I am just concluding taking a short break from blogging. I will post on the reason for that break tomorrow, but today I feel compelled to speak a word into the world in which I live. I am a member of two nations. During this life on earth, I am an American citizen. Throughout this life and into the next, I am a citizen of Christ’s kingdom through the grace of God. What is more, as a minister I am expected to follow God and to teach the truth even when it leads to persecution, which this post might.
Balancing between the role of being a citizen in an earthly nation and being a citizen of Christ’s kingdom is a bit difficult at time, but actually most of the difficulty is social rather than ethical. Ultimately, my citizenship through Christ is what matters most to me. As I was reading through Psalm 86 this morning I found myself agreeing with the psalmist time and time again.
In the Common English Bible, verse 11 says “Teach me your way, Lord, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name.” Verses 14-15 say “The arrogant rise up against me, God. A gang of violent people want me dead. They don’t give a thought for you. But you, my Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy; you are very patient and full of faithful love.” Verses 8-10 say “My Lord! There is no one like you among the gods! There is nothing that can compare to your works! All the nations that you’ve made will come and bow down before you, Lord; they will glorify your name, because you are awesome and a wonder-worker. You are God. Just you.”
I love Psalm 86. I will admit that I am definitely a monotheist in my heart, soul, and mind. I love God and deeply believe in the words, the mission, and the person of Jesus Christ. I am dedicated to God.
My dedication to God means that I pledge allegiance to Christ alone. I respect the land where I live, but ultimately that land is land. What matters to me first and foremost is God and I care about what matters to God.
What does Psalm 86 say about God? God is patient and loving. If I want to be like God, I will be patient and loving. God is compassionate and merciful. If I want to be like God, I will be compassionate and merciful. If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, I will take these attributes and work them into my life.
In honesty, as a Christian and as a minister, I sometimes find myself stunned that there are people who claim the name of Jesus who believe that we can do anything less than seek to be like our compassionate, merciful, patient, and loving God. The logic of claiming to follow Jesus and seeking to act contrary to the teachings of Jesus seems absurd. We are called to love God with all of who we are and to treat other people like we would like to be treated!
These concepts are some of the most basic in Christianity. These things are part of the life we are called to live…
So, how can we get mad at people who kneel to bring an awareness to a need for compassion, mercy, patience, and love? If we love a God who is just, how can we get mad at people calling out for justice? If we believe that God reached out to the suffering Israelites in Egypt when they called out to God for justice, why do we believe God would not do the same in the midst of this time and in our midst?
A lot of people seem incredibly mad at a bunch of wealthy NFL players calling out for justice, but I can tell you from personal experience that people who are desperately in need call out for justice who are neither wealthy nor famous. Our country has problems and God hears the call of the needy even if we ignore it. We are angry about people not paying enough respect to a song while there are people who are suffering silently without any other voice that are people loved by God and created in the image of God. How does that compute? Are we angry they are using their voice or angry that we cannot ignore it?
Would the conversation be different if the President of the United States led the way in pointing out the injustice instead of tweeting against the free speech he is expected to preserve? Would things be different if he led from a place of principled leadership instead of from a place of stirring up anger and hatred? Would things be different if he were to put on sackcloth and ashes instead of planning military parades to intimidate others? I am not certain that the conversation would change greatly as racism and prejudice are unfortunately deeply ingrained in our culture, but I will remember moments like these the next time I vote and make choices in my own life. I will probably need to remember these moments for the rest of my life. The arc of history is certainly long… Thankfully, patience is a part of my curriculum as a disciple of God.
All of this to say, I am going to keep working on my own life. I will continue to look for ways to embody compassion, mercy, patience, and love. I will seek justice. I will do all of these things because Psalm 86 is correct. The Lord is God. Just the Lord.