The last few weeks, and especially the last few days, have led to interesting questions and comments with those I’m in relationship with about the state of our country and world. Some of these questions have been raised by comments on social media, which I believe is often a poor place for conversation. However, substantial questions have come from those I’m in relationship with on a daily/weekly basis: friends, family, or even my church community. Personally, I have moved from confusion, to despair, to apathy, to anger, and back again multiple times. I’ve even wondered, what can I possibly do. Federal policies seem so impossible to change from my lowly position. This leaves me with even more despair, or possibly denial. But as people of faith, it’s not alright to simply give up. We can’t disengage. We must move forward, speaking and living truth. With this in mind, I offer these thoughts as reminders of how to live faithfully during these times.
Never lose faith in the new creation. It is easy to lose hope during these times. How can our country and the world be consumed with so many unchristian principles? The news over the last few days has been filled with building walls, closing the door to refugees, banning religions, and promoting torture. (Yes, I fully admit some of those are over exaggerations.) I’ve heard many friends openly worry about the future of our country, worried about what type of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Will it be a world characterized by Christian love, or a world dominated by fear, hatred, and exclusion. It is indeed easy to lose hope. Yet as Christians we must remember, the new creation is still a reality. God has not stopped the progression of history. God will still bring about the redemption of the world. The new creation will still come about; evil will be destroyed, and God will reign on the throne placing all rule and dominion under God’s feet. Nothing that is happening today, or in the future, will change the truth of the new creation. We must always rest in this hope. We must not forget that God is making all things new. Our hope does not reside in the Christian principles (or lack thereof) of world leaders, our hope is in the new creation. Always, perhaps now more than ever, we must remember this truth.
We are called to love. I don’t know how to change national policy, or to petition governmental leaders in a way that actually makes a difference. I would personally welcome refugees no matter their religion or country of origin because I believe God cares for the foreigner, refugee, and alien. Yet I know my personal opinion won’t change policy. But what I can do is love. I can choose to love those around me. I can love the foreigner and religiously different in my own community, as well as those that hold politically different ideas than my own. The street adjacent to where I live is full of Hispanic immigrants. I have no idea whether they are here legally or not, and frankly I don’t care. I can’t change immigration policy, but I can love my neighbors who are different from me. The city I live in is majority Christian, but there is a Muslim population. While I still believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life, I can love my Muslim friends and neighbors who have been valuable participants in our community for generations. I personally know many people who hold differing political beliefs. We live in a time where it has become common to objectify those with differing opinions, but I can offer a different response and choose to love instead of hate. I can’t change the world, but I can love those in front of me who are in the world. That’s all I can handle, but it is a powerful response.
The way of the cross is the way of suffering. Jesus taught us how to overcome evil and the abuse of power, through suffering. The world says to use power to coerce change, but Jesus says the world is changed through suffering. I am a middle class white American man who has never suffered oppression, but that does not excuse me from the call of the cross. I can’t change the world, but I can choose to suffer with those who are hurting. I can take my stand with those who are weak and have no voice. Jesus seems to have always been on the side of the weak and vulnerable, over the strong and powerful. I can take my stand with Jesus. That stand could be exhibited in many different ways. It may mean joining peaceful protests. It may mean registering as a Muslim or minority (if it comes to that extreme). It may mean peaceful civil disobedience which causes us to even be arrested. We can’t change the world, but we can choose to not allow those without power to suffer alone. Jesus would be found among the hurting and weak. His followers must do the same.
These thoughts are not complete. I admit, they need reformed, and they will never be perfect. I don’t have the wisdom to know the proper response to our trying times. But I feel confident that any response must involve these three reminders. During these times, I am trying to embrace these three truths. I am not perfect, and I know even before beginning, I will mess up. But this is still my goal. May the grace of the Father, the love of the Son, and the power of the Spirit, help me to live into this reality. Amen!