it love.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ have two primary responsibilities in times like these. The first flows directly out of the passage I referenced above. I have come to realize that I am not going to change the world. Neither am I going to change our society’s obsession with scandalous and divisive news. But I can be intentional about looking for ways to show love to my fellow human being. That can be done in a number of ways, big and small. I can do a kind deed for a neighbor, have a meaningful conversation with someone who is different from me, or reach out to someone who is likely to be feeling the angst of the nonstop barrage of media coverage of these volatile confrontations. If I am to reflect the image of God in which I was created, I must be willing to love my neighbor as myself.

Our second obligation is to confront sin when it is clear and obvious. Racism, hatred, and bigotry certainly fall into the category of “clear and obvious,” because these ideologies are in direct opposition to the nature of God. Confronting sin is non-partisan, It is not an act of social action per se. There are times when that may be just what is needed, but as it relates to the events and the prevailing atmosphere we are are experiencing in our nation right now, the heart of the matter is spiritual in nature. And there has not been a more critical time than now for the good among us to speak up and out against those who embrace these ideologies.

So what do we do now? Monday’s eclipse gave us a brief reprieve from the focus on the hatred and human failure that has consumed us. For the better part of the day, all the news, all the conversation and all the activities in the area were focused on that once-in-a-lifetime occurrence in the sky. And people were able to focus on something positive, something that was common to our entire community.

There is a lesson in that.

I would suggest that we recreate the reprieve by unplugging from the media overload. Look for ways to love as God loves. Confront the sin of racism, hatred and bigotry whenever and wherever you encounter it.

And rather than losing hope because you cannot change the world, be encouraged because you can change how you and other’s experience it.

The Rev. Randall Monk is the lead pastor of Ekklesia Faith Community in Grovetown.