It’s in things left undone where the hard work of becoming beloved community lies

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, p. 360

For a lifelong Episcopalian, I have a fair amount of what my Roman friends call “Catholic guilt,” particularly around the weekly recitation of the Confession of Sin during Eucharist. In my sinful pride, I usually feel fairly confident that I didn’t do too many of those things I confess. It’s the part about what I have left undone where the guilt sinks in.

After each confession, a litany of missed opportunities runs through my mind. The call I didn’t return. The thank you note I keep meaning to write. The things I ignored or blew off or “forgot” to do. I promise to do better. Then a week goes by and here I am again, asking forgiveness, stuff still left undone. Thankfully, God’s grace is endless.

Just about every major religion has some version of what we call the Great Commandment – loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. Treating others as we would like to be treated. So if in our sinful pride we believe that we are following this “Golden Rule,” why is this work toward becoming beloved community that everyone is talking about necessary?

We tend to focus on doing all the right things. Treating others with kindness and respect? Check. Helping the homeless and the hungry? Check. Visiting the sick and those in prison? Check. Welcoming the stranger? Check. Loving God and our neighbor as ourselves, just like we’re supposed to. But it’s in those things left undone where our sin truly lies. 

It’s in our refusal to acknowledge or understand the privilege and advantage that we benefit from solely based on the amount of melanin in our skin. It’s in not voicing our objection when someone we know or love makes a racist or homophobic joke or statement or Facebook post. It’s in not calling our political leaders to task for not looking out for the well-being of all humans. It’s in our continued support of products and corporations that do not pay a living wage to their workers or misuse the resources of our beautiful earth in the name of profit. It’s in these things left undone where the hard work of becoming beloved community lies.

No one wants to have difficult conversations. No one wants to alienate a friend or loved one over a seemingly harmless joke or Facebook meme. Speaking up may seem like widening the divide. Buying a different brand or shopping at a different store may be inconvenient or more expensive. But each time we acknowledge and begin to take on those tasks previously left undone, we inch ever more closely toward that beloved community.

So as we hear all the talk about striving to become beloved community, may we all focus on these things left undone in our lives and in this place. May we all take on our missed opportunities and be truly sorry and humbly repent for those times when we don’t. If we can do this, together, we’ll get to that beloved community, someday. Because thankfully, God’s grace is endless.

Connections editor Julie Murray serves as Associate Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with her at jmurray@diosohio.org.