If you were to choose a handful of words to describe our country’s current cultural context, what words would you choose? Anxious, fearful, angry, confused, chaotic, divisive, polarized?
After watching the Presidential debates, I felt like I needed a shower to scrub off the filth of blaming, shaming, insults, and interruptions. Quite frankly, the bar-room brawl set a new and shocking low in our social discourse.
Like most of you, I long for a kinder, gentler America. Like many of you, I belong to Jesus and want to see his loving presence and reign in our world.
So, as a follower of Jesus and a citizen of his Kingdom, how do I want to show up in this divided, fragmented world? How do you want to show up? How does Jesus want us to show up?
The culture of 1st century Palestine was not unlike our own. People were angry. Injustice was systemic. Racial hatred was overt and unambiguous. Corruption was flagrant. Violence haunted the streets. High taxes and chronic unemployment were squeezing the life out of ordinary people. Uncertainty and fear hung in the air like a threatening cloud. And, the civil and religious leaders were fragmented, paralyzed, and inept. The Sadducees were taking advantage of the situation to line their pockets. The Zealots were threatening violence. The Essenes had checked out. And the Pharisees had hunkered down, thinking that personal holiness would persuade the Messiah to hasten his coming and straighten the mess out.
It was in this context that Jesus instructed his followers to be salt and light… and love their enemies. Check out these words from Matthew 5 in the Message Bible:
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
In keeping with these commands from Jesus, here’s how I want to show up in this world:
- Respectful. No snarky sneering, shaming, eye-rolling, or name-calling.
- Thoughtful. Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (Jms.1:18).
- Humble. Not arrogant, boastful, or condescending.
- Truthful. No trafficking in half-truths, conspiracy theories, misleading sound-bytes, or wide-eyed exaggerations.
- Calm. Yes. Calm.
So, how about you? How do you want to show up in our angry and partisan world? What’s on your list of guiding principles?
Just remember this: You’re a beloved child of the King and the citizen of a very different kind of Kingdom. However you respond, your words and actions will either diminish or enhance the reputation of the King you serve.