“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
The cross is a powerful symbol of God’s deep and abiding love for us. Jesus became flesh to offer a divine, selfless love to restore all things broken. His life, death, and resurrection invite us into a relationship with God, and to live our lives with a love that reconciles and transforms all things.
Jesus told his followers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus couldn’t separate the love of God from the love of neighbor.
How we treat our neighbor -- both through our personal actions and as a nation -- are concrete expressions of how we love God. God loves the world and invites us into the loving work of reconciliation and transformation.
In Isaiah 58, we read of a time when our actions will function in accord with God’s will to transform the world: “… [I]f you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted …. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:10-12). Loving our neighbor and seeking opportunities to be forgivers, restorers, and reconcilers in the social structures of our day is doing God’s work in our time.
We live in a country where citizens have an important role in influencing government. When public resources seem scarce, we can fall into a “save yourself” mentality. Mistrust toward government grows during weak economic times, as does a “less-government-is-better” approach to social policy. Whether we live with material abundance or struggle to make ends meet, we may feel frustrated by government or see efforts to engage government as futile. We forget that as Christian citizens, we have a moral duty to influence government to be a force for good in the world.
God has indeed ordained government for a special role in the protection and development of our neighbors. In Psalm 72, the psalmist describes the just and righteous king: “For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper” (Psalm 72:12-14). A key characteristic of a ruler described in the Hebrew Scriptures is to be a protector of the most vulnerable people. While governments of our day bear little resemblance to the king described in Psalms, our nation’s leaders still have a responsibility to aid those who are in need.
Christians are invited to model Christ’s perfect love -- the cross -- to transform and reconcile all things. When we steward our influence and urge our nation’s leaders to transform social structures and protect society’s most vulnerable people, we love God and our neighbor. Christians can create a circle of protection around people in need and strengthen the moral dignity of our nation’s programs and policies.