“What’s your sign?” In the 70’s that question opened up a lot of conversation. What is your zodiac sign? Were you a Libra, Capricorn or Cancer? It was a connecting question, one that supposedly determined your character traits, and propensity for relationships. “What’s your sign?” was a question that revealed a curiosity, and offered an appetizer of conversation away from the political tensions raging at the time. I am a child of the 60’s, so I grew up among astrological signs, peace signs and smiley faces.
I am sad to say that today we are inundated with signs as well, but signs that are quite the opposite. Today’s signs are neither happy, inviting, nor conversational. We see them everywhere—Confederate, gay pride, and American flags being waved on courthouses and social media as a statement. I am saddened by how the symbols we choose to define us have segregated us. We turn off our listening ears and turn on the name-calling: racists, homophobes, communists, socialists, bigots, and idiots. The list goes on and on.
And so instead of using our signs as guideposts that empower and unite us, we use them as weapons against each other.
Today, we too are at the crossroads. Racial tension is heightening. The Supreme Court has made a ruling for same-sex marriage that has cut to the core of what many hold near and dear. It affronts their understanding of “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous.” And so we take out our signs; we wave our battle flags and we take our battle stances. Finally, people are realizing that there is a war of justice and Godly principles. The battle is on.
Luckily, last time war raged on our land (the civil war) we had a president that believed that “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address was a call for justice and reconciliation after a time of civil war.
He said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” His was an amazing response to a nation that was eating itself alive, when hopelessness and despair were its bitter fruit. Sound familiar?
Now anyone who shares Mediterranean roots like mine knows that our ancestor’s remedy to everything was my grandmother’s favorite word, “Eat, eat, eat!” The table is where we hot-headed Mediterraneans lay down the tools, the signs, and the weapons, and share the savory delicacies that define us. With grape leaves and cabbage rolls dripping from our lips, we vet the day. We listen to each other, with curiosity, we ask questions, and make sure that everyone is involved in the conversation.
I wonder what would happen if everyone were invited to the table today. I know it’s hard to imagine, because we are so divided. And I can see why. We are a passionate nation, built on Biblical principles. And those principles are what God expects us to defend. But which Bible passages are we defending? When we say that our country is going down the drain because of the lawlessness of its people, which Biblical laws are we upholding?
Is it Exodus 22:21-22? “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.”
Perhaps it is Leviticus 19:34? “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Are we upholding Amos 5:10-17? “You levy a straw tax on the poor, and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them…For you oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”
I wonder about Micah 6:8. Are we living up to what the Lord requires? “To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
Which Biblical principles do we choose to follow? We get entangled because we each have our sign, our banner, our cause that is important to us—state’s rights, gender equality, immigration, or healthcare.
Which Godly principles do we claim as “true and righteous”? Those who oppose Shariah law forget that it is directly from the Old Testament. And if we reject the Old for the New Testament, we have a 33-year-old prophet who hung out with tax collectors (modern day thieves), lepers, and prostitutes—not exactly law-abiding citizens.
Yet, Jesus included everyone. He invited all to the Kingdom table. If we keep people from the table (or from marriage) because they don’t follow God’s principles, then face it—we are keeping ourselves from the table too. Who is fit to come? None of us follow all of those principles.
But Jesus keeps inviting us to the table…
“ There is no longer Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“I no longer call you servants I call you friends because a servant does not know his master’s business. I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. “ John 15:15
When you are invited to the table you are cherished, respected and heard. Once at the table Jesus points each of us toward God and urges us to examine ourselves daily in light of God’s love. Even Judas, his betrayer, was at the table given dignity to the end. “Do what you came for, friend,” were Jesus’ s last words to him. And what is Jesus’s ultimate command? To love each other! And in so doing, we will bear fruit.
What is the fruit we are to bear—the fruit that will last? They are none other than the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
In working with youth, I urge them daily to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We, as a church group, have admitted together that we have difficulty figuring this out. When the battle is raging and fear and doubt are at every corner, we need a table, some friends, and a guidebook to consult. That is why we meet together regularly. To hold each other accountable—are we bearing fruit?
Some may even want to bring signs. I am one of those. I love my signs. But at this juncture, it is my hope that we choose our signs carefully. And that IF we bring out our signs, we bring them to the table with a heart of listening, learning, and leadership so that the fruit we bear may last.
And let’s remember the words of our wise forefather:
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Again I ask, “What’s your sign?”