Summer 2023: Jesus' Mountaintop Vision
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
Next week we will commemorate the 247th birthday of America. Families and friends will come together for barbeques and fireworks. It is a time to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy and rights bestowed to us by our Founding Fathers who sought to create a more perfect union. While we may have yet to meet that standard in its fullness, we continue to seek to make it a reality. Over these years we have endured and overcome much in our short life as a nation. We wrestled with the duplicity of declaring freedom for some and slavery for others and tore ourselves apart in civil war in an effort to rectify our national sin. We had to learn how to integrate new peoples and cultures into the American story as waves of Europeans, Asians, Africans, and now Latin Americans seek a better future within the confines of this land. We survived dust bowls, depressions, and world wars. Forging ahead through each challenge we see that more of us enabled to participate in the American Dream.
ELECTIONS ARE COMING
The right to vote is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. We are at the very beginning of the next election cycle in which we will soon choose who will lead us in Washington, in state capitals, and various local boards and councils. Each time it comes around we unfortunately witness the uglier side of ourselves. Candidates are maligned. Voters are manipulated. The electoral process our forefathers enshrined in the Constitution is put to the test. It harkens back to the ancient gladiatorial contests where one person makes it out of the arena alive after slaughtering his competitors. Unlike the not so distant past when votes were counted and the election results were universally accepted, we are now forced to endure months of litigation because candidates cannot admit they lost. Before one side gets angry and the other overly smug about that last statement, we should acknowledge that both parties are guilty of finagling the electoral process.
JESUS ON THE MOUNTAIN
Those who profess to be Jesus followers are called to a higher standard of ethics and behavior than what we see on display on the campaign trail. Jesus specifically addressed how to speak and to respond to those we do not see eye-to-eye with in Matthew 5-7, known more commonly as the Sermon of the Mount. Like Moses atop Sinai who announced the Law, the standards by which Israelites were expected to live by, we see Jesus on another mountain proclaiming how his people should conduct their lives. They are to be humble peacemakers who avoid making and hating enemies. They are expected to keep their promises; their yes and no is to be trusted. Jesus followers are not to haul each other before magistrates to settle differences. They are to be gracious, generous, and deferential so that Jesus can use them as instruments of peace in his endeavor to fix all that is broken in our world.
OUR RESPONSE MATTERS
We know that this election season will be especially vicious as the two political parties tear each other apart over the next eighteen months. While there is little we can do to prevent the onslaught, we can decide our demeanor through it. It would be beneficial for Jesus followers to spend some time studying and reflecting Jesus’ teachings in the gospels.
The question, what would Jesus do, is prescient. Would Jesus call someone a dodder or dreadful? Would he post memes denigrating the dignity of another person because he did not agree with what they ascribed? Would Jesus reduce individuals into caricatures to be disdained? It is not difficult to come to the right answers to these questions.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE
Faithful American Christians have a chance to shine like that city on the hill Jesus envisioned in his sermon. How so? We can refrain from maligning those we would never cast a vote for. We can refuse to engage in rhetoric that is destructive, divisive, and denigrating. We can refuse to be sucked into the political rage machine when a friend or family member pontificates how wonderful or vile a candidate is. If attacked, we follow Jesus’ teaching to offer the other cheek for them to strike. We do not add kindling to stoke the scorched earth approach so prevalent in today’s political discourse.
WHICH WAY WILL WE GO?
There are two possible paths upon which Jesus-professing believers can travel upon during this election season. There is a boulevard many will take, which, admittedly, is an easier route to traverse. It is smooth and wide and has lots of people to share company with while making fun of the foibles of the other side.
Jesus described another way, though, to go. It is narrow and rough, hardly used by anyone. Its incline is steep, so it is harder to trod. Days can go by before coming across another sojourner so it can get lonely at times. It is not exciting. It takes some effort not to stray from it, especially when the commotion from the wider path can be heard reverberating from below. But this is the path that protects the dignity of all. It preserves civility and displays Jesus’ mountaintop vision of what new life with him is like at its best. It is being salt and light, adding flavor and illumination during a time when foulness and darkness continually seem to gain the upper hand. Oh, and it is the only path Jesus expects to see his followers traveling upon. - Blessings to you, Pastor Kevin