Ask not what you can do for your country

I have been trying to make sense of the role I can play as a citizen of a nation in turmoil. And with all due respect to JFK, asking what I can do for my country needs a qualifier. Last week’s insurrection reveals how a misplaced desire to make the country great can lead to lies, chaos, and death.

Instead of thinking big and broad about making the whole country great, it occurred to me the more realistic goal is for me to love my neighbor. This is counterintuitive for those of us who are into politics and solution-seeking. We think that if given the chance to be in the legislature or the White House, we would offer the same wisdom and influence of Joseph and Esther.

This aspirational thinking has merit, but few of us will ever get as close to the halls of Congress as the mob did on Wednesday. Nope, God has us wiping our kids’ butts at home or staring at spreadsheets at work. Our national influence goes as far as the ballot box or maybe a petition. We feel small and useless at such a time as this.

During my 22 years as a stay-at-home mom, I fought these feelings of impotence and invisibility often. I had been voted by my high school classmates Most Likely to be the First Woman President. Homemaking resembled nothing grand and powerful like that. Nevertheless, it was in the isolation and sameness of my home life that I learned to love God, my family, and my neighbors first. Those in power who have not learned that simple discipline and godly priority are not fit to lead beyond their immediate circle.

I have illustrated this with the diagram below:

At its core, our Christian life is about our steady relationship with God, knowing first and foremost that we are loved and forgiven. Then and only then will that sacrificial love ripple out to others God has called us to influence. At worst, ME is at the core and Christian faith is nowhere. Ideally, as our love for God grows, our love for others does too and ripples out. When we are faithful to love and serve those near to us, God gives us more people to influence.

What if just half the people who stormed the Capitol had stayed home and made pancakes for their kids; or had gone to work after grabbing coffee at 7-11 for their coworker; or had helped take out their neighbor’s trash? I’m not saying none of them ever do this stuff. I’m saying they didn’t do it Wednesday. And I’m saying God through Jesus Christ has commanded us to focus on loving our neighbors, not on shaping the nation.

Without the former; without knowing how much simple acts of love matter to our God, our national fervor turns into a sinful frenzy. If we have a ME FIRST mindset and an AMERICA FIRST goal, the result is ripples of destruction. This crazed national identity – especially Christian nationalism – is a distraction from home, church, and community. It discredits the Christian faith at a national level. It has also been Satan’s strategy for division among Christians, especially the past four years.

We have Donald Trump to thank for this object lesson. His reputation as a rude, slanderous, and unloving man was on full display throughout his campaign and everybody with conscience said so. But even many Christians were swept up into a desire for collective power and it diminished their spiritual reason. The result: valuing nation over neighbor and voting for someone who was not fit to lead.

Jesus will forever be our example of exceptional leadership. He led by serving and that is our call. Though the ripple of his love was felt by the masses in his lifetime, it didn’t stop a mob from murdering him. After watching videos of the mobs at the Capitol. that’s what came to mind. I took time to read all of the accounts in scripture of events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. Much like Wednesday’s mayhem, it began with lies and false accusations about Jesus, his ministry, and even HIS LOYALTY TO THE STATE. The religious people DID NOT CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH. They wanted Jesus dead. Period. They mocked him, and spit on him, and hit him in the head before hanging him with nails to a cross. The scene on Wednesday was a similar scene of truth-denying and mob rule just set in a different century.

We know the end of the story. Jesus died, but he rose again. That is our hope and our reason for living and loving as he did. That love is the answer to national chaos, but it begins in each individual heart and home.

You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his live in exchange for the many who are held hostage. – Matthew 20.24-28 MSG

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