The past two weeks have wearied me.
College campuses are the perfect tinderbox for conflict regarding the presidential election. In one unique place, you find diversity, passion, inherited parental politics, newly emerging generational politics, old-people politics, professors with differing viewpoints that are held with unflinching certainty, women who were hoping for a shattered glass ceiling, immigrants who were hoping for a responsible path to citizenship, LGBT persons running the gamut from “seeking dignity as persons” all the way to “affirmation of any and every sexual behavior,” white working middle class people who are tired of being called uneducated, black persons who hope their lives matter, economic-minded citizens hoping for lower taxes and more jobs, Democrats defending the poor and minorities, Republicans wanting less government interference, students just out of the military, 22 nationalities, about 3,500 very different people, and the normal immaturity of the human race. Add to all of this the fast-moving gas fumes of social media looking for a fire somewhere.
I live and work in this community.
So, yesterday I went to church hoping for salvation from my weariness. It was Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian calendar year. In a sense, it was the day we celebrate the end of time. We read Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (You may want to pause and read the entire psalm in light of the election.) Then we sang “This is my Father’s World. O let me ne’er forget that tho’ the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world. The battle is not done; Jesus who died, shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one. This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad. Jesus is King, let the heavens ring. God reigns, let the earth be glad.”
Then my pastor simply told the story of Jesus, laying aside power, absorbing brokenness, dying in love.
I found myself asking, how do people who believe Christ is King live now? What is the posture of a Christian in a frightened, fractured, fighting world? After two weeks of “How can you be a Christian and vote for x?”, two weeks of people taking and giving offense, two weeks of seeking to reconcile the unreconcilable … I found myself drawn into God on Christ the King Sunday. And similar to an Augustine moment, the Spirit instructed me to pick up the book and read Romans 12. The title of this section in the NRSV is The Mark of the Christian.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21, NRSV).
I won’t attempt a full exegesis of this because—in keeping with the ethic of the kingdom of God—it pulls us in odd ways. My takeaway? Stand in the middle of the mess, seek to understand first, honor people, love, suffer in the mode of Jesus, stay humble, leave room for God to be God rather than rushing in with my answers, remain hopeful, offer blessing everywhere possible in every way possible.
Is this possible today? Only if Christ is King and the end of time invades this day. Back to work.