Advent 2016 Devotional: December 1

December 1, 2016

Live at Peace  

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-12-44-47-amTwo years ago I watched a short documentary on income inequality in Lake Providence, LA. Lake Providence has the most extreme income gap of any place in the nation, and any nation in the world. The poorest 5% makes $6,800 per year, and the top 5% makes over $600,000. What makes the contrast even more striking is that the “rich” and “poor” sides are divided by a lake, a metaphorical reality that separates the two sides. One south-sider was interviewed at the end of the documentary; she dreamt if she had a million dollars she would build a huge bridge between the two sides, then “after a while they wouldn’t have a choice but to talk to each other.”

I work as an emergency room physician, and I spend much of my time treating patients in the Harris County system that most hospitals won’t; but there’s a Lake Providence between my patients and me – a lake that thwarts equality. At work, my relationship with the poor presupposes that I have something to offer them, but not the other way around.

Two verses prior to the above one, Paul implores that we “associate with people of low position.” He also encourages us to share and practice hospitality. I think that to “live at peace with everyone,” we have to live with everyone. Martin Luther King Jr. called this concept the “beloved community,” and I think it’s the same vision Paul had for early Christ followers when he wrote this passage.

This Advent, I encourage you to consider ways to connect with people that you normally wouldn’t – those from “the other side of the Lake.” It doesn’t have to necessarily be someone who is poor, but someone who is different. For instance, sharing a meal is a lovely expression of equality, and can be a way to live at peace with someone from the other side. Lord, teach me to live at peace with everyone – to see your image in all people, especially those “of low position.”

Ben Cooper is married to Ali Cooper, and has two boys, Micah (5) and Jonah (3). He works as an emergency physician at Memorial Hermann in the medical center and LBJ General Hospital, and is a community leader with the youth at SMBC.