I am in a rotten mood today.
Like many of us, I am extremely attached to my comfort zone. “Comfort zone” is the place where I feel competent, useful, purposeful and, if I’m honest, everyone agrees with me. I don’t have to work hard to understand or see the other point of view. I feel confident I can handle most challenges in my comfort zone and, most importantly, I don’t have to fool with self-examination or making changes because I am usually right. I prefer everyone to be in a good mood in my comfort zone and I dislike cynics and complainers. Don’t bring me down with your negativity. Don’t worry, be happy, right?
In my comfort zone, I prefer to worship the Teddy Bear version of Jesus who reminds me how very loved I am and assures me I am forgiven so I don’t need to worry about changing. I can relax and rest in the shiny, happy presence of this Jesus who is only concerned with my happiness and my eternal destination. Rainbows, puppies and the occasional unicorn adorn my ideal world and frolic in the sunshine with Teddy Bear Jesus and me.
Here is the problem: there is no such thing as the Jesus who only wants me to be happy. He is a figment of my imagination and a product of our tendency to create god in our own image. The real Jesus wants more for me and is more concerned about my character than my comfort. The real Jesus calls me to go deeper with Him and partner with Him in being light and salt in a broken, hurting world. The real Jesus loves me enough to call me to the hard and messy work of becoming my best self. In order to accomplish this with any kind of effectiveness, I must choose to follow Him and His radical way of living. I have to be willing to change, grow and take risks. I have to pause in the shadows and acknowledge the tension between the already and the not yet where everything feels out of control.
Which doesn’t sound like much fun sometimes.
I am in a dark-ish mood today because I am feeling sad and angry about the state of our country and the ugliness of the Presidential campaign. Everything I have seen on tv and social media today reminds me I am not the only one feeling discouraged. Although I won’t go into depth on the matter, I am horrified Donald Trump is the Republican front runner and I am terrified about what that might mean for the future of our country. In my opinion, he is the antithesis of all we need in a leader; he is a bigot, a misogynist and a xenophobe. He is also an arrogant bully who believes name-calling and threats are the way to achieve his goals.
With that said, I am also horrified to see the anger and hate my self-righteousness brings out in me. Honestly, I feel superior to those of my fellow citizens who are voting for him because I firmly believe I am right and they are wrong. I am having trouble accessing any humility or understanding of the apparent fear which motivates them. While I do believe we are called to fight against evil and speak the truth in love as we understand it, I am struggling with the “love” part. Re-reading the previous paragraph, I clearly am not above name-calling either.
Or is me calling names just calling out evil as I perceive it? Frankly, I’m not really sure right now.
Lent is an opportunity to examine the ways in which God isn’t quite finished with the work of transformation in our lives. The true Rebel Jesus asks us to embrace extremely difficult, unconventional ways of living like loving our enemy and turning the other cheek. A quick glance through the Sermon on the Mount reminds me, particularly on this issue, I have a very long way to go.
So, how do I find the path to both being a follower of Jesus and standing up for what I believe? How do I trade in my self-righteousness and arrogance for the righteous anger of God which is ALWAYS combined with His transcendent and all-encompassing love? What would it look like to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this difficult situation?
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.
Other guidance from this rich chapter in scripture remind us to:
- Surrender sacrificially to God every day
- Not conform to the world’s way of doing things
- Ask God to transform our minds
- Use our gifts for the greater good
- Love sincerely, hate evil, cling to what is good
- Share with those in need and be hospitable
- Bless our enemies, do not curse them
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn
- Live in peace and harmony with others, as much as it is up to us
- Reject arrogance
- Remember God will ultimately bring justice
- Pray for your your enemy
- Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.
Arguably a tall order, right? Any potential for progress in the direction of these goals requires me to lean heavily on the Holy Spirit through the discipline of prayer. Only when I am willing to dig deeper with God, give up my need to be right and submit myself to His work in my heart can I begin to find the path to my better self. A version of myself better equipped to fight injustice and work for the Kingdom.
So…even though I am discouraged today, I’m not giving up. I believe God is ultimately in charge, even when we individually and collectively get WAY off track and the path back may be long. As followers of Jesus, we must be brave enough to do battle in the world armed with the tools of our faith and the assurance we are not alone, but always remembering we are to be known first by our love.
I would love to hear your thoughts, as long as they are respectful. How are you feeling about the current political climate?
Linking up with my friends over at Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. This week’s theme is into the deep. Go read more here!