Do not withhold good

Anger towards injustice can be a useful emotion. It fuels us to rise up and act. It helps us to turn a Facebook rant into a telephone call. It compels us to get out of our seats and onto the streets. It causes us to open our wallets and front doors.

There is a Proverb in the Bible that says: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.” Believing it is necessary to have an immigration policy that is both safe AND fair, this week – like many people -- I have been signing petitions against the ill-conceived, not so hidden religiously intolerant Travel Ban and its authors, sending emails to politicians, and donating to charities serving refugees. You may disagree with me but that’s not the point of this post.

Nor am I saying that immigrants and refugees are the only people who deserve our action. You might have another. [I’ve also been looking for a good charity that supports our Veterans – particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan - with job retraining as they are another marginalized group of people that I believe deserves the attention of those with the power to act. If anyone has a suggestion, please pass it on.]

I’ve been thinking however that while anger is useful for getting us out of the chair, as it did me this week, it is not sustainable on its own. If we want to really serve those who deserve our action we need to positively feed our faith in the long arc of justice enough so that our anger will be starved. We should love our world enough to engage with it, including in the public square, to want to see it as it was created to be. We need to surround ourselves with historians to lengthen our lens and believers to restore our imagination of what healthy interdependence can and should look like in a world full of color and differences.

For me, part of feeding my faith in justice is joining together with the people of my church here in London who believe and live out the invitation that: “This is a church that loves and accepts everyone … you are so welcome here.” Every Sunday I look out over the congregation which is full of people from every race and dozens of countries, so many of them young, and it brings me to tears every time. Every time. I’m trying to hang out with them more. I recently heard someone say, “The coals in a campfire burn bright and put off heat when huddled together but if that coal were to jump away from the fire, it would die out.” Action from the privacy of your home can only do so much. Action together, in whatever form that looks like, burns bright.

The other way I’ve been feeding my faith in justice has been a very small thing. On my regular runs in Regent’s Park, I make it a point of looking every Muslim woman I see in the eye and offering a smile. So far, every smile given has been returned with a smile that is somehow deeper and more beautiful than a courteous one. It seems to be saying “hello and thank you” at the same time. That too is a kind of fuel to remind me there is nothing different between white eggs and brown eggs - no difference in yoke or taste. You only know a bad egg once it’s cracked.

I was recently asked to do one of those online tests to find your strengths. I don’t like doing those tests and yet it confirmed for me where I should be investing myself. In some ways, this post is me trying to build on one of my strengths: positivity. This is a time in our country (and others too) where we all need to be exploiting our natural strengths. May you therefore use your time, resources, and even the platform of FB to take your strengths – which are uniquely yours and desperately needed - and work them out for the public good.