My family moved several times while I was a child; each relocation forced my sister and me to make new friends in a new town. Leaving behind friends was painful, and our parents recognized our real grief.
Sometimes, I would mutter, “I’ll never have friends again.”
My mom would pause and remind me, “You know better than that. Even though it hurts to leave behind friends, you made new friends last time and you will do it again.”
When we are in pain or grief, it is tempting to give up or to believe the worst. It is only natural because the suffering is real.
But we also need to be reminded “we know better.”
2020 has been painful.
We have seen COVID-19 inflict suffering, take lives, create isolation and produce financial hardship.
We have been confronted with the injustices of our systems – systems that create enormous financial inequities, that make healthcare expensive or out of reach for the uninsured and that treat persons differently based on their skin color.
We watch as violence explodes, as hatred parades out in the open, as science is denied and as selfishness is practiced. Each day brings a new crisis, the next trauma, a fresh challenge, an exposed corruption.
Amid such chaos, it is easy to start believing the worst. Our faith, however, reminds us “we know better.”
We know most people are good.
Yes, some people want to do harm, who are so angry or corrupt or full of hurt and hate they do terrible things.
Still, we know most people are good. Most people care about others, want to be kind, are generous, love to laugh and long to make the world a better place.
We know we need each other.
Our society often reinforces the myth we are self-made or rugged individuals. We craft our own destiny and deserve what we get (or don’t get). But we know that’s not true.
Each of us can name the people who helped us along our journeys, who shaped us, rescued us or gave us necessary support when it mattered.
When we have suffered or grieved, we have known the gift of our friends, church and family.
For those who have reached beyond our familiar social circles, we have learned our need for each other includes those who are different from us.
Emphasizing the relationship between our need for one another and a more just world, Rachel Held Evans wrote, “What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy … and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another.”
We know the church’s voice and action matter.
Yes, the church has at times found itself on the wrong side of justice and has been slow to grasp and share the breadth of God’s love. The church can be too much a reflection of culture and too little the presence of Christ.
But the church’s voice and action are needed urgently in these difficult days.
In our communities, we cannot only call for justice and model God’s love, but we can actively use our influence to amplify the voices of those our society has marginalized.
We can join them in their work to change laws and to create better and fairer systems.
Churches can support institutions that foster health, learning and God’s valuing of all persons. We can do so much.
Evil and darkness are heavy and powerful. It can feel like we are powerless to do anything about the wrongs we see around us, but “we know better than that.”
We know we can influence others with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. We know we can reach out to the hurting and the powerless with real aid. We know we can envision a better world and work to make it reality.
We can choose the strength of Sojourner Truth, who said, “I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me.”
2020 has been tough. The months ahead will likely continue to be stressful and challenging. When tempted to believe the worst, remember “we know better than that.”
Perhaps more importantly, we must remind ourselves we are not powerless. With God’s help, we can both know better and do better.
President of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown and Louisville, Kentucky, and the founder and president of Faithlab.