Bp. Jaech leads the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA of which Messiah is a member congregation. |
I am writing this letter on November 5, two days after the elections. Some election results are known and some are still pending. My purpose in writing is not to mourn or celebrate any of the results. Rather, I would like to think out loud with you about what God is calling us to do as Lutheran Christians from November 5 onward.
I ask that question because I anticipate that there will continue to be bitter arguments and verbal attacks for weeks and even months after the election, possibly even physical violence. I pray that this will not be so. Yet, I feel that our country is sharply divided and our unity is being tested more than it has ever been since the Civil War.
For that reason, I am certain that Christ is calling us to begin working as peacemakers, in the same way that he called his first followers in the Sermon on the Mount. God envisions us to be a community where all people treat one another with respect and dignity, even in the midst of disagreements and conflicts. Part of our calling, therefore, is to work with Christ to heal broken relationships and restore shalom, peace, to our hearts, families and society.
Being a peacemaker does not mean that we become neutral on every issue, giving up or silencing our own viewpoints or political positions. One key part of our calling as Christians is to provide food for the hungry, homes for the homeless, protection for children, and justice for the oppressed, just as Jesus did. Therefore, it is necessary for us to passionately denounce what is wrong in our society and actively work to make things right. At the same time, however, we are also called to be peacemakers. A peacemaker not only cares about achieving a just end, but also cares about the process in which people arrive at that end. Specifically, a peacemaker models, teaches and helps people to work through their conflicts and disagreements in a manner that is respectful of others and to work towards outcomes that are fair, just, and unifying for all.
As we witness or find ourselves involved in conflicts in the weeks ahead, here are some specific things we can do as peacemakers.
Martin Luther called upon government leaders to govern fairly and called upon citizens to work together to build communities where every person receives the respect, support, and care that God wants for them. Today, the Spirit of Christ is stirring and calling us to break out of our constant, heated divisions and learn again to talk, deliberate, and live together in a way that is fair for all.
Jesus once said, "Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it forthem! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?... I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind." Luke 6: 31, 35-36 from The Message Bible
Christ not only frees and teaches us how to live, but also empowers us through the Holy Spirit to live in a new way. May Christ give a double measure of that Spirit to our nation in this crucial time. May we open ourselves to the Spirit, so that we work courageously as peacemakers.
In Christ, Bishop Rick Jaech