Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I’ve always believed it to be true and a piece of wisdom worthy of attention. However, in a two week period I’ve become involved in several prevention campaigns; Prevention of Sexual Violence, Prevention of Domestic Violence, Prevention of Gun Violence, Prevention of Suicide, and Prevention of Child Abuse to be specific. Each one of these programs deserves our undivided attention and I am grateful that they are available to our community. However, all together they are certainly more than “an ounce.”
All of this comes at a time when I am feeling the impact of terrorism at home and abroad, more mass shootings, the suicide of a colleague’s son, and news of the rape of a woman I know in another state. And it is Advent, the season of expectation, hope, and preparation for the birth of the One sent to save us.
In each of these prevention programs, we review recent data concerning the prevalence of the social ill we are trying to prevent. In most cases, the problems are escalating at an alarming rate. Something is wrong with a culture when we have to work so hard at prevention of such things. Our core values as a culture have obviously eroded.
I caught a glimmer of hope in conversation with the presenter of the workshop on domestic violence, The Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, when she said that faith communities can present obstacles or opportunities for people facing behavior that needs to be prevented. For example, a biblical passage can be interpreted in ways that make a victim of violence believe it is their fault, that the abuser has a God-given right to hurt someone, or that the violence is somehow God’s punishment. Or, the passage might be interpreted in life-affirming ways that help lift a person out of harm’s way.
It makes me even more grateful that our Church emphasizes God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. Each of us who has received that hopeful message is in a position to share it with others, especially those who are vulnerable. In so doing, we may not only help someone discover an abundant life, we may also provide just the thing that actually saves a life.
We also belong to a community of people who can hold one another accountable for our harmful actions just as we encourage good works. Watching over one another in love, we support profound behavioral change. Jesus didn’t just preach repentance, he formed a community to surround penitents with guidance, care, and the means of grace that are necessary to sustain the new life that is emerging when the old life is left behind.
In the Baptismal Covenant, we affirm that with God’s help we will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, we will repent and return to the Lord. We affirm that with God’s help we will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves. And, we affirm that with God’s help we will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
That’s our ounce of prevention, which we ourselves have received and which we offer to cure the social ills swirling around us. It’s about more than stopping something; it’s also about offering hope. It’s not just about protecting the victims; it’s also about redemptive change for those who do violence. It’s more than an ounce or even a pound; it’s the offer of immeasurable possibilities for good that will reverberate beyond our own generation.
It’s something to think about.
I’ll see you in Church!