The case can certainly be made that our society, and even the whole world, has been grieving our way through this global pandemic together.
Why wouldn’t we turn to classic and seminal writings on grief by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross? She delineates five stages we process when we experience loss — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
We can recognize we’re on this grief journey when we hear ourselves saying, “Oh no! Why me! What if? Poor me! and My life will go on!”
It’s the “What if” bargaining stage that asks tricky questions like, What if the cancer had been diagnosed before it reached stage 4? What if we had tried that new treatment? What if a behavior change would have helped? What if those cars hadn’t arrived at that exact same place and/or moment? What if we had handled this pandemic differently?
These questions have no answer, but it remains important to ask them.
Did you presume, as I did, that the two reaching arms to make a heart-sign of love were friends? What if they are enemies?
The Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6 raises the question. Almost everyone accepts and welcomes the imperative to love their neighbor, but loving enemies, not so much. That’s a real “leveler”… so much so that I like to name this The Sermon on the Level, and if I really “level” with you, I find this one difficult!
When we’re estranged, what if I’m the one who’s been making strangers instead of making friends?
When we’re enemies, what if I’m the one who’s been making enemies instead of being neighborly?
When we’re hearing obscenities shouted at the competition or the referees, what if I’m the Gopher alum who feels sad and hurt but says or writes nothing that might make the campus stadiums and arenas more welcoming places?
When we call the biggest Bowl ‘Super,’ what if it was because opponents always offered a hand up after each play or because of bowls full of joyful and sad tears running together down faces as hugs and appreciations were given and received for the cementing of lasting friendships?
When we’re seeing military maneuvers, exercises, and positioning on vast level fields surrounding Ukraine borders every day and night on the news, what if I’m not speaking and preaching the old imperative to beat swords into plowshares or even proposing that pistols and assault weapons used in killings on our streets along with armed rockets and heavy artillery aimed at enemies all be melted down together for making farm equipment?
What if those tanks could be equipped with drawbars and three-point hitches to pull plows and corn planters and grain drills across those level fields to plant seeds of peace for the feeding of the hungry? I know I’m stretching these metaphors to their extremes here, but still, I ask, “What if?”
In the same paragraph where the imperative to love enemies appears in The Sermon on the Plain, the concluding sentence is “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” The Golden Rule is also repeated in Matthew’s recording of The Sermon on the Mount, and it is included in the sacred writings of a dozen other world religions. Search The Golden Rule and ask yourself, “What if … all of us simply practiced this singular simple principle?”
Lastly, look again at the image at the top of the page and see the two reaching out, not with armaments, but with arms making a heart of love.
What if We are Enemies of different skin colors, countries, races, politics, genders, religions, or whatever? I simply can’t discern differences from the image or from that heart or ours. Can you?’
Editor’s note: EPLN contributor Pastor Rod Anderson serves on the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the former senior pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you would like to contribute a faith-based column to EPLN, email firstname.lastname@example.org.