We weren’t watching a debate last night, we were watching ourselves. The debate last night was a mirror. Take a good long look. This moment is showing us who we are collectively as Americans. This is us. In the days following, American Christians should search our spirit. Who are we, and how can we meet this moment?
What matters is what we do in our day. This is the time we’ve been given. How will we live the way of Jesus? It’s been said that politics runs downstream of culture. Last night was proof. We’ve been like this for awhile. I’m not suggesting this moment is “the worst it’s ever been”. Read some of Alexander Hamilton’s essays, and some early criticism of “King” George Washington. Instead, we must ask, how can our future look like the future Jesus describes?
Bonhoeffer was right when he said, “The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them.” Last night is what happens when public discourse is not about engaging ideas but about enflaming your tribe. To this I simply and gladly admit Jesus is better than us. He left heaven to enter the hell we’ve created on earth, and rescue us from an eternity confined to ourselves away from God.
To that end, American Christians must hold love and truth together. This is subversive, counter-cultural, and it will cost us. But the privilege we cling to is not worth having if it sacrifices love or truth for power. Many of us have traded our love for truth, and others have traded truth for love. This tradeoff costs us both. Love and truth find a home together in the person of Jesus.
If a sitting president cannot condemn white supremacy, let the Church rise up and say it ourselves. But the Church must also say, in condemning white supremacy, that Jesus forgives repentant white supremacists. Whichever of these statements disrupts your reality gives rise to whether you need to supplement your truth with love, or your love with truth as the fullest expression of Jesus.
If a former vice president cannot advocate for the unborn, let the Church rise up and live the pro-life views we claim the way of Jesus espouses. The Church cannot just say “abortion is wrong”. We must go outside the city gates, like our ancient brothers and sisters in Rome, and rescue the orphan and care for the neglected. We must embrace a love that lives the truth.
The ancient words of Isaiah are alive and well today in the Spirit of Jesus: “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and honesty cannot enter…but then God’s own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.” (Isaiah 59:14, 16b)
Now is not the time for American Christians to throw up their hands and say, “I’m done.” We must be the local expression of Jesus’ body in the here and now. Jesus is still rescuing. We must defeat “them”—whoever that is—by dying for them in love. If you or I are not willing to do that, we will never see a resurrection in our day, a revival of the Spirit of Jesus.