Someone asked me to share my Facebook post from January 7, 2020. Here it is:
I rarely post on current events, because the older I’ve gotten the seemingly more polarized they are. You could argue that they’ve always been that way, Paige; you’re just cognizant of it now. And maybe both are true and interwoven together. As I’ve watched the last five years unravel stability (fill in your brain with whatever that may be to you) in our country, it’s quite obvious that it was never really built to last. In fact, American History is beginning to look more and more like a high-stakes game of Jenga. Roll with me here. Everything was stacked so pretty and neat in the beginning, the good and the DEFINITE bad built together in what looked like a sturdy foundation. As the power players of history have poked and prodded at it, the weak parts were removed easily and PUT BACK on top to be dealt with later or for their own gain. Truthfully, we should have just taken them out completely. Now, the tower is soooooo high and sooooo wobbly, with the weaknesses (ie, racial injustice, greed, lack of sanctity of life, inability to compromise, deterioration of family, etc) weighing us down. And everyone is no longer having fun and yes, some of us were never having fun in the first place. In fact, collectively we are all saying, in the words of Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” It’s not looking pretty folks. And I confess I have joined in on the anger of 2020.
And you know the worst part? The American Church has historically contributed to it in two ways: Either by glorifying the mantras of the radicals (on either side, pick your poison) OR remaining silent in the face of it. Even the reactions of the Christians have been polarized. Actually the only thing we have done collectively together is play right into the hands of Darkness. This struck me today as I was researching material for, of all things, youth group and Ephesians 6 came up. That’s the one about the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18 if you need a refresher). It says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against all of the strategies of the devil.” All of of us are showing up without armor or at least the wrong armor or maybe only semi-armed.
So Church, let’s look at the strategies of the devil that have been so affective this past year alone.
Social Media has turned into a literal war zone AND made us so addicted to it we can’t “help” joining the rabble. It can only be equated to a collective onslaught of cyber-bullying from all sides.
An age-old “jenga block” of American history, racial-injustice and inequality has come to the forefront of the American consciousness again AND STILL the healing conversations and solutions have not been had.
The presence of a mask has disrupted worship and the fellowship of believers so that they are divided.
The presence of COVID has isolated everyone into a collective trauma that has caused us to accuse each other of not loving our neighbor in various ways.
Protests on ALL fronts have become the playground of violent behavior, thwarting the messages and awareness they were meant to achieve—whether you support their position or not.
And politics…many have put their political affiliation and identity above their identity in Christ. As if one party was evil incarnate and the other was the only hope.
There are so many more I could detail.Everyone is yelling and shouting, and if you aren’t, you’re harboring it in your heart and mind. And none of us are taking ownership of our part in it, instead we have blamed everyone but ourselves. And meanwhile, the children are watching…and learning…and we can’t be sure it’s good or godly.
We are divided and we have been enticed and led away by some fairly persuasive gods of American culture. The god of comfort has caused many of us to panic in the face of racial injustice and political division. The god of comfort promised prayer in school forever and retirement and a seemingly “vanilla” worldview. It demanded you not rock the boat or be bold in your faith. If you have been serving this god you likely had a very rude awakening in 2020. As The Lord says in Isaiah, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” The god of patriotism has lied to some of you, for it wears two faces. One face promises that patriotism means that God is still in the capitol, that the faith of a nation rests on the shoulders of whoever sits in the oval office…that a love of country means a love of God. The other face has done the opposite, fueling the anger of oppression and feeding on the division that it causes. It actually makes itself the enemy and thrives off the hatred that blooms with the image of the American flag or the sound of our anthems. The god of politics has caused even the most faithful to stumble as it needs us to argue to survive. It has been so detrimental to the testimonies of thousands to see the discourse of believers on social media and other conversations during this political season. The shared mistress of these gods is the goddess of right. She is the one the whispers the last word, hammering the last nail in the coffins of friendships, families, marriages, and compromise that can make affective change. She is the one that perpetuates the argument. The inability to stop the need to be right, rather than facilitate good conversation that deepens fellowship and allows the Holy Spirit to work, is what feeds her. All of these are good things that turn and twist into something else. And we have all been worshipping them for a while now.
I’m not saying I’m any better…but I’d like to be. By the the saving grace of Jesus Christ I could be, but I need to crush some altars first. So, back to Jenga…There are a few students at youth group who hate when the tower falls. It’s messy. It’s loud! It’s scary. And it’s humiliating. When we play usually, almost like instinct, the leader who is playing sees the collapse coming and catches the tower. They hold it in place, while the students take the pieces and rebuild the foundational tower to play again or to put it away. It’s less messy, not as loud, and less of a shock. It’s kinder than letting it fall, pointing and laughing. Now this analogy is REALLY reaching, but just humor me. This tower is about to fall. What will the Body’s role in all of this be? Will we just watch it happen, letting our anger be fueled by the mess and the noise and the humiliation? Once again let our silence fuel pain? Or will we rush in and try to soften the fall? Because it’s messy and loud and scary and humiliating.
Jesus says this, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Paul later goes onto describe love to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 13 — it’s that passage that everyone wants at their wedding, but is not really about romance at all. My challenge to you today is to go and actually read that passage and then go back over your FB feed and comments and messages and general social media behavior of the past 1-3 years and hold that conduct up to 1 Corinthians 13. Are you loving your neighbor? Are you glorifying God first?
Then confess, repent, pray, and reconcile others, because God is always good and loves with that love Paul describes regardless of how many times you serve or adore something more than Him. And move forward into the new year. It’s already looking like a doozie. If you say you are a Christian, it’s time pull on the full armor of God and to start loving God first and then people.