Tomorrow is the inauguration here in the US. And the word tense doesn’t begin to describe the state of America right now. I don’t know your political stance or who you voted for. I don’t need to know. But if you’re reading my blog, chances are pretty good that you’re a Christ-follower. So no matter our politics, we ought to be living up to THIS standard:
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness, and patience.”
~ Colossians 3:12
I feel like I could just stop there, LOL, and let the verse speak for itself, right? In heated political climates, those virtues are often sorely lacking, and that is certainly the case now. But let’s examine them together, okay?
Compassion. A word we know so well we probably never pause to look it up. But the dictionary definition of compassion is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with the desire to alleviate it.” Literally it means “suffering with.” What that does NOT mean is denying that the other’s suffering exists; saying it’s nothing compared to YOUR suffering; saying they deserve it. What it does NOT mean is saying, “I wish it were otherwise but what can I do?” Compassion means putting yourself with the sufferer–and it does not specify that you show compassion only to those “on your side.” On the contrary, I think Paul is talking here about how we interact in the world. Because this, my friends, is how we show the world who Christ is. To whom did we see Him showing compassion? Sinners. Are we doing the same? Are we doing it especially when people attack our beliefs, our stances, our ideals?
Kindness. “The quality of being sympathetic or helpful.” Again, this isn’t just about how we treat our families and spouses and church members, right? This should be how the world sees us. The world should look at a Christian and go, “Wow. They’re so kind!” Is that how non-believers are viewing us right now? If not, we have some work to do. People should never have to fear how Christians will react. We should never be the ones characterized by violence and hatred and bitterness.
Humility. “Freedom from pride or arrogance.” This could also be explained as not seeking your own. When one is humble and filled with humility, one doesn’t have an agenda. We’re not seeking “my way.” When we’re clothed with humility, we seek ONLY to glorify God and to encourage others. We will do the best we can in any given situation…but never for ourselves. Humility doesn’t involve seeking power or control. It certainly doesn’t mean turning to violence when you think you’ve been wronged or justice has been perverted. This will happen, my friends. The world is, after all, still the world. Still a sinful place. But Christianity does not change the world by attacking it. Christianity changes the world by seeking an active peace and turning the other cheek. By modeling a better way.
Gentleness. This one backs up what I’ve been saying above, in case you doubted me, LOL. “Characterized by being free from harshness, sternness, or violence.” But are we gentle? It’s not a virtue that we’re usually taught to seek, really. We’ve built a culture that values the bold, the brash, the loud, the outrageous, the ones who shout from the rooftops, who tear down arguments, who rip enemies to shreds, who conquer on the battlefield. But we’re called to do the opposite. We’re called never to speak or act harshly. We’re called not to be stern. We’re called to steer clear of violence.
Patience. Patience doesn’t just mean waiting without complaining, like standing in line or enduring a toddler’s endless questions. It means “bearing pains or trials calmly.” It means “manifesting forebearance under provocation or strain.” Are you feeling provoked right now? Probably. Strained? Yup. Do you feel like we’re going through a trial? I daresay you do. Which means this is the time to shine the light of Christ more brightly. This is the time to model Christian patience. This is not the time to shout at the top of your lungs that a wrong has been done or that ruin is on its way or to lose your cool. It’s the time to turn to God in prayer and ask Him how we can show His love better. How we can love our enemies as He loves them. How we can be His hands and feet.
Something struck me the other day as I was contemplating how Christ interacted with the people in His world. The only ones He ever spoke harshly to were the religious leaders. The people who should have been responsible for helping the masses draw closer to God but who were instead seeking their own advancement, their own prosperity, their own righteousness. The only time we ever see Him resorting to violence was when confronting the people trying to profit from the sacrifice. When dealing with sinners, Christ ONLY offers compassion. He doesn’t even rebuke them–He doesn’t have to. They see perfection modeled in Him. They know, when they look at Him, what the better way is. All He has to say is, “You’re forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
When it comes to politics, all He ever says is “Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s.” He didn’t lead an uprising against the unjust, ungodly civilization that held His country under its heel. He didn’t call for Herod to be denounced and someone from David’s line to be put back on the throne. He didn’t participate in protests against Rome or spend His life advocating for the nation of Israel to, as a nation, renew its dedication to the Law. He spoke to individuals and called them to examine their hearts. He spoke to the marginalized, the outcasts, the hated, the overlooked, and told them to take heart. He spoke to the sinners and told them to step into a new life. He pointed out that if we love first, the rest of the law will follow.
So many people in Jesus’s day decided He couldn’t be the Messiah because He didn’t seek power on earth.
So many Christians today are fearful about what might happen if “our side” loses power. But here’s the thing, my friends. We don’t need political power. We don’t need to seek political power. We only need to model Christ. And He didn’t operate through policy or lobbies or law. He operated through LOVE. And He loves the sinner every bit as much as the saint. Let’s remember that it was the sinner He met with compassion, and the seemingly-righteous He called out. Let’s remember that we’re called not to seek our own way but to model His.
Let’s remember that we’re called to model Him–to model perfection–so that we don’t have to call out sin. All we should have to do is live out His love. He’ll take care of the rest.