08 Sep election year
Christians have traditionally been held to a higher standard than other folk, and with good reason. The world has need for the authentic witness of practicing Christians who, by their words and actions, foster unity and encourage reconciliation.
This need for Christian witness is today needed more than ever, especially when we observe the events currently being played out on the political stage. For reasons which I do not fully understand, there is an abnormally high degree of anger and distrust in our political discourse; it seems that it is no longer enough to support one side against the other – you have to hate your opponent too. I don’t know why the passion is so strong, or the hatred so intense. Whichever way you look at it, it is not healthy for the nation, or indeed anyone, to be this way – especially not Christians.
Although Jesus himself was the cause of division, he mainly targeted the Pharisees and Scribes, whom he exposed as those who craved power more than piety, and who placed unnecessary burdens on the people with their hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. However, we must be careful not to infer that Jesus saw his mission in terms of “us and them.” On the contrary, he was often the guest at dinner in the house of a Pharisee. Some, like Nicodemus, became his admirers.
Sadly, even at the domestic level, our attempts today to discuss politics is fraught with animosity and bitterness. Everyone has an opinion, and however divorced an opinion may be from the facts, people cling to them. Indeed, there is currently a surfeit of opinion and a dearth of true debate.
That’s a shame, because society is enriched by civil debate, by listening to and refuting the arguments of the other side. When done respectfully, it can lead to a place of mutual understanding. I’m not seeing a lot of that right now, and as election day approaches, things will get more heated than ever. For Christians, there is a clear temptation to join in blaming the other side for the way things are: for the riots, for Covid-19, for, …well, anything.
Christians are called to a higher standard of behavior. Jesus calls on us to love our neighbor, and even to love our enemies. You can’t do either of those if you are filled with hate and anger. There is a very good reason why we are called to travel a different path. If the whole world is divided and at each other’s throats, who is there to model a different way? Who can provide an example of unity in the face of division, if it is not Christians? If we abdicate that role, we will be doing a disservice to the spirit of God whose blessing is upon the peacemakers, not the dividers.
The passionate involvement in politics to the point of hatred is also an indication that our faith is weak. For this is God’s world, and it pleased God to make it and for us to dwell in it. It is not my world, or your world, or the politicians’ world, but God’s, and so is subject to those eternal cares which God exercises over his creation. What this means is that, whoever wins and whoever loses, God is still in charge and the work of healing our world continues, regardless of who is in power.
There’s an old saying, “Be the change you want to become.” In other words, if you want a world of love, forgiveness and compassion, then that begins with you. Don’t expect everyone else to change while not changing yourself. While the fires of anger and hatred rage around you, become the cool water of compassion and the gentle voice of peace. Try not to see your opponent with horns on their head. Try not to be like someone in the Bible who once said, “I thank you God that I am not like them!”
We have a higher calling, to live up to the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who called the humble blessed, and who sought to unite all humanity in one spirit of love. Sound impossible? Maybe, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. It only needs one person to make a difference, and God blesses all those who share his vision for the world and live it out in faith and love.
With peace and amity