3 Things Christians Should Consider in Today's American Political Climate
I've bit my tongue for a while now, thinking deeply about the issues so bitterly dividing our country over these last several months. My social media and news feeds, just like yours, are overflowing with vitriolic memes and pro-this, anti-that rants. To be honest, I'm getting burned out. Maybe you are too? (As I wrote this, a very close friend messaged me that he was taking a hiatus from Facebook for this very reason!!) The recent controversy surrounding President Trump's executive order freezing immigration from seven countries in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia) over the course of the next 120 days has led to outrage and indubitably challenges our thinking on immigration and human rights regardless of which side of the aisle we find our politics aligning. As I've prayed over this issue, I've felt compelled to share three ideas with you as I've watched people tearing each other apart in verbal warfare, much of it in the name of their Christian faith.
1. What would Jesus do? Yeah, I went there. It's cliche, I know, 90's teen here, but seriously: what would Jesus do? Would Jesus be marching in Washington DC? Would He be outraged over the POTUS' order? Would He be arguing against and belittling those who choose to protest? Let me first say that I'm tired of hearing the "Jesus was a socialist because He cared for people" argument. I'm also tired of the patriotism that has become synonymous with religious identity. Jesus was apolitical, meaning His concerns were spiritual and government was of little concern regarding His relationship with humanity. Yes, Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and told us to care for widows and orphans, but it was a directive given to us - as individuals - putting the responsibility for care in your and my hands, not the governing powers. Remember that He also wisely told His detractors to give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's (Mark 12:17). Jesus clearly defined the two as separate; and in that, an abiding respect for the political structure without a word for or against taxation. He did not tell the Pharisees and Herodians to rebel, refuse, march, or condemn the Romans. "But doesn't Jesus condone and even display righteous anger?" you might ask. Indeed He does. In Matthew 21:12, Jesus famously overturns tables and drives out the money changers and merchants from the temple in Jerusalem saying, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.' " Jesus' clearing of the temple was not done because the beggars outside were not being fed, nor was it because of social injustice. His anger was a response to the handling of a sacred space - the realm of God on earth. The temple was holy because the One who dwelled within was (and is) holy. We must also consider that we now have become the temple, the clay vessel, in which God resides and we must behold all of humanity in that light (I Corinthians 3:16). There are many excellent examples of Christ's desire for us to care for those in need, none is better than Matthew 25:31-46. In this parable, Jesus explains, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me," this in regard to clothing, feeding/nourishing, and welcoming. This is Jesus' example of compassion and care, literally doing good for others as if we were doing it to Him. This is not however a directive like making disciples of all nations and baptizing them (Matthew 28:19), nor is it like the command to love one another (John 13:34). Rather, Jesus' desire for us to care for those in need is how John 13:34 is displayed to the world so that all will know we are His disciples. caring is a side effect of love.
2. A clanging cymbal. Paul is very clear in his first letter to the church in Corinth when he illustrates a Christian life devoid of love. I can't say it better than scripture, so here's I Corinthians 13:1-3:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a
clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I
have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the
poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Right now, I'm hearing so many resounding gongs and clanging cymbals that I'm struggling to tell the believers from the unbelievers. Never before have I been so bombarded from both sides of an issue by people in extreme juxtapose testifying to God's will for His creation! This is not a pro/anti argument, but an observation. At a time when Christian behavior is under a microscope in this country, Christians on both sides are so busy arguing and shouting at each other that I keep asking myself where is the love? It's a paramount right in America that we maintain the freedom to express our beliefs through speech and protest, but when we respond so spitefully to another group while extolling our own viewpoint, aren't we missing the point of Jesus' teachings on love in the first place? Are we all not covered under the same undeserved grace? Maybe it's just me, but I feel like this is a detriment to our testimonies. I feel like some Christians are actually even expressing joy at the conflict itself, as if they now have a cause or purpose. I challenge you to read the rest of I Corinthians 13. Pray over it and see if the way you've been handling your relationships with fellow Christians in this contentious time is aligned with this ever-relevant scripture.
3. Love your enemy. This final point is by far the most meaningful to me. It's also where we, as Christians, should be coming together in unity to seek the will of our Heavenly Father as we cry out to God together. If your heart is broken over immigration but not the ever growing chasm between your brothers and sisters in the church, then spend some time in I Corinthians 12. America is fortunate to be in a position where we can help victims of war, famine, and religious persecution, and we have a responsibility as Christians to do so, but we have to find a way to come together and do it as a unified body. We need to drop our signs, drop our arguments, and get on our knees. If you oppose Donald Trump as President of the United States, then let me ask if you have prayed for the man as much as you have excoriated him? Have you prayed that God will give him the wisdom to manage our nation's role in the global community? And you Christians so quick to mock and ridicule the protests happening even at the moment that I write this, have you prayed for the foreigners who are impacted by the freeze on immigration? Have you earnestly gone before God and prayed for their safety and peace in their homelands? Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:44 that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Paul reinforces Jesus' lesson in Romans 12. But are we doing that? Are you praying for those who have a different mindset than your own? This is difficult because it requires so much humility on our parts. But the more we try to fight fire with fire, the greater we all get burned. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. beautifully expressed that hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. His words spoken in 1963 are no less powerful today. Right now, we are in the midst of a dark world growing ever-darker and the need for the Light has never been more important.
I cannot stress how much my words are not meant to take a side, only invoke thoughtfulness in our attempts to speak in love. This article is far from a criticism of the government because that is not the point (enough people are already doing that). I will pray for President Trump the same as I did for President Obama and President Bush before him. I will pray for my friends who march and protest. I will pray for my friends who who welcome the immigration freeze. I will continue to pray for those who see the world differently than I do. Regardless of politics or who sits in the White House, we are all in this together and we need to strive to do this together. If you read this, thank you. If you disagree, that's fine. If you are already doing this, then keep praying. This is not a plea for a passive call to inaction. No, I believe in the power of prayer and the divine communication that takes place as we invoke the Almighty. And, I believe it is one of the greatest actions we can pair with our involvement to effect change. This post is a prompting to mindfulness and asking the question of whether or not our response to this crisis brings glory to God. Pray for the refugees seeking peace. Pray for the orphans and widows created by war. Pray that this can be resolved quickly before more lives are lost. Pray for one another in the midst of our differences.
On earth as it is in heaven, In Jesus name.