This last week has been a hard one in ministry. It’s hard because I know good people who have voted in very different ways. And I know good people who are frightened – frightened for their rights, for their home, for their safety, for their acceptance in the place they call home. Organizations that track hate crimes say that the numbers of such crimes have risen in the wake of the election. People who are frightened aren’t making it up. But, even without that data, regardless of how or if you voted, the question on the table is, how do we, as followers of Christ, respond to people who are hurting?
I think we’re going to need to love very loudly. Sadly, some of these hate crimes have been perpetuated by people who also claim to be followers of Christ. And while we know that all of Jesus’ followers are sinners – things like that not only are totally contrary to the message of the Gospel, they also damage our witness in the world, sometimes irreparably.
I’m going to get local for a moment. Someone in our general area both identifies as a Christian and posted incredibly racist things while running for a political position, and won. Bad press like that is way more interesting than quiet good news of faithfulness and care. How much more loudly do we need to love our neighbors, stand up for those experiencing injustice and prayerfully examine the racism within our own hearts in light of that event? When people of different faiths or of no faith community think of Christians in our community what do we want them to have come to mind first?
Our response, as Christians, to people who are different from us, in the coming weeks, months, and years, may well be a factor that draws people toward learning more about God or pushes them away, that draws them to seek us out in times of need or to go elsewhere, that draws people of different religions to partner with us in the work of mercy and justice or decide to look elsewhere. We don’t need to read or write more articles about how to invite these people to church or how to attract young people, it won’t matter. If the message we send out into the world is – I don’t believe your fear is justified, I don’t want to hear about your pain, I don’t have time for your story, then they will not come to us to hear about the hope Christ offers.
Our witness to our neighborhood, our state, our nation, needs us to love louder than hate, than division, than fear, than complacency. And I know a pretty good place to start…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
That’s our starting point. Both to seek to be more merciful and peacemaking and also to stand with those who are mourning, poor, and meek. If it sounds political, it just goes to show that the Gospel has always been counter-cultural. Our nation needs people loving loudly, listening carefully, acting mercifully, repenting readily, and walking humbly. With God’s help, may we be such people.
Lord have mercy, Church have courage.