“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Gospel of Matthew 5:44-45
There are some things I want to say. Things I’ve put off saying because I’m convinced many won’t listen. And then there comes a point where it doesn’t matter anymore, when the words come floating up whether you like it or not.
“…Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So here is my heart:
I am deeply concerned that we have let bitterness and division overtake our souls, to the point that there is little room for Jesus. I am worried we have forgotten our first calling as Christians–to love one another and sacrifice for the good of the gospel.
I am not going to tell you to stop being angry and just trust God. That’s good advice for the comfortable, the privileged, and the impatient. I have no interest in ignoring anyone’s sincere pain, as so many have taken to lately.
Instead, I want to call us back to Jesus. That same Jesus who has bound up our wounds and given us power through the Holy Spirit to forgive and fight for what is right. Sure, I could compose a good political rant (just ask my husband), but where would that leave us? We can throw witty come-backs at each other all day and still get no closer to the truth.
With this in mind, I’m offering up the first of several devotionals in response to our current spiritual and political climate. I hope this series can be a space for you to talk, argue, cry, and/or worship. I’ll be including some practical advice from my own experience, but the focus should be on finding peace with God. He is the one you will ultimately answer to.
Day 1 – Forgiveness
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
Many of us lament the “us vs. them” mentality of our nation, though are we really willing to take the first step toward healing the divide?
I’ll spare you the Hallmark card cliches and simply remind us all that forgiveness is an act of obedience toward God, a freeing of the soul from a dark room without grace. It doesn’t require us to forget, agree, or cease political action (I’ll speak more about necessary action and activism in my next posts).
Until we learn to speak to one another without throwing proverbial shoes at one another’s heads, our nation doesn’t have much hope. Our churches will suffer and the gospel will suffer as a result. So let’s take stock of the bitterness welling up inside us, for all the times we’ve been told we’re too young, too old, too naive or too stuck in our ways. For the times no one has listened. For the condescension, the name-calling, the ignorance, and the simplistic answers to serious problems. Now’s the time to throw it down the gutter, like that long-dead squirrel on the side of the road. (Forgive the crude image, but I think that’s what our bitterness would look like in physical form. A twisted and rotting reminder of something sad.)
And so today I’m praying that God would give me the strength to let go of this anger–of all the hateful things I wish I could say to those who use political difference as a weapon, or an excuse to treat those I care about as less than human. Let’s all pray this prayer and never stop until our hearts are truly free to love the people who oppose us.
Some things we might consider:
What would it take for you to love and listen to someone who stands against most of what you believe in?
Whom do you struggle to forgive for their political words or actions? Make a list, and pray for each person on it. You might find yourself praying some snarky prayers, but do your best. End with a prayer that God would help give you peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).
In my own struggle to love better, I often find myself meditating on 1 Corinthian 13. Paul’s words, despite our culture’s tradition, were not actually written to describe love in marriage. They were written to confront an immature church whose members struggled to remain unified:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7