It would not be breaking any news to state that tensions are at, perhaps, an all-time high in our country. Opinions are sharply divided on all sides, and fruitful dialogue seems a rare animal indeed, one which has gone into hibernation for this political wintertime. It would seem few are willing — perhaps few are able — to compromise on their appraisal of the best course. The fact that it wasn’t a decade ago that an “open mind” was a chief virtue illustrates how unstable our culture has become.
Regardless of one’s political preference, none of these circumstances excuse us from the necessity of authentic Christian fraternity and genuine care for neighbor. Divided opinions must not be allowed to overcome common goals.
Today, the Gospel closes a curriculum that has carried us through these five weeks on how we are to respond to our neighbor. We receive no uncertain condemnation of pride in all its forms. This denial of self is the first truly daunting task of becoming a disciple.
We have likely heard these words dozens of times, and though the words of Christ should always ring clear, strong, and true in our hearts, now perhaps more than any time in our country’s history, people of every political leaning must heed them: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and especially the next part, “that you may be children of your heavenly Father.”
One family is what God sees in us collectively. While the earth is the proving ground of his love at work in us, ultimately, who “wins” and who “loses” is irrelevant. A human estimation of victory is ultimately hollow. We waste our efforts on outrage, vitriol and rhetoric of every flavor, while we ignore the invitation of God to communion and peace that comes through unity in Him.
What my heart ought to say in times like these is, as the psalm says today, “the Lord is kind and merciful.” This world does not look the way I believe the Kingdom of God looks, and whether I believe the direction is right or wrong, I have a greater allegiance to the Author of Life than to any author of law.
Based on this conviction, my duty is clear. I must love those who see me as the villain. I must pray for those who beset me with difficulty. Without sarcasm, it is a solemn duty to pray for the earthly leaders we have, perhaps especially if we disagree with those leaders. It falls to us each to pray with sincerity that God’s will be done on earth, as it unfailingly is in heaven — to say to God without irony, “My God in whom I trust, may those who choose the course of government act on the wisdom that comes from you, and not from man.”
The authentic Christian position in politics is less concerned with who does it than with seeing God’s will done. Even if we don’t believe elected leaders capable of doing God’s will, maybe then, more than otherwise, our reaction must be prayer.
This does not mean we aren’t entitled to our disappointments in the ever-shifting developments in human leadership, but it does demand that we examine where our trust lies. I have often quipped that politics is the biggest religion in the United States. My belief in this has been only affirmed as I observe the unfolding of deepening division across the spectrum of opinion. More and more people, even amongst Christians, have placed their trust regarding worldly affairs in their elected officials, and thus the alternating despair and gloating persist.
Why, oh why, do we trust politicians and lawyers to improve the world more than we trust God to do it?
I believe in my heart that if we, who are called by God, would humble ourselves and pray, turning from our own sin, to seek the face of God, we would be heard, and we would see healing and reconciliation (2 Chronicles 7:14). If we rent our hearts open before him, not our garments in outrage or frustration, returning to the Lord, he would leave a blessing in our midst (Joel 2:12-14).