Peter Pan was playing on the Disney Channel the other day. Jordan was enjoying the animation but I was struck by this quote by Mrs. Darling who was describing her husband:
"There are many different kinds of brave. There is the bravery of thinking of others before yourself." ~ Mrs Darling, from Peter Pan.
And I couldn't stop thinking how much that quote applies to fathers and mothers and grannies and grandpas and nannies and teachers and pastors and preachers and writers and friends and families and all the first responders in Paris and the citizens lined up to donate blood, and doctors treating the wounded and the men and women holding each other up in the face of crippling sorrow and the kids who are trying to make sense of what happened and how they're all getting back up again today and again tomorrow.
And I'm in awe of how the courage and compassion of humanity rises up in the wake of great atrocity. How it always, always rises back up and says, "those who hurt are ours and we hurt with them."
I can't believe Paris is now living that horror.
Like all of you I hurt for our global family in Paris and how desperately they're all hurting right now. How devastated they must feel. But hurting together, it's the one thing we can do. Being willing to feel their hurt.
So we're hurting and we're praying for Paris. And then I started thinking about fear, fighting, and war. The timing of ISIS is plain. We are on the cusp of Advent. The season of waiting. The season where we are to be reflecting on God's Gifts.
It is so easy to be baited into fear and fighting and war. The goal is lure the world into a bloody armageddon, to snap shut the trap that has us all in this cycle of steal, kill and destroy.
My thought is this. We are weary of war. But we are not weary of freedom.
We are tired of terrorism. But we are not tired of courage.
We are worn down with the headlines. But our strength is not worn down, our faith is not worn down, and our hope is not worn down.
The world may be burning down and taking up arms and somehow, someway, right here, we all can do something to link arms. Let the world do what it needs to do - but in the midst of a dozen burning screens and flashing sirens and deafening calls of attack - there’s a perfect love that casts out all fear. There’s an immoveable truth that we are a people of Love, not fear, and there’s no attack of the enemy that can make the people of the Cross cower in fear and hate and close their doors to Love.
The way we fight terrorism is to refuse to be terrified.
Doesn’t He tells us this more than anything else, because He knows this is salve for our weeping wounds: Do Not Fear.
The way we fight acts of war is with acts of kindness.
Doesn’t He tell us to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good, because He knows that being ignited by hate is like holding a flame in your own hand and wondering why you feel burned.
Doesn’t He tell us “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” in Deuteronomy 10:19.
Doesn’t Jesus Himself say, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
Grow up. You are kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity.
Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Jesus, Matthew 5)
The way we fight terrorists —- is by being giftivists.
Be the bravest kind of activist; be a giftavist.
The Giftivists are activists who believe that radical acts of giving can change the world.
What has ever changed the world more than this: For God so love the world, that He gave.
It’s the Giftivists who believe that every human being is a gift, made in the image of God, the Great Giver — and to destroy or dehumanize the gift of a human being to is to desecrate God.
It’s the Giftivists are the activists who believe that scarcity is a myth and abundance is the Truth because your Father is the God of the universe, and He made enough for every soul’s need — but not for anyone’s greed.
It’s the Giftivists are the activists who believe that radical acts of generosity counter radical acts of inhumanity.
Humanity is at its best when giving —-because when we give, we are most like God.
But in a world stripped of grace, cynics can laugh at these things, can mock these things, can swiftly and mercilessly deem the Giftivists as losers, and forgivers as weak, can let Fear devour all things Christ within them, because in an ungenerous and unforgiving culture its too easy to fall for the ruse that giving and forgiving isn’t actually the greatest of His ways in the world.
“The best gift we can give each other — is our own generosity,” is what Miroslav Volf, the Croatian theologian whose father slaved through a communist labor camp, and who is definitely no lightweight as the Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. And he can can testify:
“With that ‘indescribable gift’ called Christ, God gave us a generous self and a community founded on generosity. Such a self bestows gifts freely. It gives because it delights in the Beloved and can’t endure the need of the needy. In giving, it subverts hierarchies and transforms rivalries into mutual exaltations. And in all of this, it forges lasting bonds of reciprocal love. At the most basic level, generosity itself is exchanged in all our gift exchanges: My generosity is reciprocated by your generosity, and the circle of mutual love keeps turning.”
The professor of Theology at Yale knew it:
Giftivists are the activists who subvert evil with a radical generosity that transforms any rivalry.
Giftivists break bonds of retaliating destruction by forging deeply connective bonds of reciprocating love.
Giftivists break vicious cycles of violence with virtuous cycles of benevolence.
God is the ultimate Giftivist, the ultimate Giver and Forgiver, and we are Giftivists as we follow Him, but ultimately, we are Givers and Gifters and Giftivists because the Greatest Giver Himself is in us and working through us.
Maybe that’s all there is still to say after Paris:
There are the most beautiful people in the streets of Beirut and Bagdhad and Boston and the backstreets of wherever you are, the most beautiful people living near us and sitting across from us and streaming by us and showing up on our Facebook streams and we can disagree but we can leave love comments because no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone’s just asking if they can be loved?
We can look for the beauty in people & give each other the time of day and a bit of courage for the battle, we can give a pat on the shoulder and these are holy acts that heal a soul and the global wounds of the world. How you love where you are is how you change the whole wide world.
We can smile like believing fools and find a way to help take the weary weight off a Muslim Mama, and offer someone with a burning throat a cough drop, or a whole bag of them, and we can be united by these ways of grace and channels of gifts.
We can give the ministry of smiling to the people passing on the street, the ministry of presence to the person right in front of us, the ministry of falling in love with God in a thousand ordinary faces.
We can be the activists who are the Giftivists who give a hand, and a thumbs-up with a wink, who give a place at the table and a place to put up some tired feet, who give a bag of groceries or a hot steaming coffee to the person behind us — because incremental giving in ordinary places —- makes elemental change in the atoms of the cosmic places and supernaturally changes the the ways this warped world spins.
Because seeking everyday ways to be broken and given is how we live a bit of communion everyday. Giving is how we pass holy sacraments around.
It’s the bread and wine that speak to what heals the world’s wounds.
After Paris, the calendar says it, that Advent cusps, that now the days will get shorter and the night will get longer and longer and longer, till it seems like the night’s invading the day —- and then Grace with skin will invade everything. Then the Greatest Gift will be born and we will remember another world and Home and our true names and how there is nothing ever to fear.
Then we will see again how the smallest, most fragile gift can save the world.
He is amazing. I hope you are amazed by HIM. I hope you become the GIFT and play your part in changing the world.