Denison Forum – As FBI probe continues, hope amid the conflict

The FBI is conducting another background check on Judge Brett Kavanaugh this week. Agents can interview his friends from high school, study his calendars from the summer of 1982, and check his records from college as well.

I have heard people say, “I’m glad it’s not me. I wouldn’t want my life from thirty-six years ago to make the national news.”

I understand the sentiment. Some of the political cartoons I have seen in recent days are horrifically deplorable. Tweets and other public comments about Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford have been demeaning in the extreme.

The paradox in our system

Here’s the paradox in our system.

On one hand, it allows us to hold our leaders to a higher standard than we ask of ourselves. As Judge Kavanaugh undergoes his seventh FBI investigation, details from his private life will be on public display.

On the other, in a representative democracy, leaders reflect those who elect them. The bitter rancor of the Senate hearings mirrors the divisiveness of our day.

Joseph de Maistre claimed, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” I don’t think that’s true of repressive regimes such as I have witnessed in Cuba. But it’s true of a democracy, where we elect people to represent us.

So, if we want character in our leaders, we must first seek it in ourselves. We cannot expect leaders to take us further than we are willing to go.

There was a day when Christians were the conscience of their pagan society. When Romans discarded unwanted babies, Christians rescued them and raised them as their own. In a day when they had no political capital to outlaw slavery or prostitution, followers of Jesus purchased slaves and prostitutes, then set them free. When plague swept Rome and the emperor and wealthy classes abandoned the city, Christians stayed behind to serve the sick and bury the dead.

The first Christians risked their lives to honor their Lord with the boldness of their witness and the compassion of their service. And by Acts 17:6, they had “turned the world upside down.”

My silent retreat

As the only salt and light in a decaying, darkening world (Matthew 5:13-16), you and I must do no less today.

I returned yesterday from a three-day silent retreat at Ignatius House, a Jesuit retreat center in Atlanta, Georgia. While we spent the days in quiet contemplation, our leader shared meditations and readings on the subject of “friendship with God.” I also read William A. Barry’s profound book, A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace.

This was a topic I had never considered before in such a setting. My experience was deeply moving.

We first know God as our Creator. Then, as Christians, we know him as our Savior and grow to serve him as our Lord. Over time, our personal relationship with him deepens as we experience him as Father. But few of us know him as Friend.

“I have called you friends”

Near the end of his public ministry, Jesus told his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). What difference does being God’s friend make in our lives?

It changes us. We are someone special because the King of Kings chose us to be his friend. And his love for us is both unconditional and unending.

It changes our obedience to God. We serve him not out of obligation or for reward, but because we want to please and honor him. We are motivated to refuse sin since it violates our friendship with God and grieves him as only a friend can hurt a friend.

It changes our trust in God. We know that our Friend wants only what is best for us. Even when we don’t understand his ways, we can trust his heart.

It changes our experience with God. William Barry notes that the Bible is “meant to draw us into its world so that God can touch us.” Prayer and worship are not religious exercises but time spent with our Friend.

It changes our relationships with other people since they are friends of God as well. If I am your friend, I must treat your friends as my friends. So it is with God.

Our crucial decision

Now you and I have a choice to make. We can confine Jesus to Sunday and “spiritual” activities. Or we can do life with him as our Friend. We can talk with him, listen to him, work with him, enjoy him, and honor him.

I learned this lesson over the weekend: we must beware the egotism that limits God’s affection for us to what we think we deserve. William Barry is right: “If God’s love and offer of friendship did not end with the crucifixion of Jesus, then it will never end.”

And I learned that friendship requires listening as well as talking. A plaque at Ignatius House states: “LISTEN & SILENT have the same letters. Coincidence?”

You and I cannot do much to affect the Supreme Court confirmation process this week. But we can do much to affect our public response to it and our witness to those we influence.

If we truly experience the friendship of Jesus, how can we be the same today? How can our culture be the same tomorrow?

 

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