O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.
These lines strike me a little differently this year. Human existence has been defined by conquest, violence, and subjugation since the fall. Strife is nothing new, though our modern technology enables us to sow division and carry out violence on a scale that was inconceivable to past generations. As Americans, we have experienced the privilege of being nearly untouchable since the fall of the Soviet Union. We don't have to fear outside threats to the same degree that so many others do. However, it now appears that we face a great threat not from the outside, but from within. I'm afraid that we are one nation in name only, and that in reality, we are deeply divided and hostile. This last election cycle (or maybe even the last 4 years) has exposed what I believe to have been brewing under the surface for years. What we are witnessing isn't a matter of simple disagreements, but of a visceral hatred between warring tribes.
My goal here isn't to talk politics but simply to make an observation about our society and about human nature in general. People are not naturally peaceful. Love, kindness, and patience don't come naturally. It is our natural state to arrange ourselves into tribes and fight. In Genesis 3, the first consequence of sin was not death or suffering, but division between the man and his wife. In the next chapter, humanity's first child murders his brother. The New Testament letter so frequently call for unity because it's such a difficult task! Christians, who worship the same Christ, still struggle to get along and will even slander mistreat one another openly!
With that in mind, consider these words from Isaiah 9:5-7: "For every trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this." Also, consider Isaiah 2:2-4: "In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established at the top of the mountains and will be raised above the hills. All nations will stream to it, and many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about his ways so that we may walk in his paths.' For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nation will not take up the sword against nation, and they will never again train for war."
That's a lot of text for me to quote in a blog post, but I think it speaks for itself, and I'm not sure it needs much interpretation. Christ is the king of nations. He alone can bind human hearts together in unity and end our foolish divisions. His people are from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Sinners put their hopes in human leaders, but our hope is in the king who will never be overthrown or voted out!
Until He comes again, we should not be surprised to see volatility in the public square. This should only make us long for Him more. We should all take care that we are not unprepared when He comes! We may not be able to change the world, but we can, by His Spirit, change ourselves. How can we expect to be judged by the Prince of Peace if we spend our lives stirring up conflict? Our churches should not look like congress. While disagreements and conflict are inevitable, there should be no parties, no factions, no slander, no smear campaigns, no lies, and no partiality. Instead, we should "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) and consider the interests of others (Php. 2:3-4). Christians ought to be people of conviction, and we ought to be willing to stand up for what we believe is right, but we ought to do so for the benefit of our neighbor, not to "own" them. In our stand for truth, we must remember that Christ died even for those who are fundamentally opposed to our beliefs. God wants to forgive your worst enemy. When you speak out, let what you say and how you say it be shaped by that reality.
Passages for further reflection: Genesis 3-4, Isaiah 2:2-4, 9:5-7, John 17:20-26, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Philippians 2:1-11
This post is a part of a series on the song, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Be sure to check out the other posts in the series and my original post explaining why this is my favorite Christmas song.