Hi everyone. Rob here.
The key line in America’s Declaration of Independence that was announced July 4, 1776, is this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It is a remarkable statement, even though they forgot to mention women! Nations are full of statements of good intentions. Here in New Zealand we have the Treaty of Waitangi that ensures full citizenship for all and a partnership between Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori). England has its Magna Carta, and the world has the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, America maintained slavery and oppression of their Native American population, Maori nearly lost their language and their culture, British Kings continued to behave very badly and the world is full of human rights abuses. It tells me that there is a human desire to respect people and work together, but we find ourselves incapable of doing so for any length of time.
The answer is not to get rid of the documents! They provide an aspirational standard that national leaders need to do their best to adhere to. At the very least those whom we vote for should recognise and work towards fulfilling these national documents that act as foundations for how our nations function. It is to recognise, though, that documents alone can never bring people together. Only love can do that and sustain that. Think of some of the sayings of Jesus:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-45).
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).
This is not Eden. We do not live in the fullness of God’s kingdom. This weeks news from Nice, Turkey, Baton Rouge and my own city of Hamilton is enough to tell us that. Nations can, at times, point to the kingdom but they can never be the kingdom. When America lives up to its Declaration and honours the inherent equality of every person it points to the kingdom as do we when the Treaty of Waitangi is honoured. When every person is treated as one who bears the image of God, no matter how imperfectly, we point to the kingdom of God. When we are outraged at evil and let our hearts long for justice we point towards the kingdom of God. When we put our guns down and reach out with open hands to the other we point towards the kingdom of God. When we ask Jesus, “teach me how to love,” we point towards the kingdom of God.
As children of God what path will we choose today? I choose to celebrate documents that honour the inherent God-given worth of each person. I choose to repent of my own prejudices that keep me from reaching out to those who seem very different to me. I choose to take my place in the love of Christ who invites all of humanity to find their place at the foot of his cross, at his empty tomb and before his throne. I choose to embrace the partiality of the kingdom but also ask for the eyes to see it more clearly, even as I long for it more desperately.
Grace and peace everyone. May the love of Christ fill your hearts and overflow through your hands as you reach out to your neighbour, your enemy and your fellow human being.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9)