What if the one to blame is actually me? Or us? What if what we think is the fault of others is actually the fault of ours?
We and us are Christians. Me, and maybe you.
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life retraining my brain to not first think of God as the Old Testament punishment guy. He is the Old Testament angry guy, but He is also the New Testament love and peace and turn-the-other-cheek guy – and perhaps most importantly the forgiveness guy.
We are in a crazy time right now in the United States. COVID, racial injustice, unemployment, hurricanes, fires. It seems like our nation is under attack. And, indeed, it may be.
How’d we get here, and who’s to blame? Is it the radical left? The radical right? The looters or the KKK? Most of us live somewhere in the middle, and yet it seems like all of our talk is only about the folks on the fringe.
We can’t ever allow ourselves to forget that the folks on the fringe are not and will not ever be in control unless we have allowed them to be. That’s the power of the middle, especially when it’s the size that it is. And perhaps our main issue right now is that many of us don’t see each other as fellow citizens, or as comrades, in that powerful force that is the middle.
I am so very tired of hearing Christians say we need to turn back or we need to change our ways or we need to focus on values – with the implication or even the clear and intentional statement that if we don’t, our country is doomed to fall or fail.
Maybe that’s correct, actually. But here’s the thing: when Christians say that, they are always pointing the finger at others. The implication in the statement is that others who sin need to turn from their way. Others who don’t go to church or don’t go to a church like ours need to get with the actual God program. Others need to have politics like ours. Others who are gay need to be straight. Others who have abortions need to stop. Others who commit adultery need to not do that. Others who protest need to be thankful for what they do have and love their country more.
What about us? The Christians. Perhaps we should turn that pointing finger back at ourselves. What if the reason this nation is struggling is because we – the Christians – have set a very bad example in this supposed Christian nation.
What if the issue is our failure to show Christ to the world? That we haven’t been the hands and feet. That we have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. That we have failed to lead with love. That we have failed to be the light. That we have failed to forgive and have empathy and show compassion. That we have failed to live by the ten commandments. That we have put other gods before Him. That we have made idols. That we have supported and elected leaders who live in ways very contrary to the tenets of Christianity. That we have failed to preach and live the actual gospel. That we have been disobedient. That we have failed to take a stand when we should. That we have failed to recognize and act when some of our fellow citizens, including our fellow Christians, have not been treated fairly.
What if WE are the issue? What if what we’re doing or not doing is to blame? Because as Christians, we have a responsibility that’s clearly outlined in Luke 12:48. To whom much is given, much will be required. We are and will be held responsible for what we have been given.
We’ve been acting like the sinners are always the others. The sinners are us, too.
We’ve been acting like we are above reproach because we are believers, when actually we’re more accountable because we know better.
We’ve been acting like everyone should believe and behave like we do because we’re better, when the reality is that we’re not behaving very well at all. And worse, everyone sees it.
I believe Jesus, if He were walking on two human legs in America today, might be found walking amongst that big crowd in the middle, in the group made up of most of us. There are differences in how we believe and look and think and act, but we commonly seek a place of peace and safety and healing. And perhaps he’d be speaking words like these, appropriate two thousand years ago and still today: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
There is surely Jesus in many Republicans and in many Democrats and in many Libertarians and in many Green supporters and in many people who don’t vote at all. Any suggestion that Jesus would side with a certain political party in America is simply a lie. Any suggestion that the fault for where we are lies with the others is a half-truth. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.