Over the course of the past few years, there has been an increasing divide in our country. We have seen a growing divide between politicians on either side of the aisle. We have seen an increasing division in the past week or so again with the results of the election. The racial divide in this country continues to grow and an alarming rate. Black lives matter…blue lives matter…all lives matter. Seemingly non-stop protests in the streets, shutting down major roads, for all sorts of reasons. Who’s right and who’s wrong?
I think that today’s lectionary reading of 1 Corinthians does a great job of answering what we are to do with all of these recent events. I can remember growing up and hearing what then was a common saying; “It’s a free country, I can do whatever I want.” We have a constitution in our country that has along with it 10 amendments that we know as the Bill of Rights. We have the right to bear arms, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom to protest, and so on.
So let’s put those rights into perspective. They were written over 200 years ago as our nation was formed. At the time, the arms that people were wanting to bear were single shot rifles that took as long as 30 seconds to reload. The reason this was written into our constitution was because the British Empire was trying to prevent the colonists from owning firearms and possible staging a revolt (how did that work out?). The freedom of religion was written because the original settlers that came here were not allowed to freely practice their religion in their homeland. Freedom of press because the British Empire did not allow the colonists to write anything that was critical of the royal crown. And finally, freedom to protest for the same reason; that the British Empire disallowed the colonists to speak out against their “authority.” These are all important freedoms that make our country what it is today, and we should continue to have them.
However, there are people in this country who use these freedoms in a way that is self-serving, and to try to validate their own actions, regardless if those actions are beneficial or harmful to the others around them. When our right to bear arms includes high-powered automatic reload rifles, what are those likely to be used for? When our right to protest turns into rioting, including burning down buildings, or lynch mobs who beat people simply for having differing opinions, who are we really helping? Or are we just letting frustration and anger get the best of us?
Martin Luther King Jr. famously gave a speech in which he stated “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I was not yet born to live through the civil rights era, but what I know is that time and time again, Dr. King preached peaceful protests. Time and time again, he preached for love, not hate. Yet, here we are in 2016, with so much hate. And it is not just one group of people. It is not just blacks, or whites, or republicans, or democrats. It is on all sides. I am afraid of where this country is headed, and that we are taking steps backwards into another era.
We are not going to bring peace to this world, or this country, by having conservatives and liberals spewing hate toward each other. We are not going to have peace in this country while racism continues as it is. I can’t even begin to comprehend how one person can decide to hate another person simply because of the color of their skin. Or their religious beliefs. Or what language they speak.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians says it perfectly, when he says that “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other.” Instead he says “ whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory. Don’t offend either Jews or Greeks, or God’s church. 33 This is the same thing that I do. I please everyone in everything I do. I don’t look out for my own advantage, but I look out for many people so that they can be saved. 11 1 Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.” Finally, Jesus says “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Apologies for such a long post, but I believe we reside in a scary place in our country. The rest of the world is watching, and we are very vulnerable. This isn’t a post directed at any one person or group of people. Both Hillary and Donald and their supporters need to keep these words of Paul and Jesus in mind as they speak and act. People of all races need to do the same. It is time, as the Beatles sang in 1969, to “Come together, right now.”