We in the United States seem to be more divided right now than at any time I can remember. The federal government is partially shut down, and too many of our political leaders appear to be more interested in partisan advantage than in the common good. Ordinary citizens are frustrated by the dysfunction and gridlock. But what can we do?
Centuries ago, the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk complained that “the law becomes slack and justice never prevails…. Judgment comes forth perverted” (1:4). In frustration, Habakkuk prayed that God would do something.
God answered Habakkuk’s prayer, but not in the way that Habakkuk expected. God assured Habakkuk that “there is still a vision for the appointed time.” And God told Habakkuk to “write the vision; make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it” (2:2-3).
Habakkuk’s task so many centuries ago is our task today. At a time when justice seems never to prevail, we need to remember that God has a vision for our world. And we need to embrace our task to articulate that vision, to make it plain.
The Apostle Paul describes God’s vision for the Church using the analogy of the human body. Paul says, “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ,” so, that is, it is with the Church which is Christ’s spiritual body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
Paul is saying is that Christians are joined with each other into the one body of Christ through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And just as every separate part of our bodies is necessary for us to be healthy, so each of us as members of Christ’s body is necessary for the healthy functioning of the body as a whole. Each of us brings our different gifts to the body of Christ, and together we do what needs to be done “for the common good” (12:7).
In this passage, Paul offers us a vision of who we are called to be in Christ, a picture of who we can be, with God’s help. Sadly, Christians have not been very good at living out this vision of people with diverse gifts uniting for the common good. For our failures, we should repent.
But this is a vision for our time. It is, of course, a theological vision, not a political one. But it certainly has political relevance. In our divisive political climate, when many seem to be losing sight of our common humanity, of our shared commitment to the good of our country, of any meaningful sense of the common good, we need to hold firmly on to God’s vision of people with different gifts living together in unity and working together for the common good. Because without some such vision, there can be no hope for us. And with that vision, almost anything is possible.
Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!