Mountains

Following Christian expectations can be difficult

Sometimes successfully following through with Christian expectations becomes quite difficult. Is it truly possible to love all our neighbors each and every day? Can we forgive everyone in need of it? If we love and forgive, must we pray incessantly, too?

In all honesty, I realize that what love I might carry in my heart shrivels rapidly after someone pulls in front of me, taking the last parking space. I humbly admit that getting cheated rarely inspires me to forgive. I confess that, for me, prayer becomes almost impossible when I run late for an appointment and get stuck in traffic. Should I give up being Christian, seeing how I often fail meeting Christian expectations?

No.

Instead of abandoning my faith as I watch myself fall short of being Christian, I summon a piece of wisdom to help me reset my attitude, so that I can turn my life around, regroup, and begin my journey through life anew. I chat with my soul, saying, “If being loving, forgiving, and engaged in prayer appears unattainable for me at this moment, why not take the next best option — become as peaceful as I can manage.” Whatever seems to be upsetting, annoying, or downright irritating, I take steps to seek that place within myself where peace abounds.

Can this truly be of any help? Over the years, I found that being peaceful may be one of humanity’s greatest achievements. When love, forgiveness, or prayer escape the realms of possibility, when life creates disconcerting and distracting situations that throw anyone off track, becoming peaceful usually remains a tangible default position to take, until life moves into more manageable states of affairs. Over the years, peacefulness served as my umbrella, briefly repelling life’s torrential outbursts, as I patiently await conditions to regain greater reasonableness. Even though I realize that loving, forgiving, and prayer remain better deterrents against anxiety provoking events, I know to take the next best option when all else seems impossible; I become as peaceful as possible, knowing that this, too, shall pass.

Occasional life-threatening occurrences in life do require decisive interventions. Yet, much of our life rarely demands such aggressive, emergent involvement. Not getting that last parking spot, being cheated or getting stuck in a traffic jam tend not to be life-threatening incidents. Annoying, yes. Fatal, no. Peacefulness allows a pause in the action or a space in time to let whatever riles us to pass, causing minimal harm.

John Wesley, the organizer of Methodism, taught three simple rules, “Do no harm; do good; and, stay in love with God.” A peaceful approach to life, including life’s less than wonderful moments, sets the stage for least harm, perhaps even a bit of good, and being capable of loving God regardless of ingloriousness.

So, is it truly possible to love all our neighbors each and every day? Probably not; however, we can be peaceful and do no harm. Can we forgive everyone in need of it? Nice idea; yet, by being peaceful, we might be doing the most good we can. If we love and forgive, must we pray incessantly, too? While not a bad idea, achieving greater peace can help us return to and stay in love with God and keep the faith.

Pastor Tom recently came from Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah to Cortez, where he pastors First United Methodist Church. He’s a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary and Johns Hopkins University.

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