I sent this to my church folks last week, prior to the election. I think that it may be a good word for all of us today:
This time next week, if we are lucky, we will probably know who the president is for the next four years. This has been the most polarized, divisive, and ugly election in my memory (which goes back to Nixon/Humphrey). The stakes seem huge for each side. In the end, discerning who is the best candidate becomes secondary to making sure that our side (whichever it is) wins.
We live in a very competitive society. The marketplace driven system of our country values winning and losing, and Lord help you if you are on the losing side. It plays out in all aspects of life, from our kids playtime to the criminal justice system. Eventually, we find ourselves living out a Vince Lombardi motto, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
This is true in our churches as well. The issues of power and control sometimes lead us into situations where we define winners and losers, failing to remember that we all called to love all equally. In fact, when we read the teachings of Jesus in the gospels, we are confronted with the fact that Jesus more often than not took up with the losers in the world rather than the winners. Jesus didn’t have a lot of patience with the successful and powerful. He understood that their desire to win forced them to take their eyes off of God as they focused on their goal. “Seek first God’s kingdom,” Jesus said, “…and led God sort our who wins and loses.”
A friend of mine sent me a quote tonight from the great writer and monk, Thomas Merton. Merton writes: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”
Friends, there are all sorts of ways that we can become consumed with power, that we can be fixated on getting our way in the church. But as Paul tells us, without love, anything we hope to do is worthless. Jesus reminds us in the washing of feet that our call is to be lowly servants, not mighty conquerors.
During the coming weeks, in the post election fog, there will certainly be winners and losers. Some persons will be elated that their man won, and others will be defeated, feeling like the future of our country is in peril. Our task is simply to love, not gloat. May we take on the mantle of humility shown to us by Jesus and we treat all with tenderness and compassion in the days ahead.