The Apostle Paul taught that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. In other words, God does not see us as members of any national, ethnic, gender or economic group. We are each individual children of God. Our challenge is to see each other as God does, through God’s eyes. Jesus also taught us not to judge one another, but to love one another as Christ loves us.
As we are inheritors of a nation that has been identified religiously for the most part with Christianity, we therefore are answerable to these lessons from Scripture, especially those of us who claim the Christian faith.
We, as a nation, have touted equality since our founding. We have slowly and painfully moved toward that goal, which is commendable, but we are not there yet. We are less inclined, however, to follow Jesus’ teaching and commit ourselves to love one another. Perhaps we still are working on our love for God.
If love for God is evidenced by our faithfulness in worship and good works, or evidenced by where we spend the most of our time and money, Americans and specifically American Christians, generally fall short of the goal. “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, and with ALL your soul, and with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.”
If, then, we have not mastered the two Great Commandments, the commandments of love, the ones on which Jesus said all the law and all the prophets were based, how can we judge anyone? How can we presume to say who is a true Christian and who is a false one? Who is in and who is out? We may judge the fruits, but not the fruitful. Only God knows the heart. And John tells us, “Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” By the way, we shouldn’t be judging in any event.
And as Americans who pledge, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we speak in opposition to these principles of liberty, equality, justice and unity when we flagrantly dismiss other American citizens as “false Americans, enemies of the people and un-American.”
The hallmark of liberty is the freedom of expression, as long as our speech does not cause harm. The genius of freedom is the free flow of ideas that opens vistas of opportunity in technology, science, industry, art, theology and more. Our unity must not demand uniformity to one set of ideas, or we are no longer free.
Today I ask for a generosity of spirit, especially in every person of faith. If we are willing to work and to pray, we can begin to silence the bigotry, racism, stereotyping, belittling, bullying and hatred that even Christians in this country have been a party to.
Let us open our eyes. If we can see how far from love we have fallen, we will see how far from God we have fallen. Love God. Love your neighbor.
The Rev. Stephanie Swinnea is pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kearney.