Yesterday on the first day of unleavened bread, the speaker from the Home Office gave a message that resembled a previous one relating to the quarantine order that many people have. While previously the focus had been on the quarantine order that the Israelites had prior to the Passover, this message was seeking to mine the stay at home order that many states have at present have for scriptural insight. In contrast, our local church pastor talked about the hostility towards personal responsibility that our generation as a way of mining the times in which we live as a way of pointing out a contrast with how things ought to be. At times we want to lean into our times as a way of drawing positive lessons from them that can be applied and understood and at times we desire to censure or critique the failings of our times. How do we know which approach is to work the best? And what benefit, if any, is there to operating a mixed or ambivalent approach to our times where we lean into some things at some times and strike out against other things at other times, which is my own particular approach to such matters?
One can gain a great deal of insight both from agreeing with and seeking to understand certain trends in our times and similarly gain insight from opposing aspects of our times, so long as our attitude is not blind hostility or equally blind partisanship. So long as we maintain enough distance to where we can recognize that we fall short of the standards we wish, especially when it comes to being just to others, that those we would generally support and endorse sometimes also fall short of where things ought to be, and that those with whom we disagree occasionally have positions that we might agree with, even though we would go about matters in a different way or seek a different ultimate goal, we can generally find a great deal of profit both in support and opposition, because we do so from a perspective of freedom rather than of blind partisanship or hostility. It is very easy in a world like ours to be pushed into positions of false dilemmas where we fail to recognize the options that exist. Admittedly, though, it can be difficult to remain in this space in the eyes of others because the principles of edge induced cohesion in times of crisis tend to lead us into greater solidarity with some and in greater hostility to others, and it can be very challenging in such circumstances to realize that both we and others remain human beings even in the face of such serious conflicts.
Before we can properly engage our times, we need to conduct an exercise in triangulation. First, we need to understand our times, and the cross-currents that exist in those times. Second, we need to understand ourselves, and how it is that we relate to the world around us, how we are influenced by it and affected by it sometimes in spite of ourselves and our own best interests. Third, we need to understand the ideal that we are aiming at and that we would push society towards. In all of these areas there are rooms for a lot of conflict, not least because the world looks differently based on which part of the world we happen to know and experience, because we have very different understandings of ourselves than other people have of us, and because we have very different goals and ideals and worldview commitments than other people do. It is the distance between ourselves and the world that motivates us to critique the world and to seek to influence it, and it is the distance between the way things are and the way things ought to be that motivates us to long for and seek to help create a better world to the extent of our abilities. And it is the difference between the way we are and the way things ought to be that keeps us humble and keeps in mind our own need to repent and to overcome. For there is much we all need to overcome.