Mon., Nov. 5, 2018
Matthew 7:12 – Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.
“Our country is so divided right now. It’s the most divided it has ever been.”
I hear this type of comment regularly by other fellow American’s these days. We are very much aware how politics have become very polarized within our country.
Why is this so important right now? In the United States, this is election week. On Tuesday, we will be electing a significant number of officials at all levels of government. While we are not voting for a president, this is an important mid-term election. The entire U.S. House of Representatives is up for election, as well as one-third of the Senate. Where I live in Wisconsin, there is also a governor’s election and many other state, county and local elections. Locally, there is a local school referendum.
My heart is saddened by all of the election rhetoric in our society. There are days I avoid going on social media because I don’t want to see what is being posted. Our American election process is big business. The negative ads, misinformation and crazy antics sometimes used drive people away from participating in the whole process. I select the sources I listen to very carefully. I have little time for so-called “news” stories that contain untrue and unhelpful information. It takes time to dig deep and get to honest information.
I’m not quite sure how we got here or how we can move towards a more civil, caring and compassionate way of treating each other. Personally, I feel the craziness employed by people on both ends of the political spectrum are an awful model and witness to the rest of the world of how to treat other people.
Often, we emphasize the “Golden Rule” to youth. Yet, we have often forgotten how to embody this in our adult lives. If we truly lived the Golden Rule, we would discover other ways to disagree with each other, while still respecting someone who has an opinion different from our own.
Yes, we live in challenging times. However, this is not the first time the United States has experienced such division. It may not even be the most divisive time in American history. We feel it is the most difficult time because this is the time period in which we are living. Yet, I think there have been other equally, if not even more challenging times in American history. One such time? Right before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln had been elected president. A split of the states was bound to happen. Lincoln was very aware of this. Minutes after he was inaugurated, President Lincoln offered the following words to a country that may not have been ready to hear them:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot gave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 1861
We must not be enemies. What profound words. We choose who and what our enemies are. Will our enemies be those who disagree with us? Will we have the fortitude to respectfully disagree and not let the bonds of our affection towards other human beings be broken?
We must not be enemies. Can we create space within the country so many of us love, where we can we remember to treat each other the way we want to be treated?
We must not be enemies. Will we choose to work with neighbors and partners domestically and internationally in such a way that we can honor all humanity?
We must not be enemies. Personally, I am more in the friendship-building business than in the enemy-building business. I feel significant more reward and joy when I work towards a common goal together, rather than finding points of disagreement as the default mechanism.
We must not be enemies. I have hope that our country can model civility, respect and love for people and partners around the world. Maybe I am a bit idealistic when it comes to this, but shouldn’t this be an American core value?
When we go to the polls on Tuesday this week, I pray that we ponder who is someone who will treat others the way they want to be treated. I know policies are important. Yet, I feel, as a country, we are long overdue for a basic lesson on how to treat others with respect, love and compassion. I wish I had heard more about these values in the days coming up to the election and a whole lot less about the negative information often spewed.
The better angels of our nature will expect us to do better than we have been. Will call our elected leaders to model this day in and day out. And will accept the opportunity to model appropriate behavior to younger generations. Seriously, how can we expect our kids and youth to treat each other well when we cannot do this ourselves?
Jesus gave us the words of the Golden Rule while giving an extended sermon in Matthew’s gospel. I believe President Lincoln was encouraging his fellow Americans to embody the same concept. I think it is time we determine to use these same words as the basis for how we treat each other in our day and time.
For Jesus’ clear mandate to treat others the way I want to be treated, I am thankful.
Lord God – thank you for Jesus’ words on how to treat one other. Please forgive us for meandering so far away from the Golden Rule. May we choose not to focus on being enemies as much as we focus on being friends. May the better angels of our nature overrule the often-powerful desire to allow evil into this world instead of peace and happiness. Amen.
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