“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol.” This is how President Biden explained the January 6 riots in a speech marking their one-year anniversary yesterday.
Many agree, identifying what they call a “coup plot” comprising a “deliberate effort to overthrow our democracy.” Others disagree, stating that there was not a “concerted, planned attempt to overthrow the government, let [alone] a terrorist insurrection.”
Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say the January 6 attack has gotten too much attention; only 23 percent of Democrats agree. While 87 percent of Democrats say the attack was extremely or very violent, only 39 percent of Republicans agree.
Descriptions and assignments of culpability matter as we seek to understand past tragedies lest we repeat them in the future. But I have seen no political explanations that focus on the real heart of the issue.
The Book of Common Prayer includes this intercession:
To my humble supplication,
Lord, give ear and acceptation.
Save thy servant, that hath none
help nor hope but Thee alone.
Why is this prayer so vital to transforming hope in the new year?
Father gunned down while carrying daughter’s birthday cake
The percentage of Americans who say they are more fearful about the coming year has risen from 36 percent in 2021 to 54 percent in 2022. A quick check of the news shows us why.
- A one-month-old baby was orphaned after his parents, both sheriff’s deputies, died by suicide within days of each other.
- A father in Texas was gunned down at Chuck E. Cheese as he carried his daughter’s birthday cake.
- Eight children and two mothers are among the dead at a Philadelphia house fire Wednesday.
- COVID-19 cases are topping one million daily in the US.
- An “adored” Catholic priest was killed in a car crash Monday, one day after his fifty-third birthday.
In the face of our obvious fragility and mortality, we might expect even secular Americans to admit our need for help and hope beyond ourselves. We obviously cannot prevent death or enable our own survival beyond it. But our scientific and medical advances have improved life expectancy and inoculated us from the reality of death to a degree unsurpassed in human history.
Nor can we remedy the sin problem at the heart of all our relational and political divisions. But, once again, we have found an alternative approach.
Vladimir Putin asked two questions with regard to political violence: “Who? Whom?” What matters is who performs the action and upon whom it is performed, he claimed. When we are the who, we see our actions against the whom as justified, from January 6 rioters in Washington to street violence after George Floyd’s murder.
However, as theologian Terence Sweeney notes, “The whom you attack is a who in reality. Just as you are a self, so too are they a self.”
Three empowering daily steps
In an 1816 letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote: “Power always thinks it has a great soul, and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God service, when it is violating all his laws.”
The solution to our mortal frailty and to our political animosity is the same: admitting to God that we “hath none help nor hope but Thee alone.” I encourage you to join me in these practical and empowering steps each day across this year:
One: Invite the Holy Spirit to empower and control your life.
When we do, we can trust our Lord with the day before us. Charles Spurgeon asked: “If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust him for your soul and not for your body?” He added: “He has never refused to bear your burdens; he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! Have done with fretful care and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.”
Two: Walk in the power and peace of the Spirit.
Max Lucado was right: “The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the Christian. Everything from Acts to Revelation is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit. . . . After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit became the primary agent of the Trinity on earth. He will complete what was begun by the Father and the Son. ‘Keep in step with the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25). He directs and leads: you must obey and follow.”
In my latest personal blog, I explain how we can experience the Spirit’s peace amid our hurried lives, his purpose amid our challenges, his calm amid our distractions. Claim God’s promise: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Three: Pray for courage and then serve with courage.
When facing growing animosity, the early Christians ask God to “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). As a result, “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).
In My Daily Pursuit, A. W. Tozer wrote: “Because God has been reduced in the minds of people, they do not have that boundless confidence in his character that used to be prominent among Christians. Confidence is necessary to respect. You cannot respect a man in whom you have no confidence. Extend that respect upward to God and if you cannot respect God, you cannot worship him. You cannot have confidence in him, because where there is no respect there can be no worship. Worship rises and falls in the church depending upon whether the idea of God is low or high; so we must begin with God where everything begins.
“God needs no rescuing, but we do, and we must rescue our concepts from their fallen and frightfully inadequate condition so that boundless confidence in him can reign once again.”
How much “boundless confidence” do you have in God today?