I started my last blog post, “Brave, Brave, Brave” with this sentence, “I wish I could go back a couple of weeks and tell a slightly younger version of myself to “hold on, things are about to get really hard and really weird”. Although I stand behind the words I wrote, I’m gonna be honest and warn you that girl was less jaded than the one who writes this story. Her 2020 was just getting started and she had no idea.
This year was supposed to be so different for a lot of people, including me. This is the year that I turn 40. I love birthdays and every year on September 1st I usually start a not-so-subtle countdown to my birthday. However, this year, with all the craziness surrounding me, I tried to tip-toe into my birthday month instead of my normal marching band approach. I’ve been somewhat concerned that the world might not be ready for a 40-year-old version of Mary in the Middle, so I’ve tried to lay low. COVID put an end to all my birthday travel dreams anyway, so I settled for the next best thing…dental surgery the day before my birthday. I mean, why not? It’s so 2020.
Additionally, with all the political turmoil and the dumpster fire that is often social media, I’ve felt a little more out of sorts than normal. I’ve always been stubborn, sassy and fiercely independent, but the despair of this year birthed a cry in my heart that honestly I’ve tried to silence for months. For over six months, to be exact, I put down my computer, censored myself and believed the lies that are so prevalent in our culture.
The lies that tell us you must be this way or that way to belong.
The lies that box us into political parties and allow no room for differing opinions or even questioning.
The lies that make our political climate more like sixth grade and less like democracy.
I believed that because I don’t fit a mold, I must be wrong. So, I sat back, took myself out of the game and screamed inside my heart.
But, if you know me well, you know that silence is not my nature, so here we go. Additionally, I found a frog in my toilet a few nights ago and now I have to move or burn my house down, so I might as well go for it, right???
My journey with politics has always been complicated to some extent, and I’ve always told myself to just take it to the polls, but since everything, and I mean everything, has become political, here we are. Now, don’t worry, I’m not gonna tell you how to vote. I’m not even gonna talk about political parties…I don’t identify with either one of them anyway. I’m too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals, which I’ve found really makes people uncomfortable. My concern is not really even how you vote, it’s more about how we are treating each other in the midst of so much turmoil.
Especially, those of us who identify as Christians.
It’s shocking to me how polarized we’ve become. We condemn our enemies and condone our allies often for the same transgressions. How easily and faithfully we ride the party lines. We choose party over people and sometimes, in my opinion, party over God.
That’s a strong statement, I know. I’m offended by it too, but stay with me for a few more minutes.
Several years ago, I was walking into church and I saw a bumper sticker that read, “God is not a Republican or a Democrat”. Honestly, I took offense to this statement, because at the time, I behaved as if this were true. Surely, God leans one way, right?? (pun intended) The rest of the day and many days over the past few years I’ve pondered this statement, and as odd as it may seem, this bumper sticker caused me to do a lot of soul searching.
Every time I go to the polls and every time I see a political argument on social media in the name of Jesus I think about the bumper sticker…and a bracelet I wore in high school, WWJD…”What Would Jesus Do?” Then, I delete my comment because I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t get into petty arguments on Facebook.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve got scriptures ready to prove your point and why God is on your side. And, I agree with you…God is on your side…you…specifically…He’s in your corner but I’m not sure that equates to your political opinion. It’s just that when I think of the characteristics of God…omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite, faithful, good, just, merciful, gracious, loving, holy…the list could go on and on…I don’t think of politics. Additionally, God sent his only son, Jesus, to save us from our sin, not to lobby for our party. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if you would know that by looking at our social medial posts.
You see, I think if we’re not careful we begin to look at Jesus through the lens of politics instead of looking at politics through the lens of Jesus. Read that again. And, the danger of this, my friends, is that putting Jesus in a political box diminishes the gospel. It cheapens the cross.
Several months ago, I set out on a journey to read the gospels slowly. I was listening to a podcast with Annie F. Downs and she was talking about her practice of reading the gospels every month this year. Her words, “I just need Jesus to be the loudest voice” resonated with me in a powerful way.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…over and over again. I’ve missed a few days here and there, but slowly examining His words and His life has given me new perspective and confirmed so much for me. I don’t want to walk party lines, I want to walk with Jesus. And, my friends, those two things are not one in the same.
Jesus is so much bigger than the things we are arguing about. When I look at politics through His eyes, my eyes fill with tears. We’ve reduced His message to American political parties. Both of which have used His name for political gain and cherry pick His words to win. Now, am I saying that Jesus doesn’t care about politics?…no, I’m sure he cares. He cares about every baby, every child, every woman and every man. He cares about the sick, the poor, the needy, the outcasts, the sinner and the saint. Every color, every nation, every tribe and every creed. The incarcerated and the free. Every republican, every democrat and all those in between. He cares about you and about me. Therefore, He cares about the system that has failed in comparison.
And this, my friends, is the point. There is no comparison. There is no perfect way. Both sides will fail, but Jesus will stand…every…single…time.
One of the things I was first drawn to when reading the gospels was the compassion, mercy and extravagant love that seemed to flow from Jesus. He healed the sick, opened eyes of the blind, cleansed the leper, fed the hungry and washed the feet of the man who would betray him (John 13). He welcomed “sinners” and tax collectors (Luke 15), traveled out of his way for the woman at the well (John 4) and came to the rescue of the adulterous woman (John 8). Then, he carried our sin (yours and mine) and offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice in our place (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23 and John 19).
You see, I think the life of Jesus was more than a story leading up to the crucifixion. I think it was an example for us to follow. Compassion, mercy and extravagant love is what I noticed first when reading the gospels, and I think it may just be what’s missing in our current political climate. I’ve seen so many people, and sometimes myself, making a lot of good points on social media. But, I don’t want to just make good points, I want to make a difference. This love, the extravagant love of God, is the difference.
So as we walk into the next few weeks that will surely be filled with more political turmoil, let’s stop walking party lines and walk with people. Let us be filled with compassion and mercy for people who are unlike us. Let us vote our convictions, but love our neighbors as Jesus loves us…extravagantly.
“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of these three is love”.1 Corinthians 13:13
*photo from CNN