Monday, September 30, 2013

Go Ahead; Cut the Baby in Half

In this space, I normally post sermons and reflect on the daily lectionary passages. But today a scripture passage not from the lectionary readings keeps popping up in my head. It's the story of King Solomon judging the case of two mothers who each claimed an infant as her own. There were no witnesses, nothing but each woman's word, and so Solomon famously ordered the child cut in half with each mother would receiving a share. Of course the true mother could not bear to see this happen, and offered to give the child up, thus revealing to Solomon who she was.

What calls this story to mind is the current situation in Washington, DC. The difference is that the two quarreling parties both seem willing to let the child be cut in two. In the current situation of an impending government shutdown, I have no problem labeling Republican behavior the more egregious. But while the Democrats and the president have the moral high ground on this one, I don't have much more confidence in them when it comes to the life of the child. Both sides are so intent on winning, so concerned about how everything might play in the next election, that no one seems much concerned with what is best for all.

Many like to say that this is a "Christian nation." Republicans seem especially fond of the designation. But at the very core of being a Christ follower is the notion of self-denial and concern for the other. Being a disciple has always been about us becoming servants in God's work, and such work is always marked by love. Speaking of such love, the apostle Paul writes, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth."

These words are not about romantic love and weren't intended for weddings. (Such love is most beneficial in a marriage however.) These words are about the costly self-giving that Christians are called to live out. They are about a concern for the other and the community that is willing to subvert my own desires for the good of the other. And at this moment, it is hard to imagine such a pose describing many involved in our national governance.

This is not an indictment of politics per se. Politics can be a high calling, but few in our current political climate seem to regard it as such. It has devolved into polarized sides of remarkable arrogance and certainty, each willing to resort to almost any sort of distortion and outright lying to achieve victory. No one seems the least bit interested in truth, much less love.

Unfortunately, those of us in the church aren't necessarily in a position to show our nation, as Paul says, "a more excellent way." We have our own examples of sides, of arrogance and certainty, of distortion and lying in order to win. As with much of the political bickering in our country, we often seem to be better at demonizing and hating than we are at loving.

So what to do? This may seem simplistic and trite, but most of us need to become less certain of our stances, while getting to know Jesus much better. Yes, there are times when we need to make judgments, to say something is wrong or even evil. But we also need to know Jesus on a deep enough level to realize that our positions are not simply the same as his. Many of us who claim to be Christian are far to quick to enlist Jesus in our causes, yet inclined to ignore him when he says things we don't like.

A bit more prayer wouldn't hurt either.  May I suggest, "Not my will, but yours."

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