There is a lot of talk about how divided the United States is as a nation. This is nothing new. Every election cycle has shown pretty close margins for some time now. This most recent cycle was by far the worst. The candidates were soundly disliked by their respective parties and it seems that many voted simply to stop the other side.
Now it is decided. The refrain “not my president” would be heard regardless of the winner. The only difference is which side is saying it. So now we hear from the powers that be that we must come together.
That is a tall order. How does a country so divided heal?
I want to offer some advise to Christians. American Christians hold a dual citizenship. First is the citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. That Kingdom transcends race, nationality, and time. After that, we have our citizenship in the US. Our role should be that of ambassadors, representing the Kingdom to the United States.
We find ourselves coming to our post amidst gloating and despair. We see people that feel like they pulled their country back from the brink and we see people that feel as though their country just fell over the edge. We see that both those sides have a lot of animosity for one another. As ambassadors of the Kingdom we must consider what we have; what we represent.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2, ESV)
The problem is that we do not yet have these fruits and we do not yet have this tree. The Kingdom is now and not yet. So what do we have now?
We have a role of healing. We have the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) which we are to use, enjoy, and give liberally.
And we have some basic instructions for living in this society.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV)
I encourage you to go and hear why some are rejoicing and some are weeping. (note: hearing in person is far better than hearing on social media) Listen past the rhetoric and vitriol and hear the hopes and fears. Listen and respond in love and kindness and gentleness.
Listen, rejoice, weep, and heal.
Aaron Davis has served as a youth pastor, a pastor, and a church planter. He currently resides in Springfield, MO and is the author of the novel, “Street Preacher” and is currently working on The Baggage Claim Project. For a list of public appearances or info on how to invite him to speak to your church, business, or organization click here.
Several years ago, I had a bad car accident. After several hours in the Emergency Room, I was released. I had broken my right hand in three places and had torn the ligaments on the top of my right foot. This made walking without a crutch impossible and using a crutch almost impossible. When I finally go to my house, I tried to hop up the front steps. I fell and the pain brought me to tears.
“Are you going to let me help you now?” My pastor at that time asked. He was the person who brought me home from the hospital and I refused his help so far getting up to the door of my house. However, now I had to let him help me up and hobble on in.
It is hard to ask another person for help. I would much rather figure out a way to help myself. In American culture, we honor and support this idea. We even have a saying (as inaccurate as it is) that, “God helps those who help themselves.”
On Sunday, my pastor taught on the very end of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul says his good-byes. He pointed to Ephesians 6:23 where Paul concludes with three things: Peace, Love, and Faith. These are perhaps intended to be his final words to them and thus the legacy that he desires to leave.
Our pastor then challenged us with this question: Am I leaving the same kind of legacy? Am I blessing others with peace, love, and faith?
So today, I have been thinking about this notion of Peace. American Christianity is often associated more with bickering and political strategizing, so I find it hard to point to a good example of this peace. My own life (as any of my readers know) has the internal chaos of depression and anxiety. That’s the opposite of peace!
The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines Peace as "Total well-being, prosperity, and security associated with God's presence" A quick glance at most popular Christian television shows and books suggests that Christians today are pretty focused on well-being, prosperity, and security. But would we say that is Peace?
Did the Baker Encyclopedia get it wrong? After all, a major struggle for me as always been to find peace with myself, and one need not look far for examples of those whom enjoy the most prosperity having this same struggle.
There are two missing keys here. The first is right in front of me in the Baker definition: Total well-being, prosperity, and security associated with God's presence. So often, we think of our faith as something we use to attain things like well-being, prosperity, and security, and we get frustrated when despite our best efforts at believing, these things are still lacking. That is because we are striving for a notion of peace that is found apart from God. Seeking God's usefulness is not the same thing as seeking God's presence. I would imagine the difference is something like the difference between sitting in a room, talking with a good friend, and sitting in a room, barking orders at my good friend so that he is reduced to being my butler.
This leads to the other missing key, that peace is something to be shared. For the Christian, the way to experience God's presence is found far more often in gathering with other believers than it is in being alone. This is the necessary value of the church. If our desire for our well-being, prosperity, and security leads to making God our butler, then it will also lead to the church becoming nothing more than a supply closet. It becomes a place we go when we feel we need something. However, if we are seeking God's presence then the church is no longer a place but those fellow believers where we experience that presence together. In the New Testament, the word for "Church," always refers to a group of people rather than place or building. It would be hundreds of years later, and sometime around when Governments started to see Christianity as a tool for political power, that the use of the word changed.
So my desire for peace, and thus, my desire for total-well being, prosperity, and security must be focused on the presence of God and sharing these things amongst one another.
That is the hard part. Something in our nature wants us to seek our own well-being over that of others, but in Christ, we are to seek our well being in that of others.
This is why it is not only helpful, but necessary to both rely on others and serve others. It is easy for a person like myself to try to isolate myself. I’d love it if I could just sit somewhere and write all the time. Of course, a story that is not read, like a song that is never heard, hardly exists. Likewise, for the Christian to exist in and experience peace, requires that our lives, messy as they are, be intertwined with others.
Peace to you!
Author, Parent, Husband, Christ-follower