We live in a politically fractured nation. We increasingly listen to news and opinions that confirm our biases but fail to challenge our assumptions. We demonize those who disagree and embrace those who agree. How can we heal the fractures that are around and among us a church? A church must be united around prayer, worship and dirty fingernails.
I prayed for our president this morning. I do not agree with everything that he says and does, but I know to a very small degree the pressures of being in the public eye. Just as I need the prayers of God’s people as a pastor, so our president and our elected leaders need the prayers of God’s people. In Daniel 7 destructive powers were unleashed in the world that were both systemic and demonic. Political leaders are under a great degree of pressure and need our prayer. And we are commanded “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:1-2). No matter your political affiliation, we are called to pray for those in high positions.
Second we unite around worship. Worship centers our hope. Our hopes are not set on the seats of elephants or donkeys in Congress but on the seat of a throne in heaven and the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5–7). While we engage constructively in the political process, our ultimate hope does not rest on the success or failure of such efforts. Our hope rests on the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The early church in the Roman Empire faced deadly policies for Christians, but its worship was fixed on the One on the throne. Without worship, our imaginations are stunted, and we become devastated at losses or too elated at success. Worship expands our imaginations and perspective so that we can persevere in the face of setbacks and remain humble in the face of success. Worship properly centers our hopes and tempers expectations of our own abilities.
With prayer and worship, let us get our fingernails dirty. Paul concludes a very other-worldly and theological chapter on resurrection with, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). The hope of the resurrection provokes us to work in concrete ways because we know that, regardless of the visible outcome, it is not in vain. We should get our fingernails dirty in the work of the kingdom in all spheres, engaging in the work of restoring what sin has destroyed (Isa 61:4). Sin has destroyed both our relationship with God and our world. The hope of resurrection provokes us to engage our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools, our political system, our justice system and our businesses. In all spheres, we seek to restore what sin has destroyed and know that our labor is not in vain.
May we be known for what we construct more than what we criticize. We will not prevail because of how stridently we oppose racism or bigotry or homosexuality or abortion. The church will prevail because of its love. Christianity prevailed over the powerful Roman Empire because of its sacrificial love in the face of diseases like the Black Plague.* May our prayer and worship fuel our engagement in the little acts of love that demonstrate the presence of God’s kingdom.
* See further in Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (San Francisco: Harper, 1997) .