While I have been personally opposed to the federal health care laws which were enacted by congress last weekend, I have been able to carry on civil discussions with my friends who support this legislation. Though the disagreements are sharp, and the perspective widely divergent, I never sensed anyone with whom I was talking to be mean-spirited or personally upset with me, and I believe I've respected those who disagree with me.
At least, that was the case until this Monday, the day after the bill passed the House of Representatives. I was shocked and dismayed to have someone I counted as a friend and brother in the Lord write to me that my views discounted me from being a faithful Christian. He proclaimed with a viciousness that I had never seen him exhibit before that he could not understand how anyone could oppose "Obama-care." "How anyone calling themselves a Christian could (oppose this bill) is beyond me" is just one statement among many making it clear that one's status before God was directly indicated by embracing and espousing support for the provisions of this so-called "medical reform." Then, I began to notice others who have supported this legislation expressing similar attitudes: questioning the intelligence of their opponents, indicating that those opposed are uncaring, and that opposition arguments have been intentional lies. This was all topped off with the profane declaration of victory by Vice-President Biden at the bill signing ceremony. His words were a vulgar act of disdain for both respectful opposition and civil propriety.
So, what gives? Why is my friend now willing to be so arrogant and dismissive to those who have disagreed with him on this issue, even to the point of claiming his views are the only ones a "true" Christian would have? Why are the media and high profile promoters of this medical reform bill being openly accusatory toward those who challenged many of the points (at least those anyone could know about ahead of time) in this bill, as if the problems were simply the audacity to oppose this bill rather than questioning its purpose and effectiveness? Why are those who have achieved what they wanted not filled with joy for their cause rather than focusing virulently upon those who do not share their cause for celebration?
I could speculate on some of the reasons, but what concerns me the most is the spirit of accusation that is festering among Christians. This is natural for those who are oriented to the harsh competitiveness of the world, who see ideology being more important than living, breathing people. But for those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, our eternal status as children of God should take clear and deliberate precedence over something as temporary and fleeting as the approach to health care in the USA. I am not saying we are not to care about our beliefs and positions on this subject, or that robust discussion is not appropriate. However, I am saying that Christians more than anyone else should honor and respect one another even in the face of strong political differences. This is indeed part of our witness to the world that we serve one Lord together, and that our relationships are based on eternal realities, not the passing issue of the day.
It is perhaps not coincidental that I have been asked to say a few words during worship this coming Maundy Thursday, and that this means reflecting on the command of Jesus that his followers "love one another." Jesus says:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you,
so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are
my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
It is apparent from this passage, where Jesus has just washed the disciples feet and taken the form of a servant to them, that it is in Christians serving each other that our love for each other is demonstrated as real, and that this is the way the world around us sees this as a truth-in-action rather than just a pious ideal. Obviously, we Christians have missed opportunity after opportunity to show that our love for one another is something more than just nice feelings. We have let everything from slight theological differences to mundane political orientations divide us and lead us to demand surrender rather than us giving ourselves in service to one another.
So, are we going to blow it again? Are we in the church going to bicker and blame like our politically driven representatives in Washington, D.C., or are we going to show the world that we serve a living Lord who calls us to unity in the Holy Spirit despite our differences in politics, culture, race, economics, abilities, and whatever human differences that so easily divide people from each other. The key is to seek to serve one another, regardless! So, I resolve to find a way to serve my brothers and sisters who support the provisions of the Obama-care bill, especially if they are feeling angry and put out at those who do not see things as they do. My sinful nature wants to defend myself and strike back, but the Spirit of God in me can give me the strength to serve in love, thus showing the world that there is indeed one Body of Christ, one faith, one Lord, all bound together in the unity of the Spirit.