NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST May 14, 2021
Lutherans are not bound to silence in the public square. We are free to be faithful — free to speak and free to act in love for our neighbor and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The needs of our neighbors compel us to act. The promises of God fill those actions with hope and joy. Love looks always toward the good of the neighbor, while faith looks to God. Both are necessary for civil discourse. Loveless faith fails to reach out to the neighbor in need. Faithless love rushes into the fray without Christ.
For the sake of our families, congregations and ourselves, we are called to be the salt and light that changes the conversation. Fruitful conversation can only begin with an eye toward the neighbor. Selfish-ness driven by fear poisons participation. Self-preservation chokes out selflessness. But love motivates engagement in a completely different frame of mind. If you have ever participated in a March for Life, you know what it is. “Nobody in attendance is marching for themselves,” wrote blogger Matt Walsh. “Nobody is demanding rights or privileges for them-selves. Everyone is marching on behalf of those who cannot march.”
That’s why the March for Life is a great example of how civil engagement need not debase the participants. Rather, when focused on the neighbor, it is truly uplifting and a source of peaceful joy. While anger breeds anger, love cultivates love. Caring about the weakest person opens hearts to more and more people. Such love does not require ideological agreement. It flows from a common humanity.
The terrible poison of identity politics is that it sorts people into a thousand different tribes and then demands that they hate one another. Toward this end, identity politics invents new “sins” for the purpose of identifying and isolating people by their sins. The invention of new sins is only part of the problem. The deeper problem arises when people are identified by their sins. Losing sight of our common creation in God’s image and redemption in His blood makes love impossible.
For this reason, Christian thought has always distinguished sin from the person. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is one way of expressing that distinction. This maxim is flatly rejected by the purveyors of identity politics. They loudly claim that it is hateful and disrespectful even to think that something is a sin. But not only is this distinction biblical, it is vital to love. Without this distinction, the Public discourse today is in a sorry state. Internet technology mixed with identity politics helps to drive its degeneration. Communication at the speed of light does not encourage thoughtful deliberation; and a flickering screen cannot convey the image of God like a human face can. Ill-considered and intemperate words fly — words that would never be spoken face-to-face.
Faith and love are the antidote for poisoned public discourse tyranny of identity politics requires ideological purity as a condition of love. Christians are freed from this burden. Ideological opponents are not enemies but fellow travelers. Conversation is about helping one another see Jesus. That changes the tone drastically. What changes the tone of discourse even more is faith that looks to heaven. One reason that politics has become so caustic is that, for many, it has become a religion. The law imprinted on every human heart looks for an ultimate source of good — that is, a god. Those who reject a transcendent creator look instead to the power of government.
When politics becomes the end-all and be-all of life, desperation sets in. Political victory must come at all costs. Those, ho-ever, who have the gift of faith in the One True God can engage in public discourse with a confident tranquility. They can exercise their duty to speak and act for their neighbor without being burdened by a need to right every wrong. Knowing that God will take care of the big picture also means that fear fades away. If their policy preferences do not come to pass, it is not the end of the world. Jesus remains both “Lord” and “King,” as we sing throughout the liturgy.
The peace that comes with such faith is truly freeing. It removes the anxiety of fending for one’s self and frees Christians to focus on their neighbors — both the weak and the strong, both those who love and those who hate. The eye of faith that looks to God in heaven enables an ever clearer and more loving view of the neighbor on earth. “We implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us ... in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord” (Luther’s Post-Communion Collect).
The Rev. Jonathan Lange is pastor of Our Saviour and St. Paul’s Lutheran Churches in Evanston and Kemmerer, Wyo. Reprinted with permission of the LCMS.
Hear more about the FDA’s decision to lift in-person requirements for dispensing abortion drugs with Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life.
Need help with issues like abortion, reproductive ethics, and end-of-life concerns and decisions? Click here for an entire library of articles worth reading!
“God has placed each of us here at this very moment in time for His purpose: to be lights in the darkness, to be warriors in His battles, to be the hands and feet and voices that bring the good news of salvation to the whole lost world. He asks us to strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees, to open our mouths to the words He will give us, and to run the race to the finish line.” –Dr. Barbara Lane Geistfeld
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