While the last seven days in America seemed normal to many citizens, a closer look reveals the incredible tension fueling divisions.
From courthouses across the country to a bi-partisan infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, a microcosm of real America came into focus.
In Georgia, the defense attorney for one of the three men being charged with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Kevin Gaugh, declared in open court he did not want any more “Black pastors” in the courtroom after Al Sharpton sat with the slain man’s family last week.
In Wisconsin, teenager Kyle Rittenhouse was on trial for murdering two individuals and wounding a third in Kenosha after a protest broke out denouncing police brutality. Rittenhouse, then 17, claimed he was there to help protect property and felt his life was being threatened.
Before the jury began deliberations, Judge Bruce Schroder allowed the “unusual” practice of giving Rittenhouse the opportunity to blindly select the jury to decide his fate.
In Oklahoma, Julius Jones awaits execution. Jones was found guilty of killing Paul Howard in 1999 and sentenced to death.
Last month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board recommended Governor Kevin Stitt grant Jones clemency and reduce his sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. While Howard’s family and prosecutors still argue Jones’ guilt, other information has surfaced, bringing his guilt into question.
In Texas, former national security advisor Michael Flynn called for “one religion.”
Speaking to a church in San Antonio, Flynn declared, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” During the same service, the congregation chanted, “Let’s go, Brandon,” which is a euphemism for a deeply offensive slur against President Biden.
In Washington D.C., President Biden signed an infrastructure bill. Passed with bipartisan support, the bill was seen as a hopeful sign that lawmakers can come together to compromise and move the country forward in a positive direction.
However, not everyone was happy with the bill. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) tweeted office phone numbers of Republicans who supported the bill. Several representatives reported receiving death threats.
As I watched and listened to the events of this week unfold, I recalled the words of Jesus when he spoke about how division would rise among the faithful:
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53).
Jesus was not pitting one side against the other in his remarks, but stating the obvious outcome of human nature.
His willingness to speak and act on important issues that challenged the status quo of power and wealth was unsettling for many. Whether he was criticizing religious leaders or demonstrating an inclusive kingdom, people were being forced to engage his words and actions.
Jesus knew the outcome of his work would not initially bring unity, but division. However, Jesus noted the importance of dialogue that leads to resolution.
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turns you over to the officer, and the officer throws you into prison” (Luke 12:57-58).
While Jesus recognized the divisions his message and ministry would cause, he challenged his listeners to keep up a dialogue leading to reconciliation.
Differences will always be among us, but those distinctions do not have to divide us.
We must be as “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” in pursuing the kind of kingdom Jesus envisioned for the world (Matthew 10:16). Jesus’ kingdom acknowledges that which separates us, but it also advocates for justice leading to love, reconciliation and hope.
It’s been a dark week in America, but we must look for glimmers of light and hope.
After weeks like this one, it would be easy to get discouraged and throw our hands up in exhaustion. However, people of good faith cannot give up.
We cannot remain silent. We cannot afford to stop acting.
We must keep pressing for a world where the love Jesus proclaimed and embodied reigns supreme, ushering in justice, inclusion and freedom for all.
CEO of Good Faith Media.