13 January 2011

is it too light?

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). This is from the second of the so-called “Servant Songs” in the book of Isaiah. The Servant—be it the prophet, Israel, the Messiah, or another identity—hears the call to be a light to the nations. The call is not simply to his/her/their own people, but to the entire world, the entire creation. Do we (can we) imitate the Servant?

To be light. The problem is that we too often try to bring our own light, instead of receiving the light that is given to us. In bringing our own light, it too often winds up being more heat than light.

A perfect illustration of this was Tucson, five days ago: the mass murder and the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords’ life. It was an occasion for plenty of people to radiate a lot of heat, but not much light. Within a couple of hours, there was already a firestorm of speculation about the motives of the shooter. Many were attempting to draw a straight line from him to politicians and media personalities who make incendiary comments.

Clearly, the shooter and any possible accomplices are responsible for their own actions. But that goes for the rest of us. We shouldn’t pretend that our words and deeds don’t have consequences, especially those of us in positions of influence and those who have large audiences. We are responsible for what we say. Can we learn to use words that help bring more light and less heat?

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