Renée Altson September 10th, 2012
lately i’ve become saturated with American politics. Ideologies, promises, budgets, lies, accusations, arguments, heated conversations on Facebook– it has me feeling undone, overwhelmed, and uncomfortable.
money, jobs, the environment, gay marriage, women’s rights, “pro-life,” drug laws–its not that i don’t care about these issues; some of them i care very deeply about — it is the cacophony of voices and the opinions and raging fury and hatred that surrounds me whenever i try to learn more about or discuss them.
the church is already severely divided among many issues, and the political atmosphere these days makes it even worse.
what happened to the simplicity of Jesus?
“a new commandment … love one another …” (john 13:34)
and the wisdom of the other books?
"religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (james 1:27)
isn’t this a lot simpler than having parties and platforms and PACs and endorsers and big corporations and the mess that we call politics these days? and how blasphemous and horrible it is when anyone says that god endorses them or their views, or that god blesses some and kills others, or that the same hurricane that miraculously missed one point of view, came back around to punish the other?
do we even know what we are saying anymore? do we realize the depth that these words, these statements, these beliefs can damage? not just the ones we’re fighting against, who often we are so sure that that recent thunderstorm was meant for, but also to ourselves?
i know the world’s problems are not easy. war and jealousy and hatred have always existed. intolerance and unfairness have become well-worn and dull-edged over time, yet they continue to exist. humanity naturally finds an “us” and a “them.” selfishness and arrogance are our primarily rulers. people with diseases or difficulties have often been cast aside, poor people have often been looked down on:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (james 2: 1-26)
as believers, or even simply as human beings, what exactly is our job in this world? Are we called to demand and enforce a “moral nation”, to define a bubble of righteousness around some but not others? are we asked to insist that god’s law be followed and applied to everyone? is money the reason we live? what kind of people do we look down on? who are we to decide these things?
Such pain and desperation there. Such empty places to fill with compassion. such grief to be respected, held, and journeyed through. plenty enough to keep us busy. plenty enough to humble us. plenty enough to allow us to sit down quietly among the broken, below all the shouting and discord, and provide true hope to hurting people.
so many worry about the morality of governments, nations, about a kind of cloud that has begun to envelop our families and schools and libraries with unrighteousness. we worry of a decline of moral character, even as we tithe to our churches or to our “missionary’s”.
i believe that we are called to be hands and feet, hugs and hope, tangible reminders of a present god who loves us always, regardless of who we are, or what we do. we are to get deeply involved with helping others, not just merely write a check and think it is enough.
what would our world look like if we were to live according to love? not just infatuated middle school crushes or valentine doodles, but honest love. what kind of people would we be? what kind of laws would need to be made? would we even worry about laws if we were to all live like this?
i have been a fan of this verse out of james since i was a young child. it has been a tangible, concrete statement in a world that i often couldn’t trust or live in.
“every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
we, as believers, are also good and perfect gifts. sent to each other, sent to the world. we are lights in a world of darkness and shadows, we are hands and feet in a world of amputations and broken limbs.
Ghandi once said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
wouldn’t that be amazing?
Renée Altson is the author of Stumbling Toward Faith, a photographer, and a web developer. She lives with her husband, daughter, and 2 cats in Southern California. Click here to listen to Renée on Steve Brown Etc.