I am writing this on Sunday afternoon as I study for my last final, which just so happens to be for my Reformation and Enlightenment class. This class has surprised me perhaps more than any other class has – because I have come to love it so unexpectedly. I have loved learning about this time period because it has so intensely influenced today’s world and, therefore, offers much relevance in terms of universal application. The professor is one I had never had before, had never even heard of. She is one of those rare teachers who lives everyday life with genuine passion for what she teaches, so it has been natural for her to keep our 9 AM class awake and interested, day in and day out, over the course of the semester. Beyond lecturing about the basic facts and amusing stories of the Reformation and the Enlightenment with spot-on wit and grace, she has offered what she likes to call “unsolicited life advice” as well. She didn’t give it a name until this month, but she has incorporated it into many classes since August. I just stumbled upon a piece of this wisdom in my notes from October 29:
[Context: she had been lecturing on Luther and Zwingli and their differing beliefs about the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper.]
The universal conviction at this time was that to be right about the sacrament was to be right about God and about salvation. We have a similar attitude today: we want to be right about everything so that we are not wrong. For example, we tend to feel that if we are right about homosexuality, among other things, then we are right about God and holiness. But relationships are more important than rightness. Have standards, but keep them in Kingdom perspective: God loves everyone.
After this short break for truth, my notes continue into a bullet-point list about Zwingli’s importance. But it is this truth, the truest truth, that holds my attention. I have been reminded of other truths in various other Word documents from this class. I am grateful for a professor who simply lives and whose life spills over with knowledge, yes, but, more than that, with wisdom. All of this reminds me of several conversations I have had recently about a similar subject: how to be relevant in our culture. A friend reminded me that it is easy to be a cynic. How many cynics there are among us, and we cynics tend to feel that we are closest to truth. But instead of persevering in cynicism, perhaps what we need to do is to speak the truest truths that we have learned from simply living life. Sometimes these truths will be fraught with cynicism, other times not – which is okay because truth is what we’re after. And perhaps we need to speak these truths to one another, talk about them; share truths that others may have not yet learned, that they may have learned long ago, that they may be wondering about; learn from each other; glean truths from the life that others live and that we live. Perhaps this is one “truest truth” about community.
As we make our way through the beautiful mess of life: asking questions, delivering answers, revising our answers, learning, relearning, and simply living, may we remember the significance of truth, of relevance, and of community. May we remember this particular truth: relationships are more important than rightness. May we walk in wisdom; may we choose our battles wisely. And may we live. As D. H. Lawrence says, “ . . . life itself, and not inert safety, is the reason for living.” Let’s celebrate what it is to live life as we get our hands dirty trying to figure out what this truth stuff, and relevance stuff, and life stuff is all about after all.