I attended church yesterday morning to sing “Joy to the World,” with these familiar lyrics:
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders and wonders of his love.
Where, I wondered, are truth and grace? Who is making the nations prove the glories of God’s righteousness and the wonders of God’s love?
In a world where a president I don’t trust tells us to trust that he is trying to protect American lives in killing an admittedly terrible leader in Iran, I want to demand that the president prove it.
In a world where many evangelicals still support a president who, according to fact checkers, has told over 15,000 lies in three years, I want those evangelicals to tell the truth and show more of God’s grace. Instead, they host a rally in a mega-church and defend Trump as sent by God and recognize none of the hypocrisy when Trump says, “For America to thrive in the 21st century we must renew faith and family as the center of American life”—this from a man who has not shown a single shred of evidence that Christ is the light of the world or the center of his life.
In a world where a president appoints unqualified judges to the judiciary in anticipation that they will rule in his favor when he flouts the Constitution, I want more of Lady Justice—that symbol of justice as blind, balanced, and swift to pronounce an impartial ruling. I want the courts to show a little more righteousness—to prove that they are worthy of the trust we’ve invested in them to ensure that justice is balanced and true, no matter the political affiliations of its judges.
I am not alone in these hopes and desires.
A week before Christmas one of the most conservative Christian publications in the country, Christianity Today, published a sorrowful indictment of Trump. Its editor later commented in an interview with the Washington Post that Trump was like an abusive husband: “When that husband starts to become violent and physically abusive, the scales don’t balance. It’s time for him to get out of the house. That’s what I’m saying about the Trump presidency.”
In a prescient chapter of her book Inspired, Rachel Held Evans wrote a chapter before she died last spring called “War Stories,” in which she states, “If you really want to understand what makes a community or a culture tick, ask the people in it what they believe is worth dying for, or perhaps more significantly, worth killing for. Ask the people for their war stories.”
This week, Evans’ questions seem particularly pertinent, in light of Trump’s actions in Iran. But she ultimately drew this conclusion: “If the God of the Bible is true, and if God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ is, as theologian Greg Boyd put it, ‘the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others,’ then God would rather die by violence than commit it.”
On Sunday I watched the news with increasing anxiety. A president I don’t trust has carried out an action, without informing Congress, that many countries around the world are calling an “assassination” and a “war crime.” In the aftermath, this president now threatens the destruction or desecration of cultural sites, many of which have been in existence for thousands of years and have survived reigns of terror from rulers who committed horrible atrocities but still respected the reverence and importance of revered historical sites.
I went to bed last night, sober and sobered. I prayed. And yet I didn’t know what to pray for.
But I did have an epiphany of sorts. As I tried to chase sleep, these thoughts crept into my troubled mind:
None of the horrors I feared came true today, even though I let them color my day with darkness. I need to remember that Christ is the light of the world and the center of our lives, and I need always to look for that light. I need to remember that the wise look for the light and for an epiphany.
Right now I consider Trump my enemy and my country’s enemy…but Jesus commanded me to pray for my enemies and for those who despitefully use me. I have done that but not consistently. I’m never quite sure how to pray for Trump, but I am called to do so. I thought about Nancy Pelosi, and I wondered what she says when she prays for him. I decided to be honest with God. “God, I don’t know what to pray for. I want to pray that you’ll smite him down the way the Old Testament leaders prayed for the destruction of their enemies. So, instead, I’ll simply pray that you will hover over him in a way I can’t possibly understand.” As Bud Thomas said in his book 10 Things Your Minister Wants You to Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job), trying to understand an unfathomable God is like trying to get a dog to understand Euclid’s geometry.
As I continually try to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, I realize that if God loves everyone, then God loves even Trump, so I can’t allow myself to be overcome with hatred for him. I can, however, speak the truth in love to power, just as Christ did to the leaders of his time, at the cost of his life.
When I feel helpless, I need to remember that Christ assured us that we would do greater things than he did (John 14: 12). While I might have a hard time believing I could ever do greater things than Jesus, if God is with us, then it must be possible. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ light shines in the darkness and that the darkness did not and will not overcome it.
And so, on this Epiphany I pray for understanding and direction for our leaders and for Christians and people of other faiths in the world who seek peace every day. If the Epiphany teaches us anything, it’s that Jesus made a difference in the world, even though he died without seeing the peace he so desperately wanted for us. Can we offer anything less, then, than proving the wonders of his love?