A long time ago, my nephew Leif wrote a poem for a high school English class. The poem was about the beauty of leaves in the fall. (Where he lived near Lake Superior, the leaves were spectacular!) One phrase from his poem has stayed with me all these years: they are displaying “the color of their death.”
That might sound at first rather macabre, but I think it’s actually very beautiful, and it says something that’s true about us as followers of Jesus. As we die to the power of sin and to the ways of the world, something happens: we find that the beautiful, colorful, distinctive life of Jesus is taking up residence in us. His life is becoming our life.
The thing is, we have to die. As Robert Farrar Capon has said, God is not interested in making us better; he wants to make us new. Death and rebirth is the only way he works.
It reminds me, in this political season, of something I read recently in a piece by Thomas Friedman (“Beirut’s Blast is a Warning for America” – NY Times, August 9, 2020). Friedman writes about our need locate our source of Truth in something outside ourselves and our sectarian passions. He quotes Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal: “For a healthy politics to flourish it needs reference points outside itself – reference points of truth and a conception of the common good. When everything becomes political, that is the end of politics.”
Whether in politics or in any other area of our lives, we gain by losing; we live by dying.