By Pastor Wes Poole
James 1:19-20 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. – NRSV
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. – Isaac Asimov, Foundation
If you hate a person, then you are defeated by them. – Confucius
Matthew 22:35–40 …a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – NRSV
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Like many of us, I have been transfixed in horror at the events of this past week. Last Wednesday we watched, in real time, a scenario which heretofore most of us would have only thought possible in the so-called Third World. We saw fellow Americans, motivated by anger and hatred, attempt to inflict violence on our elected officials, vandalize our Capitol Building, and attack other citizens. This violence caused the death of six people to date, and is fanning the flames of acrimony and division that we, as a nation already stressed out by pandemic fatigue and a contentious election, have been experiencing over the past year. I am not given to participating in partisan political debates in my official duties as a called and ordained pastor, and I will not do so now. However, this does not mean that we in the Church do not have something to say and demonstrate to our fellow Americans as we go forward.
An author for Reader’s Digest writes how he studied the Amish people in preparation for an article on them. In his observation at the school yard, he noted that the children never screamed or yelled. This amazed him. He spoke to the schoolmaster. He remarked how he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked why the schoolmaster thought that was so. The schoolmaster replied, “Well, have you ever heard an Amish adult yell?”
I think we, as Christians at this fraught time in history, have something to learn from those Amish parents. Actions, particularly in the form of good examples, truly speak louder than words. It’s not that we in the Church can’t have deeply or passionately held political convictions. I certainly do! The way we relate to people who may not share our opinions though…that we can use as a powerful witness to a world that needs to experience the love and kindness that Jesus expects of his Church. Anger is an unavoidable emotion. Sometimes, that anger may even be considered righteous or justified. One thing is certain though, Jesus taught us that it is never OK to hate our neighbor! In the congregation, it can be as simple as being slow to criticize one another when something or someone may not meet with our approval or live up to our own arbitrary expectations. “Out there”, it means modeling those “fruits of the spirit” St. Paul lifted up for us in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Just think about how different last week would have looked had those fruits been operative! To be sure, we Christians have our work cut out for us in this often troubled world, but that is exactly why Jesus has commissioned us as ministers in his Holy Church, and set us loose on said troubled world. I’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions, but maybe we could all, as a family of faith, commit ourselves in the coming year to be kinder, more loving, and more Christ like in our relationships, in or out of the church. The results are transformative…and as Jesus said, everything depends on it!
Let us pray…
God of all goodness, we come to you at this difficult time in the life of our nation, and ask that you make of us ever kinder and more patient. May we be slow to judge and quick to try to understand. As Your Son has shown us, loving You and each other are the two most important tasks of a disciple. Help us to be a people committed to this principle in all of our relationships. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe!
Pastor Wes †