Anxiety! If you’re like most people you would offer up a phrase like, “I’ve been there and done that.” Even though Jesus offered up those encouraging words in the 12th chapter of Luke’s Gospel in verses 22-28, that the birds of the sir do not sow or reap or have storehouses or barns, yet God feeds them; that the lilies of the field do not toil or spin, yet God clothed them more finely than Solomon – still, in our humanness we get anxious about life.
I’ve just finished a series on anxiousness, using Max Lucado’s book “Anxious for Nothing,” and my congregations are familiar with these words from scripture. I reminded them that in our humanness, anxious thoughts are bound to try and creep back into our daily, busy and over-stressed lives. Our goal should be to recognize those thoughts, capture them, and hold them up next to the light of Christ’s words as He shared them in Luke 12:22-28. Held in this light – they will fade!
My fear, though, is that in our current politically-charged world, we in the church help feed those anxieties instead of bringing Christ’s light to the forefront. I have wondered a lot lately, if Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:17-21 weren’t meant for a whole lot more than the meaning we so often give to them. Here, when asked about whether taxes should be paid to Caesar, Jesus pointed out that the coins they were using bore the image of Caesar. This brought us the line, “…render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s”
I believe we could greatly lessen the anxiety of our world if we acted accordingly. What I mean by this is to render unto our nation what we as citizens of this nation should – our devotion to be involved in our government with thoughtful integrity, knowing that our beliefs are just that – OUR beliefs. That is the way this country started, taking all the different individual beliefs and trying to meld them into an agenda that would most benefit the people as a whole and not just any one person’s agenda.
But the bigger part of these verses from Matthew – about giving to God that which is God’s – is the most important part, and we seem to have largely forgotten that. So, what is God’s that we should be first and foremost giving to Him? Ourselves, our hearts, our love! We can disagree with our best friend or our worst enemy, but when we love them in spite of those disagreements – we are giving to God. We can vote one way or another, but when we pray about any situation or for any leader as a result of that vote – we are giving to God.
You want to lessen your anxieties? Let’s stop arguing about who’s views are best and which political party is best and simply pray for God’s love to fill all or our and their hearts.
We are in the church season of Lent. This is a period of recognizing Jesus’ time of doing without in the wilderness, but it makes me think of what He gave up for you and me – His life for the forgiveness of our sins. I love the fact that yesterday – Valentine’s Day – was the beginning of Lent (and I know it’s crossed your minds as well). Perhaps Jesus is saying to us, “I am your Valentine. Will you be Mine?” We can only do that if we’re willing to love all as Jesus loves us. I challenge us all – myself included – to spend this season of Lent in prayer for one another that, above all, we will seek to love as Christ loves. Then we can come to Easter morning feeling reborn with anxieties lifted.
I hope you understand, as I do, that the biggest problem we face is Satan working to instill these anxieties in our minds – working to cause us hostility towards one another through our political differences. These are from him and not God. If we are able to love each other through these times, then we can reach Easter morning and say, “Sorry, Satan, you’ve lost!” (or, because this year Easter is on April 1st, “April Fools, Satan. We still love one another!”)
The writer is the pastor of the Anna and Botkins United Methodist churches.