A few days ago, I was amused at a news story I found on my phone (I am never sure how these things arrive on my phone, but I read them sometimes). The New York Times had “tweeted” the Declaration of Independence to everyone on their “tweet list” (or whatever it is called) on the 4th of July. The nature of tweets is that they must be quite short – so it took a few thousand tweets to send the entire Declaration of Independence. Each tweet was just a sentence or two from Mr. Jefferson’s wonderful document. And, the Times did not say that they were sending bits of the Declaration of Independence – they just sent them out.
Many people wrote back outraged comments. “How can you be sending out such radical ideas!” many people responded angrily. Just think: our country was founded on ideas that some people believe are too radical to be “tweeted” today. Imagine how radical those ideas were 240 years ago!
Those of us who call ourselves Christians – those who try to follow Jesus and his teachings – are following someone who was a magnificent radical 2000 years ago. Many of Jesus’s teachings remain radical in our own day.
As patriotic Americans, we follow in the footsteps of men and women willing to “pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” for amazingly radical ideas such as “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
As faithful Christians, we follow in the footsteps of a man who saw a child of God in every person – even those marginalized in his culture: “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7.8). We follow a man who gave each person the love that a child of God deserves: “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44). We follow a man who said that greatness was not measured by wealth or possessions, but by how much one served others: “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10.43).
Being so far removed from the days that Jesus lived on earth – and being so far removed from the revolutionary days of 1776 – it can be easy to forget that we follow in the footsteps of radicals: radicals willing to sacrifice all for what they knew was important.
As we look around the world today, and as we look in our own country and even our own community, we can see the spread of anger, disrespect, and hatred. Jesus asks that we not add to this anger, disrespect, and hatred by being angry at those who are angry with us, hating those who hate us, and being disrespectful to those who treat us with disrespect. It can be very hard to do this.
Can you think of one or two people for whom you have little respect, then struggle to see them as children of God (just as you are), and then try to find it in yourself to think of them differently? Can you think of one or two people with whom you are angry, then struggle to see them as children of God (just as you are), and then find a way in yourself to be less angry at them? If you can, then you will help create a world with less disrespect and with less anger. You have the power to do this: to help make this world a bit more like the world that God wants it to be.
Go with God,