But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
- 1 Peter 2:9-10
I’m sitting here in a hotel room, having driven my grandson and my former furniture to his new place halfway across the state from home. Well, this is Texas, so maybe it’s not halfway across the state – maybe more like a quarter. Whatever; I am not at home. While he slept and I drove, I spent several hours listening to podcasts, lectures, and news commentary. There is a lot going on in the world today, and not much of it is good. Sometimes, all I can think to say is, “Lord, have mercy on us.” I confess I also prayed for the discipline to stop reading and listening to the news. But it’s like a watching two trains heading full speed toward one another, or in this case, maybe there are several trains speeding toward a single depot. How do you look away from that? It’s an analogy with limitations, but you get the idea.
Everybody has an opinion about what is happening, what should happen, and what role the United States should play in the international meltdown in the Middle East. I am unabashedly pro-Israel, even as I recognize Israel has sometimes treated Palestinians harshly or unfairly. That said, there are no reports of Israelis slaughtering children or mutilating women, raping them until their pelvises were broken. The magnitude of the brutality is incomprehensible to us.
A good friend’s fellow church member was in Israel when Hamas attacked. He was lucky enough to get out, but he returned traumatized and unable to speak of what he witnessed. We need to pay attention to that, not because one man was horrified by the violence, but because we are totally unprepared to cope with such gruesome savagery if it breaks out around us. When it breaks out around us… I believe it is naïve in the extreme to think we are immune to terrorism here since we do not have a southern border at all and not much of a northern one.
My point here, however, is not international, military, or political affairs. I want us to see our human potential without Jesus Christ. This is what the fall of human nature looks like. We commonly hear that agreements can be reached through communication, but no amount of communication has swayed Hamas or Hezbollah or Iran or China any of the other nations and/or the world leaders that hate America. If we pay attention, we can see that no amount of communication, no efforts at inclusion, and no claims of tolerance have protected American Jews on university campuses or, unexpectedly, in Brooklyn.
We think of sins in personal matters – being selfish or greedy, for example – but the reality is that unchecked sin leads us down dark pathways. Progressives support Palestinians in part because they too see nothing wrong with destroying life, whether not yet born or taking too long to die. According to a March poll, conservatives in America today are more inclined to value money than Christ. But sin is not stagnant. If accepted and tolerated in our lives, sin is the door through which Satan enters. Sin can seem small at first, but it never stays small.
As the world seems to be imploding (or exploding) around us, many of us prefer to pull back, focus on our own lives, and ignore everything else. We can argue that there is nothing we can do, and therefore, no need to bother with world affairs. I think this is untrue because I think God expects more of us. I am not sure what, but I am sure God knows. We are God’s chosen race, once not a people, but now the people of God. That means our true identity is not American; it is Christian. We are God’s possession because He brought us out of the darkness into His light.
We use this language and say these things, but how many of us understand? What does that look like lived every day? More than anything else, it means we must take seriously what the Scriptures say and know what has been revealed in Jesus Christ. How often do we read the Bible, learn what it says, but continue to live lives of superficiality, our hours filled with too much of everything but the Spirit of God? We begin to live as God’s royal priesthood when we see and interact with the people and the world around us through the light of God. Our understanding of human beings changes, as does our understanding of individual humans. Relationships and allegiances change to reflect the God Who has shown us mercy. This is why Christianity must be mocked and marginalized in America. Christians are God’s people, not a party’s people, and we are not free to follow the popular trends and fads of the day.
Too often we do, though. We go along with the flow of our culture because it’s not really bad. We are the reasonable people of an enlightened western world, and we can rise above our differences to get along with one another. Satan seduces us with lies. We can and must love those who hate us because our Lord told us to love our enemies, but He never suggested we wouldn’t have enemies.
The other day, the words and actions of individual angered me. Being partial to myself, I am not a good judge of whether my anger was justified or not, but my inclination is to think there was nothing particularly righteous about the cause. I wanted – rather desperately, actually – to eviscerate this person’s arrogance with a barrage of information and refutation to which he could not possibly respond. I know that I am not a very nice person, and I’ve been praying to be more like Jesus, even fasting in hopes of living more fully in His life. Therein lies my problem. As I stood there right on the verge of unleashing my angry tongue, an aberrant thought ran through my mind. I have been merciful with you in your arrogance and ignorance. “Oh, no! No, no, no, tomorrow I’ll try to act like You, not now! He’s wrong and a jerk, and I know more about this! Please, please, pleeeease, tomorrow, not today!” Again, the unwanted thought, I am being merciful with you today.
God is God, and we are not. We are His because He pursued us and claimed us as His own. He brought us out of darkness, out of the bonds of sin, and broke the chains of the evil one. He did this out of His great love and boundless mercy, but He didn’t do it so that we could berate others. Neither has He saved us so we can live comfortably ensconced in a culture celebrating human degradation and the ennobling the loneliness of self-absorption. He had mercy on us, so that we would proclaim His excellencies seen in His marvelous light in which we live.
While our impact on international affairs may be miniscule, one never knows how God will use our efforts to proclaim Him faithfully. One conversation at a time, we can ratchet down the tensions. One moment of humbling kindness can, in the providence and power of God, become an impermeable wall that holds hatred at bay. We cannot imagine what God can do with the tiny speck of light that shines in us. What we can see, nearby and far away, is what the world looks like in darkness.
Being merciful does not mean ignoring sin. Rather, being merciful is knowing that, without the mercy we have received, we too are capable of horrific sin, calling it justice as we destroy.
Lord, have mercy. The tide of sin and evil is rising, and the darkness grows. May we be instruments of mercy in a merciless world. As meager as our light may be, may it be magnified by the marvelous light of the Kingdom.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau