From today’s epistle reading:
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (I Timothy 4:4-5)
In our zealousness to be righteous or pure, we can be tempted to forget this basic truth, a truth that everything God created is fundamentally good. It can be tempting to hold ourselves aloof from people especially, but God did not create them bad. He created them good. And that means they are not our enemies. They are our fellow creatures. We are in the same boat as they. This gives us a duty to all people and even to all things, not to refuse them but to receive them with thanksgiving, even if we cannot understand why they are in our lives and even if we do not want them in our lives. Are they brought to us? Then we receive them with thanksgiving.
And even in our fallen, corrupted world, everything made be “sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” So not only are we able to participate in the revelation of all things as good, but we have actually been given authority by God to sanctify all things by His word and by our own prayers. If it is true that God has created things good, it is also true that we can reveal their goodness through our prayers.
It’s really easy to define ourselves by what we do not participate in, by what we refuse, by what we reject. And this is especially easy when we identify corruption in all its forms—heresy, pain, distortion, etc.—with the thing that has been corrupted. You are a heretic, so I will reject you along with your heresy. You are complicated and messy, so I will reject you along with your mess. And so on.
But we are asked instead to sanctify all things by prayer. And if we see our fellow creation suffering in corruption in whatever form, we are to help cleanse and heal it with truth in love.
I sometimes see calls for people to remove themselves from “negative” or “toxic” people, and sometimes it is indeed necessary to get away from someone in order to protect what is at risk. But even if it is needful to do that, we have to try to do it with a sense of regret and even compassion for the person whom we have to leave. And while we leave them in body, we must never, ever leave them in prayer.
People are not “toxic.” What is toxic is their mode of being, not their being itself. They are created good. They’re not created toxic. And even while a person may be distorted in his desires, behaviors and emotional processes, he is still what God created Him to be.
I try to make it a habit to pray for those with whom I’ve had a falling out, even if it was years ago and the relationship seems beyond any human repair. I don’t do this because I am a good Christian, but because I know that I am actually not a very good one, and it would otherwise be very easy for me to write someone entirely off as irredeemable and useless. In other words, it is easy for me to see someone as not created fundamentally good, as somehow exempt from the sanctification I am called to bring by the word of God and by prayer.
I may not know how to heal things with a given person (and that person may not want the relationship healed!). I may not know how to heal a particular situation. I cannot always mend what is broken through design and action. But I can always pray. I can always bring the word of God and prayer to any situation or any person.
And for now, even if I do not know how that may affect things, by God’s grace it will be enough.