This poster hangs in our basement. Today while exercising and facing this poster, a thought hovered and landed, "I wish this were true." I wish I didn't have this pessimism, but lately and increasingly, I'm sad to say sometimes I do. In this day when an aggressive and vicious from of cancel culture is rising, people seem so prone to view others who think differently and have different opinions as 'the enemy' rather than 'my neighbor.' It seems that with the rise of social media culture, we are becoming people who are so quick to assume the worst rather than the best, to put the worst construction on others' actions rather than trying to assume the best construction, with a growing unwillingness to put ourselves in others' shoes and try to see other perspectives. Take a moment to read through the shaming posts on your local Next Door app and you see so much of this thinking the worst, assuming the worst. These tools that supposedly are meant to bring us together are doing more to divide and isolate, in my opinion.
It is a sad day when a neighbor can do something kind and helpful for another neighbor, but that neighbor cannot see beyond the first neighbor's politics and chooses to spurn the kindness and see it as a cynical move for false unity rather than simply a neighborly kindness. How sad we become as a people, as a culture, if we are going to reduce everyone down to identity politics, and because of that choose to view anyone who doesn't toe the line we set for what is acceptable politically as, not just someone I disagree with, but as a dangerous and immoral enemy I can't cross the aisle to find any common ground with at all. We are so ugly when we worship at the altar of politics. How is a community supposed to function in this way? How are we supposed to function as a community when we lump people together and make broad assumptions based on who they vote for, or what they look like, or where they are from and refuse to look at people as valuable individuals who have varying and valuable opinions, beliefs, talents, etc.? We have lost the ability to hear an opinion we dislike and just agree to disagree. Instead of saying, "I don't like what you think, so therefore I don't like you, so you're cancelled and I cannot have any common ground or empathy for you at all," why can't we say, "I don't like your opinion, but could you help me to understand why you think that way and where you're coming from, and we can be friends, or at the least friendly, even if we don't end up agreeing?" Is this the culture we want to promote?
There is so much more I could say on this topic and a blog post isn't really the format for filling in all the gaps, but that's where my thoughts went as I stared at that poster this morning.
But that isn't where my thoughts stopped. You see, I'm not really a pessimist at heart, ultimately. I love America, don't get me wrong. Healthy patriotism is ok when kept in proper perspective, and I am thankful for the good things we've had in our country. It is true that the founding fathers who wrote the constitution and formed our union were flawed men. I have to admit the discomfort and even anger I have felt when I've toured the homes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, George Mason, and the various sites around Washington, D.C. as we've lived here this past year and a half and contemplated the complexities of those flaws mingled with the brilliance of the government they dreamed up. For all its flaws, however, this country had and has so much potential. We have seen progress over the years of our existence as a nation, and I hope we refuse to squander that, and I hope we can celebrate it and continue to hope for better.
But all that said, I have to continue and say that ultimately, my hope is not in America. When our leaders do what is just and righteous and generally good for the people, I pray they succeed, and when they govern wickedly, I pray for God's mercy. America is one of the nations, special in its way, yes, but finally just another of the nations, of whom Psalm 46:6 says, "The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts." Ultimately my citizenship is in Heaven. I am a Christian first and foremost. No matter what happens to America, whether it stands or falls, my hope is in Christ. No matter what I see around me, no matter how many difficult days I suspect may lie ahead, my hope, my joy, my stability, security, and peace come from Christ. I will not fret when the wicked act wickedly. Though I may feel great sadness in seeing what looks to me like a spiral into foolish thinking all around me, I do not fret myself because of evildoers. (Psalm 37) I trust in the LORD, delight myself in Him. He is sovereign over the nations. He is not surprised when sinners act like sinners. They act they way they do because they are lost. And this causes me to respond in compassion and to pray for those who would see themselves as my enemy, and to go ahead and do good, act kindly, even when I know it won't be received well or appreciated or even understood.
Anyway, this is where my thoughts went as I stared at that poster this morning. As Kingdom citizens, living as ambassadors for Christ in the country where we've been placed, let us remember to love our neighbors, even when they seem to be unable to love us back or to assume the best of us, and let us live justly and do mercy, pray for them, pray for our leaders, and then resolve ourselves to rejoice in the Lord always, be anxious about nothing, praying with thanksgiving, and may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7) Let us resolve to focus our attention on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let us think about these things. (Philippians 4:8) And keep in mind, too, that our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21) Let us resolve to make sure that we take every thought captive to Christ, walk in Him, and guard our hearts and minds so as not to be captivated by worldly philosophies and empty deceits, but rooted and established in Christ and view the world through that lens as we choose to love our neighbors well. Let us remember that we who have trusted in Christ are His ambassadors, ambassadors of His light in the midst of a dark and crooked generation and let us so live that the fragrance of Christ is evident in our thoughts, speech, and actions.