I got this text from my adopted sister this week. She grew up in very different circumstance than I did, and it has given her a perspective that I value.
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I wanted to share something with my friends and family that has been heavy on my heart. I want to ask us all to be praying against the violence that is being threatened in this land. I ask people to set aside differences. I am not able to vote, so I have no particular affiliation with any party. I just have a strong belief in the triune God. I'm calling to ask people to pray in that unity – the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
I grew up from ages 5 to 11 or so in Northern Ireland during what is known as “The Troubles.” I experienced at it as a Civil War, so I am very sensitive to what is going on right now. While things are never exactly the same from one place to another or one time to another, there are some similarities that are just bothersome and concerning to me.
I hear and see various Christian groups of various denominations in this nation seeming to focus on the need for our secular government to support our Christian ideals and faith, almost as if their faith depends on what the secular government says and does. I'd like to encourage us to think about the fact that our faith doesn't depend on what our secular government does or doesn't do; it depends on our relationship with God and each other.
I have had the privilege (I guess is how I would put it) of being in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union (when it was still a thing) and other places where the secular government did not back up Christian beliefs. And yet I have to tell you with tears in my eyes that the faith I found in Christians in those places was beautiful. You had to worship often times in dark rooms quietly praising God with one another for fear that you would be killed if you were found out. That's persecution. And yet the faith of these people was beautiful, and it was growing despite the government, not because of their government.
When Pope John Paul II grew up in Poland during World War II, Poland was being pushed on one side by part of the Third Reich and on the other side by the Soviet Union. He was a young priest, but he didn't dress as you would think a priest would dress because it would've been deadly for him and his followers, but nonetheless their faith grew and grew. Eventually he became Pope John Paul II. That was not because he had a government that was so Christian and supported all Christian ideals; it was because he had a personal faith and a personal relationship with God.
So many times I hear Christians talk about what Jesus would do. I'd like us to think about what he did do. He never encouraged his followers or disciples to overthrow Rome and take over the Caesar; instead, his focus was on the church or synagogue at the time and its leaders who we're not teaching their people the right thing. They seemed to be more out for themselves and their own power and glory.
Jesus himself seem more concerned about those who had faith or said they had faith rather than the immoral government that they all lived under. Anyone who knows about Roman history knows that Rome was highly immoral and didn’t follow what we would now consider Christian ideals (at the time Jewish ideals). He focused on relationships with people and confronting church leaders who were misguiding their people. He met with sinners and ate with them, helping them to see they could be different.
That's what Jesus did. He never stormed the government or complained about how immoral it was. That was to be expected in some ways - it was a secular government, not a church organization. I'd like us just to think about that for a minute.
The real weapon we have as Christians is not guns or other things that could cause harm - even words that cause harm. It is our prayers, our ability to have communication with God and ask him to look on the church and other Christians and help them wake up and realize that their faith doesn't depend on the government being righteous, holy or not immoral. It depends on us how we relate to one another. Jesus calls us to love our enemies as well as our friends and our neighbors. It seems to me we have no ground to ever be violent, hateful or ugly to others, be they friend or foe.
God says we can have all kinds of gifts of knowledge but if we don't have love, it’s as annoying and unhelpful and banging a gong or cymbal. And friends, I feel like I hear a lot of gongs going off. God says he is our ultimate judge, and he will judge us in the end for how we behave now. He kind of makes it clear.
But at this point, it's not the time to separate the bad from the good lest we lose the good along with bad. He lets us know that in the end we may be surprised, because we will claim that we said, “Lord. Lord,” and he will say, “I don't know you. I came to you when I was sick and in prison and other such things, and you turned me away.”
We don't need to let people walk all over us, but in our attempts to be right or holy we shouldn't walk all over others either. We are not responsible for how others believe; we are responsible to bear witness of God by how we act, by our language, by our actions, by our love, compassion, and mercy, and by holding people accountable for their own behaviors.
So let's pray together for this to end because God's already made it clear for generations and generations that is what he wants.