The president may be right that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korean leaders are a waste of time. Even if he is wrong, which of course he is, he has the power to make himself right, in a manner of speaking, effectively making a waste of others’ time. But if death will come, can you measure the worth of siding with life?
Tillerson is no friend of the church, the earth, or most people living on it, but if the reported negotiations are any sort of real thing, we can affirm they are worth doing. Even if they have been and will again be undermined and undone, even if they are an utter and complete failure according to their outcome, they are worth doing. You don’t need to be a Christian to understand that war is a thing to be avoided at great cost.
Christians, though, have deeper insight than most into the value of wasted time. We believe the center of all existence is the illegal execution of an innocent man in the prime of his life. What a loss! And then he just lay there lifeless for a whole weekend before anything else really happened. What a waste! Yet we fools remember him and participate with him by, of all things, sharing a bit of bread and a sip of drink, and maybe singing a little bit. Have you ever stood in a line of people waiting to receive communion? Or at a potluck dinner afterward? What a waste of time! Yet we cling to this like our life depends on it.
And, we actually believe it does. People who worship like this can be OK with a certain kind of inefficiency. They can give themselves to tasks with little to no visible results. They can pray, again and again and again and again and again, for things that never seem to happen. They can care lovingly and generously for those who cannot return the favor–for the very sick and very elderly, for those at risk of ebola, for those on the streets who can’t ever seem to get things turned around. They can spend hours in scripture in order to proclaim it for 15 minutes to 15 people in a drafty old church with an out of tune piano. They can give up the pursuit of wealth and power though at least a part of them thinks they could leverage those so well for good once they had them. They can live their lives by wasting them.
Christians pray for peace. If that does not seem like a waste of time, I don’t know what does. But who could have predicted the survival of a church that did just that in the midst of the Roman empire? Who could have predicted Saul being blinded on the road to Damascus? Who now predicts nuclear disarmament? Tillerson acted for years as CEO of one of the largest and most destructive corporations on earth. Efficiency and profit have been his god. But if, somehow, he can genuinely commit to the pursuit of peace, may the Prince of Peace meet him as he does (just don’t expect him to last long in his job thereafter). May he and we be changed.
Lord, have mercy.