Generosity under Pressure

or, How to Win in November No Matter What

Telford Work
Montecito Covenant Church

August 15, 2004

The American feedback loop. I am glad the Olympics have started. I needed the breather from presidential politics. I’m ready for a race that is a literal race. You know? One that lasts ten seconds rather than two years. One where a finish line does the judging. Most of all, I need a breather from all the fighting. I need a while away from statements like this, which came from two adjacent letters to the editor of the South Coast Beacon several weeks ago:

Could it be that those stolen documents [on Sandy Berger’s person] strengthen Bush’s case while revealing Clinton, Kerry and the Democrats to be nothing more than al-Qaeda enablers? –R.E. Lynn, Santa Barbara

President Bush, with unparalleled arrogance, masquerades as a door-to-door salesman for democracy and human rights. Yet, post-invasion Iraq labors under the jackboot of a foreign military occupation and its hand-picked puppet government…. –Robert Baruch, Goleta

Both of these letters illustrate the bitter polarization right now in American politics. Robert Samuelson described it in a nice column in The Washington Post:

Politics is increasingly a world unto itself, inhabited by people convinced of their own moral superiority: conspicuously, the religious right among Republicans; and upscale liberal elites among Democrats. Their agendas are hard to enact because they’re minority agendas. So politicians instinctively focus on delivering psychic benefits. Each side strives to make its political “base” feel good about itself. People should be confirmed in their moral superiority.

Polarization and nastiness are not side effects. They are the game. You feel good about yourself because the other side is so fanatical, misguided, corrupt and dishonest. Because real differences between party programs have narrowed, remaining differences are exaggerated. Drab policy debates become sensational showdowns – one side or the other is “destroying” the schools, the environment or the economy. Every investigation aims to expose the other side’s depravity: One side’s Whitewater becomes the other’s Halliburton.

Entertainment and politics merge, because both strive to satisfy psychic needs. Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore are more powerful political figures than most senators, because they provide more moral reinforcement. ...

Politics should reflect and, at its best, conciliate the nation’s differences. Increasingly, it does the opposite. It distorts, amplifies and inflames conflicts. It’s a turnoff to vast numbers of centrist voters who do not see the world in such uncompromising absolutes. This may be the real polarization: between the true believers on both sides and everyone else.

Perhaps you are one of those True Believers. Perhaps you are one of the turned off ones. Either way, this talk is meant for you.

In the United We Stand days after September 11, the American political dynamic was expressed as national unity. By the 2002 election it had split into two opposing varieties of the same basic message. This is the last chance to stop our beloved America from sliding into fascism. This is the last chance to stop our beloved America from losing the next Great War. We can take care of everyone better than they can.

Pitched battles reinforce every conviction that our opponents mean real harm. With each volley the True Believers’ argument gets louder and louder like a feedback loop until the screech drowns out everything else. Our whole future is at stake! We need to prevail! We can’t let them take it away! They aren’t just wrong, they’re out of touch! They’re menacing! They’re stupid! They’re immoral! They’re evil! Screeeeeeeech!!

Many of the True Believers really hate and fear each other. Those are strong words, but I think they’re accurate. These people regularly pepper their speech with put-downs, dismissals, and cheap shots. Yet within each tribe the tone is intensely loyal. True Believers love and protect their own. They pull punches, tolerate exaggerations, and correct patiently, if at all.

This is even true among Samuelson’s “everyone else.” In the Turned-Off tribe conversational etiquette works like this: You remain calm and a little stoical. You listen respectfully and speak softly. You don’t interrupt. You refute others indirectly rather than taking them head-on. You get points for hedging (e.g., saying “well, I dunno” rather than “you’re wrong”), not being sure, and suggesting skepticism about the whole business. Above all, you conclude the exchange within sixty seconds. Break any of these rules and you are a True Believer. You’re a zealot. You’re out of the tribe. And you’re not good for America either.

Surrendering to any one of these tribes’ logics – whether by making human flags in 2001, taking sides in 2002-2004, or opting out along the way – is addicting. Throwing yourself into a campaign’s psychology is exhilarating. It’s more powerful than just rooting for your team in the World Series or the World Cup. “We get to be on the side of good versus evil!” Turning off and dropping out is not so much exhilarating as satisfying and liberating. “Can’t you see the bigger picture? Can’t we all just get along? Your bickering is ruining the country! A pox on both your parties! We independents are above the fray! We are better than you!”

So far I haven’t said anything expressly about the Church. I haven’t needed to. So-called Christian radio sounds like the rest of talk radio. Many American Christians are just as frantic as the wider electorate, sometimes even more. Others have decided they’re too spiritual for all this mess. Every year sees new scenarios of the end-times where contemporary politics turns into chapters in the book of Revelation. These dynamics are tearing the Church apart. Have you felt the pressure? For decades strident politics from pulpits has motivated True Believers, fatigued loyal dissenters, driven away visitors, turned off independents, and divided congregations.

Partisan politics’ ability to drive a sword right through the Church shows the power it has over us. The campaigns are telling us that politics is what matters in America and America is what matters in politics, and many of us are agreeing. They are telling us that Republican or Democratic goals are our ultimate goals, and many of us are agreeing. Others are disagreeing, resigning themselves to being ruled by True Believers and doing their best to tune them out.

A different spirit: generosity through hope. This church has been in a several month long series on the Lord’s Prayer. A pastor friend of mine once summed up a series of his own in one profound line: “Because God is our Father, our lives are different.” I want to develop that truth – that because God is our Father, our lives are different – by comparing the spirit of our times with that of passages from several letters of the New Testament.

Revelation is strong stuff. Its prophecies of plagues, persecutions, judgments, famines, disasters, and the end of the world dwarf even the worst threats from Al-Qaeda or whatever world villain you fear most. I think it’s safe to say that things are worse here than even under a Kerry or a second Bush Administration!

Yet even after all that death and destruction the book closes with these remarkable words:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him [or her] the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his [or her] share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:17, 20).

That is about as far as it gets from a 2004 campaign ad. Revelation closes not with sunny optimism, fear, bitterness, or resignation, but with invitations, a warning, and a prayer.

I find this attitude astounding. It is not denial or cheap optimism or naïveté; the writer knows the danger. It is not the hypocritical conciliation our President-Elect will offer to try to get along with the party he has helped defeat. After all, here in Revelation it is still October, so to speak; the battles are still raging. This attitude is something else entirely: generosity born of hope in the midst of evil. “Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift,” the prophet says. Even the Romans who are killing Christians. Even the people who are handing believers over.

What is this “water of life”? It is not the oppressive stuff of the Nile, the Euphrates, or the Potomac (cf. Jer. 2:13-18), but the water of God. It is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). It is total fellowship with the God of Israel. Generosity doesn’t get more generous.

Extending such generosity is costly. The bride will be the martyrs of Revelation 6. It would be easy to rise above the fray and join the sixty-seconds-or-less tribe. Keeping quiet would let the bride go underground and stay alive. Yet the Spirit in her is still causing her to call out, “come,” and reveal her position. Hospitality is more important than security.

And consider at the longing that goes along with it. The Spirit and the bride aren’t just inviting the thirsty in for living water. They are also inviting the Lord Jesus to come and deliver them. Their generosity depends on the conviction that Jesus will be faithful.

That sounds wrong. The Spirit needs the Son to rescue him? Well, why not? The Son needed the Spirit to revive him after the cross! Now that the Spirit is the Church’s “down payment” on the Son’s promise to come and fulfill every promise, doesn’t the Spirit need the Son to return in order to relieve him of grieving the world’s sins and interceding with groans and sighs beyond words? In fact, isn’t the Spirit the author of our prayers for Lord Jesus to come?

This is not how a campaign works. A campaign inspires confidence by describing America as strong, true, unique, proud among nations, and so on. However, voters can’t believe this too strongly, or we might feel safe to vote the other way! We have to believe our lives, finances, civil liberties, and national pride are at grave risk, and ultimately depend on this candidate. For the election to matter, America has to be a goal as much as an asset.

Revelation’s churches are not nearly as comfortable as America ’s. Why is there no such insecurity in this passage? Because the goal was already reached! Jesus already assured John at the beginning of the vision that “I died and behold I live, and I have the keys to death and the grave” (1:17-18). The good news is a celebration, not a campaign. Jesus has freed us from American insecurities. The wedding is on. Crucifying the groom didn’t stop it. Exterminating the bride won’t stop it either.

Turning from the bride’s serenity back to screeching political anxiety rejects God’s grace. It acts as if it matters more that President Bush or Kerry has the keys to the Oval Office than that Jesus has the keys to death and the grave, and that policy matters more than loving one’s neighbor. It denies the resurrection.

Here is another difference. A campaign is a balancing act between being all about us (meaning the nation) and all about me (meaning the individual). Not this passage! It is not self-absorbed, because Jesus is the conqueror. The bride looks to the Spirit she wants to share, and vice versa. The two of them wait for the bridegroom. They call across the world to invite strangers to be engaged too. They care not about how the bride looks to herself, but about how she looks to him (Rev. 2-3, 19:7-8, 21:2-22:5).

Voting out of our own fears or our own dreams does what Jesus refused to do. It puts our own agenda ahead of the Father’s. We don’t pray “Father, our will be done in heaven as it is on earth.” That is what the devil tells Jesus to do in the wilderness! We don’t turn stones into dollars, armies, diplomats, prestige, or any other thing we think we need most. Instead we pray, “Father, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We cannot manipulate the Spirit. We can only receive the Spirit.

Little things like our political attitudes matter because our works and our emotions are signs of our real beliefs. If our lives aren’t different, then we don’t really think God is our Father.

Some signs in my own life point in embarrassing directions. Since 9/11 I have been doing a lot of “checking.” I check the news often – not just because it is interesting, but also out of a nagging worry that a disaster or big event might have happened since a few hours ago. I check the markets. I check the polls. That’s not hope, and it doesn’t yield generosity.

I think I do this because I want to feel safe. Yet I don’t. What I learn usually tempts me to check even more. It feeds addictions that I don’t like and don’t want, but find hard to resist.

Am I the only addict in the room? Perhaps you don’t even follow politics; but do a little adjusting and you will see this talk is about you too. We are a world of news junkies, sports junkies, envy junkies, sex-and-violence junkies, video game junkies, conspiracy junkies, talk-show gossip junkies, substance junkies, popularity junkies, shame junkies, and all the rest. What do you really believe in? Where does pressure drive you? To costly generosity, or elsewhere?

(In)action items. Now at this point a proper sermon is supposed to shift from convicting you about what’s wrong to offering a “how-to” list for making things right. Everyone ready for three action items? Well, you’re not going to get them. I’ll show you why with more contrasts between American politics and Christian faith.

Do you know that electric atmosphere at the polling place as it hits us all over again that that it is now up to us? For two years it has been out of our hands. Now, for this one moment, the government is on our shoulders. There is a kind of sacred stillness as we step inside the booth into total political privacy and self-determination. In that instant of constitutional sovereignty we vote alone. Finally, there is a sense of decisiveness to putting the ballot in the box. It is back out of our hands. There is nothing else to do but go home and watch the returns (and nowadays the lawsuits).

If the bride were in this position, then writing a task list for her might make sense. But she is not, because the Spirit is with her.

American politics cannot even dream of the assurance that conviction brings. Look at the assurance in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rom. 5:1-5).

The Spirit is with us, so suffering leads to hope. Our politicians try to use the word “hope,” but they can’t bring hope in the Christian sense at all. Hope is what you still have when your brothers and sisters are perishing for the crime of believing, the stars are falling from the sky, the seas are turning to blood, the water supply is radioactive, the sun no longer shines, and people are begging for death to come (Rev. 8-9). Real confidence doesn’t wait for comfort!

Times are bad in the first century for Christians and just about everyone else. But listen to the joy surging through this passage in 1 Peter, written to churches that feel like “aliens and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11) in a hostile world:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God. … Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful creator (1 Pet. 4:12-19).

The Spirit is with us, so suffering leads to joy and honor. Christians squabble about what it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Do we speak unknown tongues? Do we get other gifts like supernatural knowledge and healing? Well, whatever else it does, the Holy Spirit’s anointing gives us the power to do the Father’s will, just as it empowered Jesus to obey the Father from the wilderness all the way to the cross, and that it lets us rejoice and glorify God even when that takes us disciples along the same paths of suffering.

I think one reason why the Spirit and the bride are calling for the Son to come is that they need his courage. They need his glory. Jesus is the one on which the Spirit first rested. He has already walked this path. He has already loved his enemies and prayed for his persecutors. They need the Son not just to return in glory at the very end to rescue them once and for all, but also to stay with them in glory until the end of the age. They need him to lend them his patience and generosity while they suffer and grieve.

Falling back into fear, bitterness, or resignation acts as if we were alone when the Spirit and the Son are actually seeing us through. It forgets that Christ is faithful. It denies his gift of the Spirit. It fails to acknowledge him before others. That in turn invites Jesus to deny us before the Father (Matt. 10:32-33).

I said that the Spirit is with the bride; but it might be better to say that the bride is with the Spirit. In an election, it is momentarily up to us, then out of our hands. But in our passage, it is never just up to the bride. The Spirit speaks first. In fact, the Spirit has taken the lead right from the beginning of this book. The Spirit has showed John the opening vision of Jesus and inspired Jesus’ stack of letters to his churches. Indeed, the Spirit has taken the lead in realizing the Father’s will ever since brooding over the waters in Genesis 1:2!

Yet it is never just up to the Spirit either. An amazing thing happened when Jesus poured his Spirit into the heart of his bride and anointed her head: he delegated the Spirit’s authority. In effect, he gave us the Spirit’s initiative. Now the bride has taken the lead! Not from the Spirit, of course – “the Spirit blows where he wills” – but with and in the Spirit. Having the Spirit puts us on the leading edge. We aren’t just aliens and exiles; we’re pioneers and settlers. What we do on earth – testifying, forgiving, binding, loosing, opening eternity’s gates, inviting the world to enter them, and calling on the Son to come too – will have been done in heaven.

I love the doctrine of the Trinity for the crazy truth it uncovers. The Father has brought us into his Word, which is the Son. And the Father has realized his will in us, which is the Spirit. To appreciate this fully requires mixing metaphors. In the Son we follow Christ, as the body follows the head. Yet in the Spirit we lead, as the bride calls for the bridegroom. We do not trade off leading and following, being in charge and being out of power, the way we do on Election Day. Instead, we work together. “We know that we abide in [God] and [God] in us,” 1 John says, “because he has given us of his own Spirit” (4:13). We always follow and we always lead.

You can feel the difference this makes throughout the New Testament. Because we abide in each other, “love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:17-18). Hatred and resignation too (1 John 4:20-21). Anxiety, aggression, and despair give way to the calm confidence of knowing we are never alone.

Does all this apply to the world of politics? You bet. Titus is told to

exhort and reprove with all authority. Remind [the church] to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by people and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life (Titus 2:15-3:7).

Doesn’t that sound like an antidote to power politics – whether it’s in the polling place, the workplace, the classroom, or around the dinner table? The Spirit is with us, so submitting displays authority. Oh, we remember our old vices. That’s why we sympathize with our poor rulers! Yet God has freed us from having to beat them, join them, surrender to them, imitate them, or leave them alone. Now we can freely respect them as we go about our own business as God’s Church. We have gone from being fellow rebels to God’s heirs. The Spirit has given us a new style of politics: a gentle obedience that is really authority, leadership, and evangelism.

Are you ready to abide in God and submit with courtesy, whoever wins in November?

“But Bush is a fascist!” “But Kerry is an appeaser!” Well, first, let me suggest very gently that you might need to get a grip. Your trustworthy friends who support these people might not be as deluded as you think. (You do have some, right? I do.) Remember, there are True Believers on your side who want you scared. It makes you pliable and puts them in control. What they need is Christians who won’t be played, who don’t panic, and who hold onto our authority. That would change the rules of politics.

However, maybe you’re right. Maybe Bush is a dictator. Maybe Kerry is a defeatist. I have trusted friends who think both of those things. Then keep in mind that Paul is referring to Roman emperors and governors. They demand to be worshipped! They are killing Christians who refuse! You see, even if all the conspiracy theories circulating through your wing of the ideological spectrum are true, Titus still applies. Withholding generosity towards your enemies would still be self-defeating. It would turn you back into the very people you fear.

Remember, because God is our Father, our lives are different. The Holy Spirit is with us! That means the mindset of moving ourselves from a bad place to a good one is dead wrong. God has already moved us into a life in his church that frees us to be faithful under these pressures. (Not from them, mind you, but under them.) These biblical passages are not treating our fears as imaginary. The threats can be no less real than the cross that saves us from them. The Son was crucified so people like Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector – people who work for each other’s mortal enemies – could be liberated from their sources of animosity and share the table in Christ’s new community of peace. Think of that when you see a bumper sticker you want to rip off of someone else’s car! Your serenity was won by the blood of Jesus.

In fact, there is also a place at that table for Nathanael the jaded independent. (See his line in John 1:45-46: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”)

After Jesus has done this beautiful new thing, can you imagine Simon or Matthew going back to their old rivalry? Can you imagine Nathanael going back to his old cynicism? I can imagine them being tempted to, when politics comes up around the campfire. But after all they have been through, can you imagine them giving into those temptations?

That is what we do when we surrender to conventional politics: we spurn the atonement. We shrug off the Father’s will and try to secure our own salvations – like the Galatian churches surrendered to ethnic politics and re-segregated their Jews and Gentiles. Ironically, our task is a kind of inaction: not to backslide into our old lives of frenzy, anxiety, and resignation.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and miserable worldly things, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Gal. 4:8-9).

You can hear Paul’s amazement here. After becoming an heir of the Spirit, you want to go back to being a hack?! “For freedom Christ has set us free! Stand fast, then, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

The Spirit is with us, so we are free. If we Christian tax collectors, zealots, and skeptics surrender to our old ways, we will find ourselves consumed by each other – conceited, competitive, and envious. Our nostalgia will strangle our hope. “Do not gratify the desires of the flesh,” Paul says. It leads to what we see in American politics at its worst: idolatry, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, partisanship, envy, and the other bad habits of the violent world that tried and failed to defeat Christ (Gal. 5:19-21, cf. 4:29). Instead, walk by the Spirit. Then we produce fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-26). And we show the world another way.

I am not saying not to vote! You have the authority. I am not saying whom to vote for! Reasonable people can disagree, and reasonable people can be undecided. I am not saying anything goes! There are political stands the Church has to take as the Church – one famous example was the Barmen Declaration in Nazi Germany. I am not saying to be unconcerned when things go wrong! Lots of things will go very wrong in the next four years, no matter who wins. Grieve them, speak up against evildoers, and work for change, all as the Spirit prompts us. And I am not saying that all political views are equally valid. I am right.

All I mean by “inaction” is not losing our focus. Resist the assumption of American politics that we have to be our own saviors. Christ defeated it like God defeated Pharaoh. Don’t go back! Don’t even think of going back! Buying into that assumption effectively changes the words of Revelation, conjuring new fears and removing their comforts (22:18-19).

Greater freedom from a greater problem. I have developed all this using national politics, and some of you apolitical types have been patient with me, but the problem is much broader and deeper. Fortunately, so is our freedom. You have probably heard many times how Christ has freed us from sin and death. Well, Christ has freed us from much more than those. Christ has also freed English speakers and Spanish speakers in California from having to take sides against each other. Christ has freed women and men from the battle of the sexes. Christ has freed the old and the young from the generation gap and the fight for Social Security. Christ has freed the world’s peoples from the clash of civilizations. Christ has freed athletes from obsession with winning and artists from preoccupation with fame. Christ has freed the powerful and the poor from having to tie each other’s hands. Christ has freed workplaces, schools, and churches from petty power politics. Hallelujah! All these things have been transcended – not just wished away, but put away – through the blood of the cross and the breath of the resurrection.

By the way, these are not only American problems. The same assumptions and dynamics drive other nation-states, as well as NATO, the European Community, and other regional blocs, the United Nations, what’s left of communism, radical and militant Islam, international business, ethnic tribes, and linguistic-cultural groups. Craig M. Gay calls the spirit of our times “practical atheism,” or living as if God doesn’t exist (Gay 1998). Today the headlines across the world are frantic. If you recall, they were frantic even before September 11. The War on Terror only increased the anxiety. This is because we – whoever we are – are always in danger. We are in peril whether we are winning or losing, in power or out of power, many or few. America’s heart is the world’s heart.

There is no better summary of this new reality than Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 13. “These three things remain,” he tells the church in Corinth: “faith (which means living through trust in God’s goodness), hope (which means acting with confidence in God’s power to fulfill his intentions), and love” (which means putting God and neighbor before oneself). A trusting, hoping, loving church is a fearless, hateless, self-denying church. It is also a refuge for those who fear, hate, and are self-centered. It heeds the good news. It pursues the will of the Father. It loves its enemies like crazy and prays without ceasing for its persecutors. It does not worry about tomorrow, but acts generously out of trust in its providential Father. It does not follow its flesh back to Egypt but follows the Spirit forward to the frontier. It looks like the Sermon on the Mount, like Paul on his missions, like the young Church in Acts, and above all like Jesus on his way to the cross and to the Father’s right hand.

When I think about how these virtues might look today, the picture I get in my mind is the black Church during the civil rights movement. Talk about fear, hate, persecution, bad faith, and all the rest! But in a leader like Martin Luther King, Jr. you find trust, confidence, and unselfishness. Those three things remained, and so they and he and his movement overcame their own hatred and fears and needs for self-assertion over others, and helped white America do the same thing. The Church in America hasn’t seen victories like that since, I think because it has never been as faithful, hopeful, or loving as it was then. Can you imagine either “the Christian left” or “the Christian right” acting this way nowadays?

Conclusion. I have a few final questions. I sense this is a pretty healthy church in these matters. But we all have our quiet addictions, political or otherwise. So:

  • Are we burdened with fears, divisions, and battles like these? I certainly am. Then let’s stand fast with the Spirit and the bride. Let’s identify our weaknesses, understand them, and repent of them. Let’s live like the free people of these New Testament letters and the saints who have followed them. Here’s a suggestion: when you and I face temptations to turn back, let’s resist them by praying the Lord’s Prayer. Just those few words will reframe everything.
  • Do we know others with these burdens? If our neighbors are breaking under the pressure of self-determination, then let’s extend God’s own generosity. Let’s include them in the bride’s and the Spirit’s life of peace, security, and freedom and then invite them to stay.
  • Someday things will get harder, and not just because the Olympics will end. We can expect further terrorist attacks. Eventually one will probably succeed. Do we want to be generous then? Then let’s cultivate a spirit of Christlike generosity now. We can do that with prayer for our enemies, forgiveness, mercy, courage, non-violence, compassion, sacrifice, and fellowship.
  • And if God hasn’t moved you into this new place, then come and take the water of life as a gift. Come and be our sister or brother. Our opinions will sometimes drive each other crazy … but it sure beats politics as usual.

God’s ultimate response to these needs is as full as the Father’s will and as filling as the Holy Spirit. It is the whole life of the bride. And it has already been given.