I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid of what’s happening in our country these days. Let me set your mind at ease right from the start: I’m not beginning a political discussion. Lord knows we have too many of them already.
I’m afraid that if we aren’t careful, we will open up wounds on our country and each other that cannot heal, no matter who is President or which political party is in control. As I watch and listen to the discussions and name calling that happens on social media and elsewhere, it occurs to me that Americans have so defined what separates us that we’re forgetting the things that unite us. And according to Abraham Lincoln, that is the beginning of the end. He said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I am not blind to the problems that exist in our country today. They are big, they are complex, and they are real. But have you noticed that our country’s problems seem not to be our enemy anymore? Our enemy has become each other. Instead of attacking problems, we seem bent on attacking one other. Granted, we are a people of differences, and we have our own viewpoints and opinions of how to solve the problems we face. That has always characterized Americans. But at no time in the past do I remember such a climate of personal attacks or venomous animosity toward people whose transgression is having a different point of view.
Call me cynical, but I don’t see our political system or its members as being part of the answer. From where I sit, their priorities seem centered more on establishing legacies and winning reelection than on healing our wounds. Media is also part of the problem. Instead of informing us, their goal is now to persuade us. Remember, the greater our outrage and anger, the more viewers they have, which translates into money for them.
So what’s the answer? Our wounds and far too complex to have a single simple answer, but I would like to suggest a starting place. The starting place is within us- you and I. The way we relate to each other is the single greatest factor in whether or not our country can heal. And I think I know of a guide we can use to make our relationships better.
The guide is one of the most familiar and loved chapters in the Bible. I Corinthians 13 is often called the “love chapter,” because it describes what genuine, authentic love looks like when it’s done right. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to adapt this chapter into today’s language with the purpose of applying its principles to our present circumstances. In case you aren’t familiar with I Corinthians 13, you can read it in its Biblical form here.
OK, here goes.
If I debate, argue, and dialogue better than anyone, putting those who see things differently in their place, but I didn’t speak in love, I would be no more useful than a noisy piece of metal. If I perfectly understood all the ins and outs of every issue, and I was right about everything all the time, and if I had all the answers to all the questions, but didn’t love and respect those I debate with, I would be nothing. If I volunteered at every shelter, marched at every rally, demonstrated at every opportunity against the powers that be, I could brag that I’m an activist or a moralist. But if I didn’t have love, I’ve had no effect.
Real love gives other people a break. It means we don’t attack their personhood when we speak to them. It restrains us from saying things that are rude, hurtful, or cutting. Love keeps us from always having to be right. Love doesn’t keep bringing up what people said or did in the past as ammunition for today’s arguments or issues. Love doesn’t celebrate when someone falls, but rejoices when someone does well or something good happens to them. Love doesn’t give up when two people don’t see eye to eye, it never thinks that because there is are different viewpoints the other person is evil or immoral, and love keeps on loving until a solution is reached.
I don’t know how you feel about all this, but from my perspective, something has to change, and these principles seem to hit at the real problem- the lack of respect and unity that we have toward each other.
Americans are different, and we’ve always been different. But we’ve never before defined ourselves by our differences. We’ve always been united by a bond that until now has included a respect for one another. Nothing else seems to be working. Maybe loving each other a little better will.
As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to share to your social media page if you like what you’re reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.