Photo Courtesy of The Gathering
By Matt Woodward, Director/The Gathering
As we move into the cold and flu season, there are many conversations about doing our best to stay healthy. I regularly hear things like, take your vitamins, get plenty of rest, make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables, and my personal favorite, drink lots of water. It seems there are some universal things that help people have a strong immune system. These components keep us protected and active so we can continue to work and serve those around us.
Over the past couple of years, I have heard similar sentiments but in a different context. When you think of a healthy community, what would you say are the necessary elements for it to be healthy? Like a healthy body, does a healthy community need certain nutrients and activities to be strong, productive and beneficial? I often hear that the three pillars of a strong, healthy community are good schools, good government, and a safe community provided by good policing. Though I agree with these sentiments, I have realized that there is something missing. Like a four-legged chair, three legs are good but not enough to keep one from crashing to floor once you sit on it. Three legs of a chair create instability, a lack of security and an inevitable fall. Yet when we look at a community, shouldn’t we also notice that something is missing? Something vital that insures stability.
The fourth leg of this chair seems to be the one that is most vital, yet the least talked about. The fourth leg is the leg of faith. It takes four legs, or pillars, to hold up any community to become its most vital and resourceful self.
It is faith and spirituality that promotes the most vital nutrient to a community, morality. Something I have come to understand is, leadership is downstream of culture. If a culture believes that it is ok to lie, cheat, and steal, how will our future leaders of business, government, law enforcement, and teachers act? If the culture is so busy with life that it doesn’t see the value in family or children, how will this community affect our schools? If a community lacks respect and honor for people and property how safe will that community really be? History has proven time and again that communities without a moral compass eventually end up in depravity and destruction.
To be a strong, healthy and beneficial community it must be a moral community. A community of faith is the epicenter of this morality. Let me be clear about defining faith. I am not speaking of a specific doctrine, dogma, church or religion. Faith transcends all of these but in each of these, there are things that can guide each of us into a path of faith. As one writer says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” Faith is how we live our lives, regardless of your spiritual tradition.
A community of faith and spirituality is a moral community. The golden rule, which is seen in every religion says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is a moral command that affects every element of society. If I don’t want someone to steal from me, then I won’t steal from them. If I want to be treated with respect, I need to treat others with respect. If I want others to be honest, genuine and authentic, then I must live in the same manner. This goes on and on in every category and every aspect of business, government, education, and family. A real community of faith teaches the necessities of discipline, respect, honor, selflessness, personal responsibility and servanthood. Are these not the qualities of a community you want to live in?
A society that has a strong faith community understands the value of marriage and family. Our faith commands us to invest in and teach our children the values and principles of this spiritual life of faith. A strong community of faith lessens crime. It is a part of the educational process of its children and has a voice in the direction and leadership of its government.
It is today, now more than ever, that a voice needs to cry out, “Return!” Not to return to the idea of the golden years that never were, nor to an old dogma that divided people and communities. No, we are to return to the fertile soil of faith. That faith that connects us to God and manifests itself to others. We are called to return to this faith so that we all can experience the presence of God in our midst. A community that does this becomes healthy and strong in all aspects of life.
As we enter into a season of Christmas and prepare for another new year, may we, each and every one of us, seek to be a little more open-minded and allow our hearts to soften so that we may hear that call, “Return.”