This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Powell: Make this a better year

What a year! I’ll call 2018 the year of living dangerously. It was a year of fear, hatred, lies and deception. Some people’s anxiety was eased by the outcome of the U.S. midterm election, but many intensified their anger and hatred. Americans’ current great divide harkens back to the dec­ades after the Civil War, when violence against minorities was commonplace.

John Powell

We must learn from the lessons of 2018 and take corrective measures. We have the opportunity to change the course of history.

What can you do?

I think of our communities as round tables where we sit together before our Creator with different agendas. Some wait to pounce on each other. Others hope to embrace.

Which will you be?

Our responses to people originate from our cultural and religious upbringing. As people who seek peace, each of us has received an invitation to be a repairer of the breach.

There are some situations that only specific people are equipped to address. That person might be you. The situation might involve family or friends. I  believe this is a time when we are called to be bold and help others understand that the trajectory of fear must dissipate.

This invitation may come at an unwelcome time. Yet we must reply to it. It’s an invitation each of us must accept or reject. Our response to this call can be a foundation for restoration.

Many have taken a stand against inhumane treatment of vulnerable people. Some have protested, been arrested and ridiculed for their actions. Others — including Mennonite congregations — have provided sanctuary and physically interceded on behalf of marginalized people. Others aren’t ready to take such actions but want to stand with the disenfranchised.

How do you do that while sitting at the table with people who are different from you, with their own ideas of right and wrong?

I suggest you begin by recognizing how your spiritual expression shapes your engagement. Your insights can contribute to setting things right. You may think your actions go unnoticed. But I suspect there are others like you who are hesitant to engage. They, too, are unsure if they can make a difference.

When everyone is headed in the same direction, change occurs. Individual actions become a ripple that can escalate into a tsunami.

Be a sanctuary. Befriend the marginalized. Be a practitioner of Jesus’ way, talking with neighbors about ways to be more welcoming to marginalized people. Your willingness to engage might be the tipping point that changes a perceived enemy into an ally.

Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, has said, “We need moral leadership now more than ever, and learning how each one of us can provide such leadership in our own circles of influence is the key to moving forward.”

Take your place among the breach repairers. Become a beacon of hope by opening avenues for people to encoun­ter the good news that our Creator welcomes and unites us around the table.

If you are inclined to be a repairer of the breach, accept your place in the struggle. Welcome God’s preferred future around the table. You may be reaching out to another who, like you, has been sent to be an agent of God’s reconciled community.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., has worked as a pastor, preacher and teacher in Mennonite churches and institutions.

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