Water is necessary to life.
Forty percent of the world’s population lives within 65 miles of the coast, and 90 percent of us live within 6 miles of a surface source of fresh water.
Water is a central element of Scripture, too. In Amos 5:24, justice rolls down like waters. Baptism happens in water. Water is used to destroy in the flood.
The waters part asunder to save the Israelites in the Exodus and come together again to swallow up Egyptian armies. Jesus meets a woman drawing water at a well to offer himself as living water (John 4:10-14).
There’s something sacred about water. Water heals. Water cleanses. Water destroys. Water irrigates. Water quenches. Water purifies. And water puts out fires.
It’s been a hot summer so far – literally and figuratively. As temperatures have risen across the United States, so has the heat around the important issues facing our country.
There is undeniably a new – and warmer – air of tribalism in our national discourse, and it has me worried about the health of both our churches and our country.
I’ve wanted this sense of dis-ease inside me to go away. It hasn’t. I have this sense that we are even now retreating into our respective corners, hardening our positions and our hearts, readying our arguments, stockpiling our resources and preparing for battle.
I pray I’m wrong, but I have a sense that the hottest days of summer may still be ahead of us.
So, I wonder if we could use some water. Water to quench our thirsts. Water to irrigate some withered promises. Water to heal some festering wounds. Water to destroy some latent evils. Water to cleanse and purify. Water to put out some fires. Maybe even water that we can rise out of into new life together.
Each morning during the summer, the congregation I pastor packs lunches at the church to distribute to hungry children. But before we pack lunches, our summer-lunch program leader, Virginia Land, leads us in a brief time of devotion.
Recently, she read Scripture from Philippians, Chapter 2. It was like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day.
“Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind,” the Good News Translation reads.
“Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had.”
I’m not sure anything could have quenched my thirst in that moment quite like those words did. So as the summer wears on and the heat ramps up, I hope we’ll seek to remember these five things:
1. Our life in Christ – and not anything else – is what makes us strong.
When we put other agendas ahead of Christ, it makes us weaker.
2. Kindness and compassion for one another always beat anger and suspicion.
Remember that God loves the person you’re suspicious of and that God demonstrates compassion toward the person at whom you are angry.
3. Our greatest comfort isn’t in winning an argument or in being “right.” It is in being loved by God.
Incidentally, that’s where our greatest power to influence comes from, too. We will influence our culture for Christ – and comfort it – by demonstrating God’s love.
4. As Christians, we are clearly, repeatedly and unequivocally called to look to the interests of others, not just our own.
One of the most dangerous things for our nation is our shrinking ability to put ourselves in someone’s place or see things from another person’s perspective.
5. We should always consider others better than ourselves. Always.
Paul’s words from Philippians came to me like water on a hot day. Maybe they’ll have a similar effect on you.
It’s getting hot out there. The world is catching on fire. We can fan the flames or we can be water.
Matt Sapp is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia.