I don’t know if you’ve been on Facebook lately or really any social media outlet. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the news or read your neighbor’s posts on Nextdoor. I don’t know if you’ve gotten as much campaign mail as I have recently.
If you haven’t, let me tell you what I’ve seen: comments that are snide at best and downright hateful at worst from members of both political parties toward sometimes perfect strangers, neighbors who feel compelled to stir up an argument where none existed before, smear stories about candidates on both sides of the aisle, unrest, incivility, name-calling and plain old ugliness.
It seems there are a lot of diseased hearts, a lot of bruised and hurt lives, a lot of aimlessness and confusion, a lot of sheep desperate for a good shepherd, but looking in all of the wrong places.
When I see all of these things happening, it is hard for me to pick out any good fruit. The scent of the rotten fruit is too powerful.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus went through town after town, village after village, and saw all the crowds (Matthew 9:35-38).
He saw their brokenness, their need for heart healing. He saw how confused and aimless they were, and how desperate they were for someone to follow. He watched as the religious leaders of the day dismissed those with unmet needs.
He knew of the political unrest of his own time – knew of the uprisings and the zealotry. No doubt he had seen the crucified bodies that lined the streets of Roman-occupied Jerusalem. He knew the injustice running rampant.
But what anyone else would have seen as a giant train wreck of a situation, a cesspool of bad fruit, Jesus saw as a potential harvest. Let me say that again: Jesus looked all of this mess in the face and called it redeemable.
A few things to note here.
Jesus didn’t simply close his eyes to all of the political, social, religious junk of his day. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening or decide he didn’t want to face the bad vibes that permeated.
Rather, he saw through the surface layers of unrest and aimlessness to what pulsed beneath: a need for a truly good shepherd – the only truly good shepherd – a shepherd that comes wearing a crown of thorns and burial garments, rather than decked out in blue or red.
Jesus didn’t stop to argue about which power-hungry man dressed up as a king should be in charge; he was too busy proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God to be distracted from his mission.
He was too caught up in setting free the captive and loosening chains to comment snidely in that backhanded, weaponized way that church folk talk to people with whom they disagree, “Mmm, I’m going to pray for you.”
Jesus wasn’t calling the government to do kingdom work; he was too busy calling the church to action.
But neither did Jesus stay quiet about what he saw going on around him. He spoke out against injustice and was quick to correct religious leaders. His was a message of peace and love, punctuated by the occasional bout of truly righteous anger.
Jesus didn’t name-call. He didn’t smear anyone. He just kept talking about the Kingdom of God, over and over again. He kept loving those who were unlovable, eating with those who were incompatible, offering healing where there was hurt. And people listened; people are still listening now, 2,000 years later.
When Jesus recognized the harvest potential in this broken, crooked world, he asked his disciples to pray that God would send harvesters. He didn’t ask for keyboard warriors or those who would greet chaos with added chaos; he didn’t ask for pride dressed up in a righteousness costume.
He asked for people who’d get down in the dirt, down in the filth and live out the goodness, the truth, the grace, the love of the Kingdom of God. He asked for people who were not afraid to harvest good fruit from the rot.
My most earnest election-year prayer is that more Christians would embody the politics of Jesus, his way of engaging the social order to bring healing and redemption.
May we be the ones to recognize the lostness hiding under all of that squabbling, deafening anger.
May we find it within ourselves to be compassionate in our responses to it.
May we speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ over the lies of the kingdom of the world.
May our good fruit be unmistakable and may we put it to good use.
The harvest is so great, but the workers are too few. Let’s find our work boots and get to it.
Minister to Youth at Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, she is an Ernest C. Hynds Intern at Good Faith Media for the spring 2021 semester.