I am old enough to remember the assassination of President Kennedy, the race riots, the Vietnam protests, and the Watergate scandal. Granted I was young, but I definitely picked up on the angst and anger of those around me. I can remember a Canadian friend asking me at that time of President Nixon’s resignation, “Aren’t you ashamed to be an American?” His question made me angry, but in truth, it was painful and scary to be living through such contentious times. Today the atmosphere in our beloved country seems as bad, possibly worse than what I remember from those years, and it is spilling over into the therapy room. I have had people on BOTH sides of the political divide in the office of late, already weary from the worries of the pandemic and string of natural and economic disasters, pouring out their frustration and genuine worries for our country. Every one of those people has been a Christian brother or sister. Honestly, it is heart-breaking, as in, it literally makes my heart and stomach hurt. We are a house divided- even in the church.
I recently heard a sermon about this, and the pastor’s perspective was thought-provoking and encouraging. Here is a paraphrase of what he said with a few thoughts of my own (of course). He drew our attention to the many empires and nations that have come and gone: the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and so on. At one time it was unthinkable that these mighty nations would be nothing more than chapters in the annals of history. Contrast this with the kingdom of God, which transcends all of these, and will never end. Whatever our vision for America, it is a temporary kingdom. Support the causes and positions you believe in but please keep things in perspective!
When Jesus gathered men to be his closest disciples, he included men who actively opposed Roman occupation and others, like Matthew, who cooperated with the Romans. These men were on opposite sides politically, and Jesus expected them to work together and keep their focus on the kingdom of God. We are instructed to do the same. We are supposed to look for ways to work together! Our signature feature as believers is supposed to be the surprising love we have for each other, in spite of our differences. How do you think we are doing?
Where is Our Focus?
We are not asked to be indifferent or blind to this world, but it seems to me we are to tread lightly. Jesus said we are to be in this world, but not of it. Certainly, we should be engaged and vote because it is our responsibility as Americans to do so, but we have to remember the big picture. God and His kingdom are bigger than all of this. What I see in our culture is a lot of pride and disrespect. We exaggerate and play loose with the truth. We use divisive all-or-nothing thinking. We stay in our comfortable, often self-righteous bubbles, rather than seeking to genuinely understand other points of view. We certainly do not make generous assumptions. We want to be RIGHT more than we want to practice what we are so clearly called to do as believers. The ends do not justify the means. There is such a thing as winning the battle but losing the war. Put more plainly, we will not be judged by whether or not we pushed the correct agenda through, but rather by how we conducted ourselves in this life. An equally exasperated Christian friend wryly noted, “We aren’t told, ‘and the greatest of these is being RIGHT’!!” Rather, we are told the greatest of these is LOVE. Just read the passage below and ask yourself if a course correction is in order.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.I Corinthians 13