“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”Proverbs 10:12
The events that unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday, ironically, the day of Epiphany, did indeed shed light. What we all saw take place was one more in a long string of protests turned violent, and in this case, deadly. 5 lives lost. Countless other lives shaken to the core. Our democracy and our country unsettled and uncertain. I’ve been unsettled and uncertain ever since, and struggling with what to say. I’m a preacher, not a politician. As a friend and colleague of mine posted recently, the world at its worst needs the church at its best. So I’m going to respond to this in the way that I know best, and that is as a preacher, not a politician. I’m not going to tell you how to think or act in your politics. I am going to tell you how to think or act in your faith.
Because if I talk politics, I lose half of you. We are divided, deeply. On that we all agree. If I condemn these acts of insurrection, it won’t be long until someone will say, ‘but Antifa! BLM! Leftist, liberal protests! What about them? They started it!’ And if I condemn those acts of violence, it won’t be long until someone will say, ‘but right wing extremists! Hate groups! What about them? They started it!’
When we spiral down in that direction, we sound like children. Yeah, but he said… or well, but do you know what she did? Where does that take us? Extremist and radical responses, as we’ve seen, do not lead us anywhere good. Usually. There is one type of extreme radical response that I will highlight, and that is the way of Jesus. As Christians, we are called to a higher calling. As the Proverb says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Are we to be stirring up extreme dissension, or are we called to radical love? Are we to say, yeah, but Antifa! or yes, but right wing extremists! ? NO! The only yes, but that we should be dealing with is to hear and recognize the reality of the injustices and problems and violence in the world, and say yeah, but Jesus….
Yes, but Jesus. How would Jesus respond? And we know how Jesus would respond, because we know how Jesus responded. With the way of love. With forgiveness. With mercy. Jesus repeatedly turned away from the possibility of insurrection, though many of his followers wanted that from him. Instead of insurrection, Jesus brought them resurrection! Instead of sowing dissension and division, Jesus advocated for love and unity. Jesus was a radical extremist, but in what ways? The way of the cross. And in response not just to what happened this week, but throughout history as far back as you want to go, on either side, I advocate that we all respond with the way of the cross.
Practically speaking, that means 5 things for me, one for each life lost last week, and I challenge you to spend 1 day focused on each of these things before the end of this month:
1. Pray, especially surrounding Inauguration Day on Jan. 20th.
2. Listen to someone with whom you disagree and hear their story.
3. No, really listen, and take it so far as to keep your mouth shut when everything in you wants to respond.
4. Serve someone else with whom you disagree, anonymously if possible, with no expectation of reward.
5. Give/sacrifice in some way for someone/something that sees the world differently than you do, in the name of Christ
There are things we can change, and things we can’t change. We can change ourselves, and if we start there, we just might see the power of God and the love of Jesus start to change our world.