Attitudes Across Life’s Places

Dr. L. William Oliverio, Jr.

 “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

I Corinthians 9:19-23

Some people have lived their entire lives in one locale. Personally, I have not, as I have lived my life in four major metropolitan areas in the United States, besides a few other short seasons in other spots. One thing I have learned from moving from place to place a few times, even beyond the multitude of other of life’s contexts, is the power of our situations to shape how we live and act and become in them.

This is one reason why personal integrity is often connected with consistently doing the same things over and over. There is certainly truth to the ethical assumption that one’s character should shape a person no matter the context. On the other hand, love for God and love for others often leads to very different actions which are dependent upon who we are relating to and the situations we find ourselves in.

Adapting to the unexpected, the challenging, and the undesirable challenges us in our discipleship and vocations. These, too, are locations or contexts for us. We did not usually plan or will to live amidst difficult situations, yet we often enough find ourselves in them.

The Apostle Paul, as can be seen from his letter to the Corinthians above, adapted to his situations. He learned that God’s calling on his life meant adaptability and relating to others on their own terms. Paul recognized what theologians later called “common grace” or “creational grace,” where God was at work in almost every situation, even those in which the redemptive grace which comes from Christ is not known or explicitly recognized. Nevertheless, the Spirit has already been at work amidst these situations, these locations. And so faithfulness to Christ often enough means recognizing God at work in all things, even and especially in the most difficult contexts.

No sane or good person wants to see the suffering and difficulties this season is bringing upon humanity. It has just come upon us. Yet, in this context, too, we can sense that the Lord may guide us here, as with every other place in our lives.

Therefore, as Christians it is important for us to consider the right resources for guiding us in the various moments of our lives. What we give attention to in these times will form ourselves and our responses to them. In our “for such a time as this,” I might suggest the following from Jesus as guidance across the many contexts which the SUM community and readers of this blog will find themselves in over the coming weeks and months. The heart of Jesus’ teaching can be found in the “upside down kingdom” taught us in the Beatitudes amidst our worlds which have been turned upside down:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 5:3-10)