A transition in national leadership; a division into tribes and territories; and a turning point in history containing both great promise and great peril: Is that today’s headline or is that today’s text? Yes. It is both the situation in ancient Israel and in America today.
In ancient Israel, Joshua had replaced Moses. The Hebrews conquered the Promised Land and each tribe took up their territory. But with that territory came temptation: Temptation to follow other gods; temptation to fall away from the Lord.
In contemporary America, Biden may replace Trump. Or Trump may defeat Biden. We won’t know for sure until all the court challenges are settled. But what is settled is this: America has divided itself into tribes, each with their territory. This state is red. That state is blue. This red state has a blue foothold. That blue state has a red stronghold. Our Thanksgiving tables will be divided. And where will we be? Right in the middle. Which begs the question: What on earth should we do in a time of division, anger, and uncertainty?
Well, we might take a page from Joshua and the Bible by reminding folks what is most important and what binds us all together: This is America. We honor the rule of law – and we honor each other as fellow Americans, and more importantly as sisters and brothers in Christ. It is important for us to remember that – especially when others have forgotten that.
I’ve read that conservatives and liberals tend to connect with different values: Conservatives tend to be committed to the moral values of group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity. Liberals tend to be drawn to the moral values of equality, fairness, and care for the vulnerable.
While these values are different, they are not mutually-exclusive. In fact, they’re complementary. What’s more, they’re necessary to keep together. Group loyalty if not counterbalanced by care for the vulnerable can result in tyranny. Equality if not counterbalanced by respect for authority can result in anarchy.
What we seem to have forgotten is that we need each other. Our system of checks and balances central to our founders’ vision and enshrined in our Constitution recognizes that there will be disagreement, but it provides a way for those differences to be resolved peacefully. We have that way before us – all we have to do is follow it.
That’s basically what Joshua is telling the Hebrews: They have the way – God’s way – which will lead them into a good, blessed future. All they need to do is follow it. What Joshua is talking about is torah. The Hebrew word torah means “law,” but it also can be translated as “way.” God’s law is the way. What Joshua is saying is: You have the way before you. As you keep to it, God will bless you. I think the same is true in a parallel way for America. As we keep the law and follow the law and honor each other, we have a good way ahead of us – which, yes, will be hard and contentious, but it can work and will work if we will simply work together.
You and I cannot control the national political climate, but we can control the way we are with each other. When we find someone who differs from us, we can think the best about them – not the worst. We can talk with them respectfully even when disagreeing. We can do our best to be decent actors, and we can continue to participate in the political process, which is part of our calling as God’s people. Voting for our leaders; supporting them when they are right; and opposing them with they are wrong is part of our calling to care for God’s world and follow Christ’s way.
This is an emotional, tense time. We have a pandemic, economic instability, social unrest, and an exhausting election that is still to be fully decided. We cannot know what tomorrow holds, but we do know the One who holds tomorrow and us in the palm of his gracious hand. Let us keep faith in that One – and let us keep faith with one another. Let us continue to work to bless each other and our nation. Let us continue to stand for what is right, decent, and good. Focus on doing what is within your power to do, trusting that God will continue to do what is within God’s power to do.
As for me and my house, I’m going to look to God. I’m going to keep believing in God’s good way of love, justice, and peace. I’m going to keep believing in America and loving America and doing my best to be good citizen. Let us all do the same. Let us never lose hope. And let us continue to walk with God and work with each other to bring about a better tomorrow for us all.