This past year, I have felt a gentle nudge from the Spirit....a need to write and share my feelings about a particularly sensitive topic and one that has quickly started to really tug at my soul. Those of you that know me well and have read my blog for many years, know that when I feel prompted to write.....that prompting does not leave until I have written. This has been such an eventful year for our little family, that I simply kept pushing aside this prompting...waiting for "a free moment." And now, what began as a gentle nudge, has now become a thorn in my side, a sharp stone in my shoe, something I cannot ignore any longer. And so, for a moment, all else is being pushed aside while I write whatever the Spirit guides me to say today.
Since the last Presidential Election, I have become more and more aware of a very troubling circumstance involving the media, the government, society.....and more specifically, US. All of us. It would seem that "the media" (in parenthesis, since I am certain that it is common knowledge by now, that the media does not act of their own accord. So what I mean by "the media," is whoever is truly BEHIND "the media.") is bound and determined to divide us. There is no question why it would benefit "the media" and our government, to have a divided people. Even Abraham Lincoln, in his wisdom, said, "A house divided, cannot stand." Did you know that he was actually quoting The Bible, and more specifically, Jesus Christ when he said that? In Matthew 12:25, Jesus Himself said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." So why would "the media" want to constantly create contention between us? Why? Because when we are divided, we are weak and easier to control. It's as simple as that. The saddest part about this, is that we let them. We allow them to divide us. We literally hand over our agency and, like little sheep, we hear them say "Those people are different from you...far too different. You should hate them." And we follow. This occurs on EITHER side of every line. Those whom we are told to fear and hate are then told by "the media," "Those people over there hate you because you are different. You should hate them too." And they follow. The result? An enormous mass of the public that are now divided....and therefore, easy to control. The tragedy? We. Know. Better.
The most unsettling thing to me, is to see agency given up and hatred dished out so freely, by those who claim to be Christian. I don't care what religion you are. If you claim to be Christian, you wear the name of Christ on your soul and on your sleeve. As a Christian, we devote our entire lives to becoming CHRISTlike ourselves and loving each other with CHRISTlike love and acceptance. That means, LOVE, without exception. I don't remember a single passage of scripture where Christ said, 'You are a different color than I am. You are far too different than me. You have made decisions that are so far from what I believe. I cannot be near you. I will not heal you. I cannot love you.' And yet, far too many of us that claim to be Christian, are FAR too often heard to say, "You are much too different than me and have made decisions that are different than my own. I cannot associate with you. I cannot love you." And society...backs..us...up. They want us to argue. They want us to hate each other. They want us to live in a constant state of contention. And my friends....it....is...working. They have told us that if a Christian stands up for what they believe in, they MUST hate others who live differently. They are the ones who smother the belief that you can live differently, choose differently...and still love each other. Why? Because that belief would foster PEACE and UNITY. And what would that do to them? If we stood united, we would be UNBEATABLE...UNCONTROLLABLE. What a frightening prospect for the leadership of this country.
Last week, Jeff and I saw "CATCHING FIRE," the second film in the HUNGER GAMES series. The first film was so disturbing to me (no, I have not read the books), that I hesitated seeing the second. However, I am so very grateful I did. This film, albeit still disturbing in many ways, has so many amazing parallels and such depth, that I am certain Jeff and I will be discussing it for weeks. This entry, is not meant to tackle those countless discussion points. However, there is ONE quote from that movie that resonates and absolutely relates to the subject I am addressing in this entry. As Katniss is preparing once again to enter the arena for the 75th Anniversary of the Hunger Games, Haymitch (her coach and friend) says to her, "Katniss....don't forget who the REAL enemy is." How often are WE thrown into an "arena" and told that everyone around us is different, hateful and "out to harm us." Before we have even set foot, we are convinced we are surrounded by enemies. It is no wonder, that we are immediately on the defense and set out to harm each other, with that sort of introduction. Another tragedy? We believe it. We absolutely foolishly believe that every person around us is the enemy...simply because "the media" tells us they are. That...is...a....LIE. The REAL enemy is anyone who would seek to create division, to make one brother hate another and to cause us to constantly fight with each other. All too often, we forget who the REAL enemy is, and set out in our own personal "arena" on a man hunt, attempting to emotionally stomp on anyone we are instructed to destroy. Why do we so willingly give away our free agency and allow THE ENEMY to control us and tell us what to think, how to believe, WHO to hate and WHO to love?! We. Know. Better.
A true Christian relies heavily on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Consider, for a moment, the following passage:
MARK 12:30-31..."And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
THIS is the source we should be turning to for guidance. If we truly are Christians, we abide by HIS law. Not only are we asked to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are COMMANDED to do so. We are not able to take this commandment and freely fill it with caveats...."I love you and I love you and I love you....but not you, you are much too different than I am. I can't love you." It doesn't work that way. We are only asked to love, and love everyone. We are not required to (and are even cautioned against) judge each other. Consider the following passage:
MATTHEW 7:1-2..."Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
Sometimes I wonder if many proclaimed Christians today have even READ The Bible. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged." That will happen. The very measuring stick that we use to measure a man, WILL BE USED TO MEASURE US one day. For me, that is reason ENOUGH, to extend mercy and love toward all men. And yet, every day, in the news and in social media, I am personal witness to absolutely apalling behavior, from supposed "Christians."
I refuse to be controlled by "the media" and whoever it is that wants us to live in contention. I refuse to be told WHO I SHOULD LOVE and WHO I SHOULD HATE. And I refuse to believe that those who live differently than I do HATE ME for our differences. My life is living proof that that is a LIE. I have many friends who have chosen different paths than I have. Some of those paths are quite drastic. The difference in paths does NOT change the love I feel for them in even the slightest degree. These dear friends KNOW very well what my beliefs are, and know my standing on their life choices. And yet they also KNOW, without a doubt, that I LOVE THEM, without exception. And what may SHOCK "the media," is that THEY LOVE ME TOO. "The Real Enemy" will have you believe that peace is not possible; unity is not possible. People that live and believe differently cannot POSSIBLY love each other and live together in peace and harmony. They are LYING TO YOU. If we are not united as brothers and sisters, as CHILDREN OF GOD, we cannot stand against the "REAL ENEMY." STOP FIGHTING EACH OTHER. STOP IT!!!! We are NOT the enemy! I can't stand seeing people I love on both sides of whatever imaginary lines have been drawn by whoever has somehow been able to convince us that those lines even exist. I have been so touched by a particular song by Casting Crowns that says, "Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against, when we judge the wounded. What if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines and love like You did. Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours."
How grateful I am that we have only been commanded to LOVE each other. I am good at that. I can do that and I do it well. I have been through and seen far too much, to ever even MOMENTARILY judge any man/woman. I confidently can say that I do not feel hate and anger towards anyone...even those who have hurt me so terribly in the past. That has brought so much peace into my life. I have not always been so wise. I am so eternally grateful for the challenges that I have been so RICHLY blessed with, that have helped OPEN MY EYES to this truth....that we are ALL Children of God...equally loved, equally held, equally cherished. May all of us take a moment today to sit back and reflect on how our actions reflect on our Savior. Are we true Christians? Are we striving every day to be more like Him? And may this prayer be ever in our hearts...."Savior, may I learn to love thee, Walk the path that thou hast shown, Pause to help and lift another, Finding strength beyond my own. Savior, may I learn to love thee. Lord, I would follow thee. Who am I to judge another, When I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden, Sorrow that the eye can’t see. Who am I to judge another? Lord, I would follow thee. I would be my brother’s keeper; I would learn the healer’s art. To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart. I would be my brother’s keeper. Lord, I would follow thee. Savior, may I love my brother, As I know thou lovest me. Find in thee my strength, my beacon, For thy servant I would be.Savior, may I love my brother. Lord, I would follow thee."
May we ever stand TOGETHER. May we ever watch out for each other. We are FAMILY - all of us, despite our differences. May we always remember who "The Real Enemy" is and turn AWAY from that enemy to face toward the SAVIOR, the only One who can lead us to eternal love and peace in our lives. We are meant to be one. Our very souls LONG for that unity. It is within our grasp. All He asks of us, is to love.
Many thanks to Greg Olsen and Mark Mabry, whose breathtaking paintings and photographs seemed so fitting for this message.