Practicing the Better: A Final Word

​I come to the end of this series feeling like a runner who must now pass the baton to the next person in the race. This series has been an extended one, but it could easily have been longer and deeper.  The runner could keep on running, but his/her alloted portion of the race has been covered.  Practicing the better is a long-distance run by a team of runners.  Each runner is advancing the baton toward the finish line.  As this series concludes, let’s look at what the baton (practicing the better) signifies…

First and foremost, it is means living in ways that bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the root of which is love as summarized in the two great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).  This is the essence of practicing the better.

Second, it means locality.  Jesus said that the Kingdom is near.  We use our stewardship to financially support ministries that practice the better in other places, but we use our servanthood to be involved in ministries nearby. Practicing the better is centered in “the local,” and we can only imagine how different the world would be if each of us were invested in our respective territories. 

Third, practicing the better is limited. It is doing what we can do–adding our piece to the puzzle.  For example, in the civil rights movement and other movements for liberation–Gandhi fasted, Merton wrote. King marched. Baez sang, Day extended hospitality, Mandela was imprisoned, Romero offered eucharist and priestly care. And beyond those we can name are the multitude of others who cooked meals, kept children, provided transportation, and offered rooms for visitors to stay in. No one tried to do it all.  Each did a part, and did it for the glory of God. This gives focus to practicing the better and prevents us from growing weary in well doing by trying to do too much.  There are more good things to do than God asks any of us to do.

As we end this series, I can think of no better summary for the phrase “the practice of the better” than the prayer of St. Francis.  May it be a living prayer in each of us…

Lord,

Make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love,

Where there is injury, pardon,

Where there is doubt, faith,

Where there is despair, hope,

Where there is darkness light,

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled

     as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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