There is a white oak tree near my house that is older than these United States.
Lately, I have needed the long perspective this tree provides. I have needed to remember that there are still living witnesses to years far beyond every one of our forty five presidents.
This one tree has outlived all the great divisions that have plagued our national community. It has outlasted the rebels and the loyalists, those who fought duels, and those who took up arms against their brothers.
But political division is much older than our country.
Even much older than this tree.
Did you know that Jesus called a traitor and a terrorist to be among his first followers? Of course, even those words are contentious. You could call Simon a freedom fighter. You could say Matthew was a law-and-order guy.
Simon was a Zealot. Matthew was a tax collector for the Empire. Politically, the space between these two makes the different between an American Democrat and an American Republican look as insignificant as the tiny bird’s nest I once saw tucked into a branch of the old oak tree.
Jesus ate with them both. Walked with them both. And while we might imagine that each man tossed his political opinions out like garbage when he chose to follow a carpenter from Nazareth, we have no evidence of that. It seems far more likely to me that they went on disagreeing about many things. Only now, they disagreed as they ate together, prayed together, and became servants of men together.
Each man saw some things clearly and was blind to others, and Jesus wanted them both on his team.
I know. I don’t like it any more than you do.
Perhaps you cannot imagine worshiping alongside someone who thinks abortion should remain legal. Perhaps you cannot imagine worshiping alongside someone who thinks abortion should be made illegal.
Feel free to insert any one of the many political issues that divide us.
For me, it is deeply painful to know that I love the same Jesus as some who favor closing our borders to Muslim refugees fleeing war. Perhaps you find it painful to realize that’s my view.
This is not easy. It will make us cry.
The only thing that will help is if we name one another rightly. Not pro or against. Not right or left. Not terrorist or traitor. But Beloved.
We who seek to follow do it well and we do it badly, often all on the same day, but always we are Beloved.
You and your neighbor both:
You and your enemy both:
I worry that the old oak tree down the hill from my house will not survive much longer.
The average lifespan of a white oak tree is three-hundred years, but this tree has already lived long beyond that. I believe the oldest white oak tree lived to see six hundred, but I doubt that it sat, as mine does, on the edge of a possibly over-watered and over-fertilized golf course.
Not even the grandest tree is immune to the decisions of men and women. Shall we tend forest, pasture cows, or build a golf course? Even these seemingly non-political decisions have something to say about our political commitments, and even the most personal experience can become political.
Politics matter. After all, justice, as Cornel West has said, is what love looks like in public.
I can almost guarantee that you know a woman who sees the face of the man who groped her in the face of our new President.
And I am sure most of us know someone who remembers when their public school teacher began the day with prayer and worries that the faith of his grandchildren is at risk in our now much more secular culture.
Politics is personal. And, yes, lives are at stake.
I will go on choosing silence. I will go on choosing speech. I encourage you to do the same.
Lord, help us to know when to choose the one and when the other.
And let your banner over us be Love.
Best thing i’ve read on the subject, thank you.♥
I love this – “The only thing that will help is if we name one another rightly. Not pro or against. Not right or left. Not terrorist or traitor. But Beloved.”
Discernment is a sign of Christ’s mind in you, Christie, and I know He flourishes there. I was reading a wonderful poem today in a Malcolm Guite book, along with his commentary. He spoke of how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, were all refugees as they fled to Egypt. I don’t know why, but I had never thought of Jesus as a refugee before. And He is yet again in the least of these. How will we treat them? How will we treat Jesus? I am pondering deeply–praying–knowing we need to offer real help, and also at times fearful of those who might enter our country who would do us harm (and have). But Jesus was a refugee. And that’s all I can think of, and I am weeping.
Me too, Lynn, me too.
Divine perspective. Thank you Christie. (from an Aussie, celebrating Australia Day today).
Well said, Mrs. Purifoy. We will need both wisdom and courage in the season ahead of us. May God’s Spirit grant us the necessary grace to speak the right words at the right time.
Christie this is beautiful. You are truly gifted and an incredibly kindhearted person. I am so thankful that our paths have crossed.
Thank you for putting into words how many of us Christians feel…even Canadian Christians. We watch what is happening in the United States and know that what happens to your country impacts ours as well. We are neighbours, and we love you and your country. Thank you for speaking Godly words into an unGodly situation. The analogy of the beautiful white oak brought me close to tears.
Thank you, dear friend.
Christy, we sang “His Banner Over Us is Love” last Sunday morning and the worship pastor teased the young people about it being “from the 80’s” Imagine.
There are reasons true words last so long…. because His banner over us IS still love.
This was such a lovely calm to my soul.
Thank you for this quiet wisdom. Even if I prefer to think that Jesus agrees with me. 😉 as we all do! I have really been feeling broken hearted over what fellow Jesus followers are saying and doing. I confess it has been hard for me to see them as beloved.
The Matthee/Simon analogy is powerful. Surely they did radically disagree. And what’s striking is that when it came to Jesus’s end game, he was carving out a third way that neither man could imagine.
Such true and lovely words, Christie. Thank you.
These are such beautiful words, Christie. So much to process here. Thank you for this.
Christie, I can’t tell you what this post means to me. This past election season has been very lonely for me as one who leans “blue” in a very “red” area. I have had to find ways to still be in relationship with people in my family and church community, even those whose views feel like an attack on my deeply held values. Thank you for the reminder that if I ask, the Lord will give me the courage and wisdom to say the right things at the right time, or to not say anything at all. How short sighted of me to feel that I have to ride this out alone!
Your honest, kind words and perspective to love and work with everyone, not just those who are like us or agree with us on every point, are needed and on point.
Thank you for your gracious, wise words.
Your words and insight are always a gift to me. The Lord is using your voice to add so much to this world. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Thank you for this.
Rebecca, thank you!
I read this post in my email inbox a few days ago – it ministered to me then. Your words are some of the few that I return to again and again online, Christie. Thank you for taking the time to process and create. I’m sure it is hard work, and even harder to live it, but we are all beneficiaries of the beauty (and the truth).
Thank you, Devi. I appreciate that you would take the time to comment. Your words are an encouragement to me.
I keep coming back to this post. Thank you, Christie.