My memories go back far enough to remember when good people worked together to create solutions that would be beneficial to everyone. The rural and city divide was less divided. Each recognized that we were one nation. What helped one part, helped all parts. The apostle Paul experienced some of this division in the church he had planted in Corinth. He talked about the body of Christ and how each person plays a valuable part in the whole. None was greater than the other. Cutting off one part was akin to doing damage to the whole. He said, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (I Corinthians 12:21)
I have to admit I have spent that last two weeks shuddering at the rapid escalation of anger, hate speech and a sense in some quarters that it is perfectly all right, to demean anyone who is different that you. This is not new. But, our recent two-year presidential campaign has brought out the worst in us. Part of this is simply that we no longer have common core values as a society. We’ve slipped into a philosophy that it’s a “winner take all” kind of world and if our side is on top, we get to do anything and everything without consulting the other side. As it plays out across the country, we ignore the wisdom and experience of people we now label as enemies. It’s us against them, not we. In doing this we are forgetting our common humanity. We are all creatures of this one earth. Each of us dependent upon the good gifts of creation. While we may have varying views on social issues and our life experiences have led us to different conclusions . . . All of us, each of us, are God’s children. Whatever our views, we are called to both respect and love each other.
The Psalmist writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23,24) I’ve been thinking that a whole lot of us could do worse than examining our lives for those attitudes that belittle our neighbors. Ones that throw verbal darts at unsuspecting targets. Attitudes that show our arrogance when we assume that we are in someway superior to another group of people. Being a Christian is more than something we believe. It is a way of living in the world, following Jesus. Loving our neighbors. Caring about the most vulnerable. Welcoming the stranger. Watching over the children. Bringing good news to the poor. Standing up for what we believe in without attacking those who disagree. Doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God – Each of these are the practices of the saints.