To borrow a phrase from Thomas Paine, these are times that try our souls.* And now my own words: the fabric of our nation is threadbare, made brittle by the scorching sun of discontent and discord. On this, mostly everyone agrees. The explanation for how we got here, however, will vary widely depending on whom you ask.
Regardless of how we got here, our situation is dangerously precarious. The slightest tear, it seems, could easily lead to a complete shredding of the fabric, to utter destruction. Paine wrote his revolutionary words 244 years ago to encourage the 13 colonies that started this American experiment to rebel against the greatest military force on the planet. A brave undertaking, to say the least.
I write these words tonight to encourage a New American Revolution, although probably not in the way you might think. Borrowing ideas from revolutionaries who came well before Thomas Paine, the bravest and fiercest way to fight against the destruction of our great nation is to call upon the Holy Spirit, the most powerful force the world has ever known.
What?? Pray? That’s your answer?!
What is there that cannot be accomplished by the awesome power that breathed life back into a Jewish rabbi who had been beaten nearly to death and then crucified the rest of the way? If you answer with anything, I’ll tell you that you don’t know the God whom we serve, the God who made this planet from nothing. It may seem like an insurmountable challenge for you or me to resurrect this country–and it is if we try to do so from our own strength–but with God, nothing is impossible.
One thing is sure: anything we do or say that we think will make the situation better but does not come from God will probably make the situation worse. So how do we know if our thoughts, words, and actions come from God? By looking at the outcomes–the fruits of what we say and do. Let’s peek in on what the revolutionary Apostle Paul (who first tried to kill followers of Christ, then was blinded by the Light, and ended up writing 3/4 of the New Testament) had to say about how to tell if our actions are from God:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.Apostle Paul, in Galatians 5:19-26 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
So, if the outcomes of our words and actions don’t fall into the heavenly fruit salad list that starts with love and ends with self-control, then what we’re doing or saying is not from God. We are not bringing the Holy Spirit to bear on the situation, so we’re probably making things worse. This means that, for the most part, we need to separate ourselves from our political opinions and anything else that is putting ourselves in violent opposition to someone who doesn’t believe what we believe.
To be clear, we can and absolutely should hold firm to those beliefs, and should continue to vote accordingly. But for the sake of civil discourse and bringing the power of God into the situation, we should not try to force our opinion on others just for the sake of being right. We are ONLY allowed to view others through the lens that God loves them and Jesus chose to die for them–NOT as a Democrat or Republican or any other label that might cause enmity.
Trust me, I know this isn’t easy. I have very strong and deep-rooted opinions (ask my wife and kids!), but I know I cannot indulge them right now since they do not bring life to interactions I have with others. Candidly, this is probably one of the most monumental struggles with the flesh that I’ve ever had to deal with, so I completely understand how difficult this is.
But Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy–only that He would be there with us to help us every step of the way.
And also, referring back to the passage in Galatians I mentioned earlier, Paul starts it off by quoting Jesus, who was himself quoting Leviticus:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.Galatians 5:14-15 (NIV)
To sum it up, to love people not in our “tribe” can be infinitely more difficult than hating them or saying nasty things to or about them. To pray for someone you disagree with is braver than yelling at them or posting a tirade about them. But Jesus tells us to do the difficult and brave thing, and it is the only way to win, to bring life back into our country. Hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions may feel more natural, but we cannot give in to any of them. But fear not, our weapons are powerful: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In the end, nothing can overcome them.
God bless us all this week, and may He continue to bless the USA. Please join me in praying for government leaders at all levels, including both the incoming and outgoing Presidents.
* The actual quote by Thomas Paine was:
These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776