“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).
THERE IS A scene in the 2005 movie “Kingdom of Heaven” where soldiers, fatigued with war and facing the prospect of more war, hear their leader convince them to take up arms once again by yelling out that “God wills it!” But what is the will of God for us all?
For those of you who draw heavily upon your Christian foundation, what is the will of God for our future, country, community and yourself? How do we know?
Is it because some person stands on a stage, behind a podium or in front of a camera and tells you?
Keep in mind that Jesus warned for us to beware of false prophets that come to us as ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).
I am afraid that what I have seen in recent months is the fruit of such ravenous wolves.
I have heard church leaders from across Christendom use their influence to persuade, manipulate, bully and pressure the souls they are called to care for to win some political argument and to further divide this world.
Leaders have taken to the age-old tactic of weaponizing God’s Word to scandalize, hurt and demonize others.
It is not quite like the movie mentioned above, where the people of God are fatigued by ongoing strife in the world to only be pushed further into conflict, but it is darn close.
But what is the will of God then, and how do we know? The will of God is simple.
Jesus’s words summarize it. Love the Lord, love your neighbor — in that order.
We live in a country in which we have been afforded a great blessing such as voting. Each member of our community, of legal age, can voice their opinion without the undue influence of others.
In the recent days, we have seen so many exercise that privilege and blessing, yet leaving us still in what feels like an uncertain time.
However, regardless of how the future plays out, the fact that we are to tackle these issues by loving God and others is a call on our life that will not change.
The will of God for our lives, to love Him and to love others, this November is no different than it was in July, the whole of last year and the many decades of our lives.
The world would like us to feel like there are certain seasons for Christians to be Christians, but truly we demonstrate our faith best when we daily love one another as Christ loved us. That is how the world knows we are His disciples (John 13:35).
Demonstrating this will of God in our lives is especially important as we engage our political rivals, those who act out in violence against us, who declare to be our enemy and those close to us that hurt us so deeply.
What does that love look like?
To forgive and reconcile if possible. To pray for them. To look out for and protect them and their livelihood. To defend them, to speak kindly of them, and work on expelling any malice you have toward them.
It looks like us, you and me, conforming ourselves to the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Not because we have to, but because we get to — living as new creations through the blood of our Lord.
So how is this column not just another example of some religious leader using his influence to gain some personal advantage?
Simple. I do not want you to believe in my words, blindly trust them, or base your life on them, but turn to God and His word while rejecting everything contrary to it.
I want you, just as you were entrusted with the vote on Nov. 3, to exercise your freedom to pick up God’s Word and wash yourself with it.
Take it all in, lean on it, use it as a lamp to your feet as you take the next steps in your life and in the coming months as citizens of this country.
Turn away from the voices on Youtube. Sign out of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and whatever other media that is often used to divide and incite division instead of empathy and compassion.
Tune out the howling wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Instead, when looking at the many issues we face as a nation, ask yourself, “what decision should I make as I love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself?”
Look through the lens of Jesus’s summary of the commandments throughout all the days of your life, not being ruled by voices of this world, your own wily emotions or the hysteric intimidation of others.
Do it all because God wills it. He wills it for our good and the good of His creation.
Regardless of how the coming weeks unfold, He is in control, His will never change and the security He provides us as His children remains undiminished.
No matter what comes, our time is in His hands.
To Him be all the Glory!
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or pastor [email protected]