"Should I say something or not?"
That question has been lingering in my mind the past 24 hours as I have watched the events in our nation unfold. Everyone is saying something, what's one more post among all the noise? Why bother? But is silence the answer? Whatever I post will be misconstrued, misused, criticized, weaponized, and only add to the division.
I can appreciate Jeremiah's plight in Jer. 20:9...
But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
My thoughts I share with you are shaped by my calling as a pastor. I am not a political science major, a lawyer, a public policy expert, or a business owner. I don't want to argue politics, which is very difficult because so much in our nation and in Christianity has become politicized. So, here are my thoughts around just a few things I think are important to consider - perhaps they can be helpful to some.
For those who profess to be followers of Jesus, humility is always foundational. I love the way CS Lewis describes it as "Not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." Jesus has set us free from serving and saving ourselves in order to love and serve others. He has made it possible to have the well being of others on my heart and mind above my own self-interest. If our hearts are captured by the love and humility of Jesus it will show forth in our words, our tone, our demeanor, our reactions. Our public debates and conversations will be filled with grace, respect, dignity, honor, and kindness. Am I really more concerned about the well-being of others, or just trying to be right, win an argument, and get what I want and prefer? Humility can help us do some soul searching in answering those kinds of questions.
That leads me to my second thought...
Jesus instructed us to get the log out of our own eye before trying to get the speck out of someone else's. I like the phrase, "the worst sinner I know is me." If we truly believe that, it will have a profound affect on the way we interact with other people. No other person's sins are worse than mine. I am more concerned about my own sins than I am about other people's. We Christians have some real soul searching to do here. Collectively we have been doubling down on judging the "sins of the world" while politely excusing our own sins.
Religious people, Christians in particular often struggle with this. We tend to minimize the sins of self-righteousness and spiritual pride. I think the sins that Christians in America should be giving close attention to are the sins of Christian nationalism, legalism, and spiritual arrogance. These sins are deceptive, toxic and rooted in even deeper sins that have contributed to the decline of the church in America and promoted a "win at all costs" kind of mindset. We have pursued moral conformity over the gospel and political victories over Kingdom victories for far too long. I am convinced that any kind of movement for God's kingdom in America will be rooted in repentance by Christians.
The gospel of John says through Jesus we have "grace upon grace." Grace is underserved kindness. Christianity has always been grounded in the radical teaching of Jesus to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus makes it clear that peacemakers are blessed. Grace is the power that God uses to heal, restore, change, and bless. As people were drawn to Jesus because of grace, so his followers should also be known.
Yes, it is last for a reason. Too often we want to lead with truth. Just because you don't lead with truth, doesn't mean you have compromised truth. Truth matters profoundly, and it must be spoken - but it must be spoken in love. If we haven't earned the right to speak the truth, it won't be heard anyway. Truth spoken in rage, in anger, in hatred, in arrogance, in intolerance - is rarely heard, and hardly ever embraced. Many Christians and churches are speaking truth, but no one is listening, and for good reason. It's hard to listen and hear when the truth is covered over in hypocrisy, anger, rage, pride, and self-righteousness. Speak truth, for sure - but be very careful about how and when.
Don't lose sight of the fact that Christianity is bigger than America - always has been, and always will be. I think many American Christians feel that the two are inseparably connected. They are not. In fact, America isn't the epicenter of global Christianity any more. It has moved to Africa, or parts of Asia. America is now a mission field. It seems that many Christians have defended our current President as if he is the preserver of Christianity. He is not. Far from it. No matter who you support politically, that power is not what the church needs. Yes, religious freedom is a wonderful, beautiful, powerful thing. But don't confuse that with Christian nationalism.
What happened yesterday in our nation's capital was embarrassing, disgraceful, and evil. Our President's words and actions were wrong and destructive. The diagnosis of the situation is complex and complicated. The solutions to the problems and the path forward are difficult and overwhelming. It is my hope and prayer that Christians can be a part of healing and reconciliation. But that won't happen if we don't walk in the spirit of our Savior Jesus - in humility, grace, repentance, and truth.
If you made it this far, thanks for bearing with me. I pray these thoughts are helpful.
Rev. Paul Schult is an LCMS pastor, serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Redwood City, CA.