Monday, October 13, 2008


When did elite become a four-letter word?

When did we decide that a young person who chose to work hard in school was 'above her station?' When did we decide that mediocre was the level people should strive for, and then stay there? When did we decide that we did not want (or need) the 'best and the brightest' to lead us, to teach us, to mentor us, to guide us, to be role models for us?

God gives us some guidelines as to how we can best live in relationship with the Divine and with each other, and almost immediately, we take all our costume jewelry and melt it down into a nice, domesticated, gum-chewing god who won't cause us too much trouble or expect too much from us.

Jesus walks around talking with folks and telling them about a country where God invites us to live. A country where the last, the lost, the little, the least are honored and valued. A country where forgiveness and grace are passports. A country where those we don't like knock on our door asking to borrow a cup of sugar; where those who don't like us are given the house next to us. A country where justice is a stream where our children can go wading; where hope is delivered to our doorstep every morning with the news.

But to get there, to find our way to this country, to cross its borders is going to take everything we have. A mediocre attempt won't cut it, if we are going to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (and it will take our best to love ourselves). A half-hearted effort isn't going to enable us to love our enemies (and it is going to take our best thinking to see beyond prejudices, teachings, hate talk about who our enemies are). And forgiveness is a test we will have to take and re-take seven times, 7 X 70 times, and beyond, trying to get an A+ every time.

We can continue to treat 'elite' as a four-letter word. It's easy. Just drop the 'e' at the beginning and we have
lite compassion
lite love
lite effort
lite ethics
lite lives
lite faith
lite discipleship

But I think God expects more. For in creating us and all that is around us, God chose to give us the best, the brightest, the choice gifts, the love that can transform lives, the grace that can lift people from their knees, the hope that set others free, the peace that can heal broken nations, the reconciliation that can bring us together despite our worst efforts to stay apart.

It takes our hardest work, our most determined efforts, our most tenacious thinking, our most steadfast commitment to discernment if we are to follow Jesus.

And if that means being elite, why not?

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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