In light of the unsettling events in our nation’s capital this past week, it is important that we take a few minutes to reflect on the news theologically and biblically.
We saw images and actions, especially at the US Capitol building, which were difficult and disturbing, not just as Americans, but also as Christians. I’d like us to consider how those two identities sometimes become convoluted for Christians. In DC we saw rioters holding crosses, the Christian flag, or flags saying “Jesus saves,” right alongside a hanging noose and rioters carrying the Confederate flag. Here me clearly: those rioters displayed symbols and the actions that are not in line with the heart of Jesus. In fact they misrepresent who he is and who he wants us to be.
We should be upset that someone was carrying the Christian flag in that way as they entered the Senate chamber! As a pastor I care seriously that what we as the church display to the world affects people’s ability to see and know the real living and loving God. That these actions and symbols were linked in any way to Jesus was simply put, wrong.
I’ve seen in American Christianity that we can become confused about where our loyalty resides. The Kingdom of God is not about earthly politics. It is right to want to have laws and policies that look like things that Jesus cared about. It is right to want to have leaders with character traits that look like Jesus. But we can’t be so aligned with earthly political parties and people that we forget to have our hearts set on the Kingdom of God and His heart. We cannot get so tangled up in our minds that a “Jesus Saves” flag next to a Confederate flag does not bother us.
Remember Jesus’ disciples. They believed the Messiah was going to be a political leader who would save them from earthly difficulties. But that was not who he was, and it’s not what Jesus teaches us to be about.
Think about what things upset Jesus? When did we see Jesus get really bothered? When those who claimed to love him were not loving their neighbor as themselves. When those who, despite knowing all the laws and the rules, were not being sacrificial in caring for those in need. We should likewise be outraged and upset by things that we saw taking place at the Capitol building this past Wednesday: Confederate flags, nooses, symbols of racism and hate, side-by-side with rioters holding flags that said “Jesus saves.” That is not our Jesus.
We need for our hearts, minds and actions to be in line with the way of Jesus: sacrificial love and care for our neighbors, and especially for those on the margins, those who suffer and struggle. Our hope and our principles should be based on the Kingdom of God and not on any earthly kingdom or government. The King of Kings’ mandate is never to put country first, but to put Christ and the ways of the Kingdom first. Jesus doesn’t align with any one political party or any one country. His heart beats equally for every tribe, every nation, every people and he was and is sacrificial in his love for all. He is truth, and he is our model.
In that light, I’d like to end with a few words from my denomination’s Bishop, Bruce Hill: “I weep for our nation. To followers of Jesus I say, If our culture doesn’t see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in us: if they don’t see the goodness of God, the qualities of God in our daily lives, speech, conduct and instead see a political party or a cause, we have missed the point of the Kingdom. I pray for our nation. I pray for the church.”