Malignant

… the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:18)

I won’t forget the day my younger brother called to say he had cancer. Though it was an aggressive form, it was localized and removable by an operation. It was a sobering conversation, but optimistic. We tend to be like that. The odds of his full recovery were good. We prayed, thanking God that it was found early enough to be dealt with. But several weeks after the surgery, he called with the bad news. The cancer had spread. It was Stage III and had metastasized to multiple places in his body. We prayed again, this time with a sense of life-and-death that loomed in uncertainty. It is difficult to be at peace, but we are people of faith. We trust God. As Job said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

The backdrop for this serious event in our lives was another serious malignancy — the Covid-19 pandemic. It was spreading aggressively. It was deadly. It is still spreading, with new outbreaks even today. And it is equally sobering. There are people in my life (my brother included) with compromised immune systems, so I have altered how I live to reduce the possibility that I will be exposed to it. I still go to work and interact with lots of people, but distance, masks, frequent hand washing — whatever it takes — are my new normal. I live with the looming uncertainty of exposure, as many of us do. And I am at peace. I trust God.

More recently, we have had yet another malignancy rear its ugly head. It started with the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t abhorred by what happened to George Floyd. It became a cultural flashpoint that revealed the deep divides we have in our nation over issues of race. There were protests, then riots. Social and network media gaslighted the already fragile issue we often avoid. It is revealing. We are a polarized nation. There is a cancer eating at us that can only be addressed by sober attention and prayer.

Once you’ve seen a malignancy – once it has been exposed – there is no alternative but to address it. Otherwise it continues unabated. Masking it, pretending it isn’t there, or hoping it will just go away are not options. It is a matter of the heart. I find myself asking the same question many of us are asking. What do we do now? How do we heal it? Violence doesn’t solve anything. Separation only aggravates the divide. It is as difficult to untangle as the Gordian Knot. No, the answer is not simple. But according to James, the path to reconciliation is through peaceful engagement. Just prior to the words above, he says the following,“wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). As the violence abates and the protests fade and we go back to work with one another, will ours be a whatever-it-takes resolve? Will we embrace a new normal of listening and recognition? Or will we bury it and live under the looming certainty that it will return? Will we find peace? Will we trust God? Will we listen to His word?

… the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:18)

Back to the home front. My brother gave us the latest news two days ago. After months of treatment, the cancer in him is no longer detectable. He is in remission. We got on our knees again and we prayed. We always trusted God, though we would have trusted Him either way. We are grateful beyond measure. My brother will continue hormone treatments as a precaution. The cancer may be in remission, but could return if he doesn’t stay vigilant. There is still a looming uncertainty, but this is very good news and it gives hope for a very different outcome.

My prayer for today is an end to the cultural malignancy that has us polarized and an embrace of peace, with the vigilant attitude that any peace worth attaining is worth keeping.

About marknicklas

Dr. Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
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3 Responses to Malignant

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful story! Great news about Chris is in remission! Nice picture of you 2!!! You had me in tears!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful post! I was in tears reading it! It’s great news about Chris being in remission! Nice picture of you both! By the way Happy Fathers Day!

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