The first 12 years of my life were spent in the United States Air Force. My father had joined during the Vietnam war and remained in the service until he retired lieutenant colonel many years later. Growing up on an Air Force Base is a very unique experience and not for the faint of heart.
We moved every three three years but there were parts of living on a base that we could depend upon to be consistent no matter where we lived. Before every event including movies we stood for the National Anthem. At 5 o’clock no matter what we were doing we would stop and in reverence face the direction of the flag as it was lowered. It didn’t matter if we could see it from where we were. We always knew the direction in which to turn. I can remember jumping of swings, dismantling bikes, and getting out of swimming pools as if it were the most natural thing to do.
Another part of living on a military base was an expectation that we children would behave according to our father’s rank. My father was an officer and there were certain expectations to which the daughter of an officer should adhere. How I behaved said everything about my father’s ability to lead his men. If I were an unruly child and spotted by the Commanding Officer it could become an influential factor in my father receiving a promotion or being passed over. For an unruly child meant he was an ineffective leader. A well behaved child meant effective leadership. The fundamental question was if an officer can’t lead his own family, how could he lead his subordinates?
In 4th grade I got into a fight with Cheryl Whitlark who was at one time my best friend. I cannot begin to remember what the fight was about but I remember she pulled my hair and I kicked her in the shins.
Mrs. Johnson, our teacher who was a rather frightening woman, called us to the side. She had a natural hunch in her posture but hunched down even more to meet us eye to eye.
She looked at me and said “Isn’t your father an officer?”
With shame and downcast eyes I nodded yes.
Miss Johnson then said, and this stuck to my soul for all these years, “Then why aren’t you acting like it?”
As a child I knew plenty of kids whose dads used fear to get them to behave. My dad used love and he never pressured us out of professional concern. He didn’t need to because we at some point learned the rules without ever being told. I wanted to please my dad because of my love for him and because of the understanding at such an early age that I should.
The same is true as a follower of Christ. Isn’t my Father the King?
Never in my life has my heart been so burdened by the way we Christians are behaving. It keeps me up at night and has become my heart’s cry. We are not reflecting our Father well. We are failing at showing the world what the love of Christ looks like. We are not magnifying Him, we are diminishing Him.
On Facebook I see post after post of political nature but rather than trying to post about what the person believes, it is a post making fun of or name calling a person of the opposite party. I see posts from people I see in church on Sundays that attack “stupid liberals” or it demonizes immigrants or makes fun of transgender people. Sometimes, in insensitive humor, they belittle an entire people because they have accents. (My mother has an accent and learning English as a second language is an incredible accomplishment). Their very next post is about loving Jesus and they tell everyone on the internet they are a Christian. And I just want to scream.
What we put into cyberspace reflects who we are as children of the King. How we approach people who have been deemed “less than” or different says everything about the heart of Christ; the same heart that told us the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
Keep in mind during the time of Jesus and well before, Samaritans were despised by Jews. In the Parable a man is beaten, robbed, and left half dead. A priest and the Levite, both religious men, cross the road to avoid someone they deemed unworthy even though he clearly needed assistance. Think about that. Jesus, a Jew, was talking to Jews and the example He used of someone reflecting His Father’s heart was someone on the opposite side. It was the samaritan who showed his Father’s heart by having mercy.
He didn’t cross the road to kick him while he was down. He didn’t question whether or not the man was worthy of his help. How could he, after all, be the judge of that? How can any of us?
Imagine a modern day parable. Do you believe, as a Christian, Jesus would have changed His parable to include qualifiers? Would the good samaritan have been good if before helping the man he first established if the man was of the same political party… or had has his green card…or was heterosexual… or was pro life…or had no addictions…or believed in his God.
He didn’t put any qualifiers then and, I believe, He would not now. Neighbor. That’s all. Someone who needs help receives it. Period.
God’s heart is not always expressed because of one’s religious affiliation or perceived place in the world. The Parable of the Good Samaritan in fact shows us quite the exact opposite. The two men who told the world they were godly men really weren’t by their actions and their lack of compassion and mercy. They were Jesus’ example how not to be.
I am no Biblical scholar but I do love Jesus. As children of the King isn’t our first directive to reflect Our Father’s Heart? Should that not supersede our political affiliations? And is it possible calling our neighbors names or disregarding their plight or posting vicious memes and loving Jesus are not compatible with one another? Each time we do we are breaking that which He said was the greatest command and the way in which we inherit eternal life.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.
It. Really. Is. That. Simple.
I desperately want to make my Father look good. The world looks at my behavior as a reflection on Him. What I say, do, and post matters. This is a pivotal time not just in our nation, but in our church. The world is watching. More than that, Our Father is watching. Am I making Him smile by loving my neighbors, regardless of what they do or don’t believe, or am I hurting His heart by showing the world the love of Jesus doesn’t make us more loving, it makes us hateful?
As I examine my heart I hear this question posed
“Isn’t your Father the king?”
I reply “Yes.”
Is the response I receive, “I can tell!” or “Why aren’t you acting like it?”
What is yours?