wildfires

Election Fires: The Only Christian Response

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The mountains surrounding my home are ablaze. We’re 2 months without rain, and the hills are crying out for water.

Once when I was a child we had a brush fire accidentally get out of control out off of Smyrna road where my dad built a cabin with his own hands.  Our six acre parcel, mostly wooded, stood to go up in flames and with it, everything my parents had.  My job was to stand with a green water hose stretched as far from the house as possible and saturate the ground with water.  But now, during the driest 60 days in north Georgia’s history, there are acres–nearly ten thousand of them–desperate for water while raging hot, furious flames cross the land that has, until now, cocooned my childhood in a caldron of oaks, maples, sassafras and buckeyes.

My garden hose lies coiled like a lifeless snake now, powerless against the inferno.  People are pleading and praying for rain.

Remember Sherman and his flames that licked up the south like a ravenous dog?

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He lit a fire with the barns, the homes, and the towns from Atlanta to Savannah.  He was gasoline to a war-weary, deadly dry and thirsty land.  Our soil drank his fuel and we were lit up for two weeks.  It was hell on earth . . . literally.

Little survives a hungry flame.

My husband spent years learning fire’s greedy nature.  She’s a desperate, desert traveler demanding destruction as she quenches her thirst.

And water, when there’s enough of it,  will stop her.  Water will quiet her savage screams for satisfaction.

A country laid to waste with the blaze of a man determined to win.

And when the flames were silenced, I have to wonder, were the smoldering embers worse than the blaze?  Where could we go from that devastation?  What solace, what comfort could be found?

The nation was divided by an imaginary line.  Brothers had fought against brothers.  Mothers wondered if it was one son’s bullet that silenced the beating heart of another son.

A nation that went to war–for state’s rights, yes.  For freedom’s sake, absolutely yes.  For life.  For liberty.  For the pursuit of happiness.

A civil war.

A nation divided.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.  Mark 3:24

And our nation, y’all?  It’s divided in these days, is it not?

An election that split our nation with hungry flames that lapped up our Facebook feeds and consumed the media with a heat that melted  and ravaged relationships.  People once friends bound by some past history saw that very history consumed in smoke and fire–the flames of a battle fought for values, for morals, for rights, for the futures of our children laid waste, did they not?

And we, the United States of America became ash and ember.

We were consumed.

We were.

I have known the devastation a fire can dole out.  The trailer where my mom and dad made their home in frigid New Hampshire caught fire one night when hay and furnace ignited angry flames anorexic with hunger.  They swallowed my home when I was just wee.

And after a while, when there was nothing left, my parents decided to start fresh; they’d need to move.  I was brought back to these quiet mountains where the dogwood’s pale white petals stretched and yawned as they awoke each spring.  Here in the Appalachians my parents would begin again.  Begin anew.  I barely spoke then.  Words were still taking shape on my lips, but a soul understands when it’s survived something.

And this soul knows that fires can be survived.

This soul knows that nations can be reunited after Sherman’s fire has cooled.

This soul knows that rebuilding will begin with a move.

And Christians, it’s our move.

This, followers of Christ, is our moment.

There’s no denying the destruction any longer.  But if we want to stand, we must reunite this nation.  Jesus taught us the pattern for reuniting, did He not?  He left heaven.  He came to be WITH us.  Then he laid his life down as a bridge to unite us with our Father.  If this nation is not to be divided, it will be our job to lay down our lives and be a bridge.  It’s our model and anything short of Christ’s ways is not of Him.

We have rebuilding orders.

1. Give Grace

Let no filthy talk be heard from your mouths, but only what is good for building up people and meeting the need of the moment. This way you will administer grace to those who hear you. Eph. 4:29 

Grace–that blanket of acceptance and love that holds no strings, knots no one up in per-requisite requirements, and simply says, “My favor is yours because I’ve been unconditionally and lavishly favored by The Grace Giver.”  If we are followers of Christ, we will dole out grace upon grace because:

We have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. John 1:16

Our words, our posts, our memes, our responses–they will quiet flames if they are only good for the building up of people, for the meeting the needs of the moment.

We will rebuild our nation as we BUILD UP those who disagree with us, not just those who agree.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

2.  Stop the Bleeding

Be completely humble and gentle.  Be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Eph.4:2

War means death and injury.  There are always casualties–those we find wounded and bleeding.  On both sides of the equation, we’ve wounded.

If we claim Jesus, then we will gently, patiently, humbly mend wounds.  That means having a conversation with people we don’t understand.  It means asking why they are hurting.  It means asking why they are angry.  It means identifying the wounds and finding the right salve.  No wounded human needs to be told if they are right or wrong in that moment.  We don’t attack a man trapped in a car, legs broken, and blood gushing from his stomach and tell him why his belief system is wrong.  We STOP the bleeding.  We ask WHERE does it hurt?  This is the bearing with one another Jesus wanted and modeled.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

3.  Cover

Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.  I Peter 4:8

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Will I cover or will I stir?

When Noah was vulnerable and drunk, a low point in his life, he had two sons with the decency to walk in backwards and lay a blanket over his naked and bare body, two sons willing to cover that terrible moment in time. The other one exposed him.

Which son will I be?

Will I let love be the the blanket that suffocates, that quenches and quiets this inferno?

I can continue to declare why one side is right and another side is wrong.  I can continue to expose what this side or that side said.  I can be a billboard of blame or I can be a blanket of love.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Jesus Christ.

4.  LOVE ALL

“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. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43-48

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31

There is no real alternative for a follower of Christ.  There are those who will say love isn’t love if it doesn’t tell people why they are wrong and insist they repent.  There are those who will say love is the weak response of a wimpy Christian.  And to that I will say this:  Love is what God demonstrated for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS.  And if we do not love, we cannot share truth.  We earn the right to share truth by first sharing love.  Anything less DOES NOT find its source in God.

Love is patient

Love is kind

It does not envy

Love does not boast

Love is not proud

Love does not dishonor others

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not easily angered

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

God is setting this standard.  Let us lay down our weapons.  Lay down our matches and our kindling and our gasoline.  Let us pick up our hoses and cool one another with the refreshment that comes from Living Water that flows out of the love of God.  What’s done is done.  The flames have had their thirst drenched with the dredges of our most base selves, now let us rise from the ashes and leave the wrongs to be blown away in some soft, spring wind.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

And isn’t the truth just this?  We’re made to make our God’s name famous.  He’s different, isn’t He?  Different than all the other things mankind has found to worship?  Different because He defeated death, defeated evil, defeated all that we despise so that we might be like Him.  Isn’t the truth just this?  God loves.  The God of the universe loves mankind, and it is he and He alone that is a consuming fire satisfied only when He is reunited in eternal relationship with His creation.  Is not that the truth?  God wants us all.

Love always protects

Let us come together and protect now in this moment when there are vulnerable human beings who are afraid.

Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Love alone remains.

When the flames are quieted and we sift through the wreckage, what will we salvage?

Love alone remains.

May this be a reminder to my brothers and sisters who claim Christ–In this moment, we carry the water hose.  We carry Christ.  He does not keep a record of wrongs.  He does not boast.  He is not prideful.  And He invites everyone to His table.  His banner is love.  His invitation is to all mankind.  We are His written and irrevocable invitation to come to Him.

We either invite mankind to come to Him

or

we stone them with our words.

I remember well standing feet from my home pulling as hard as possible on that cool green hose.  I stretched as far as it would reach while hot smoke rose up the hillside making my  cheeks pink and my throat burn.  I’m stretching now too, reaching as far as I can with the water I have.

Wildfires ablaze, and I want to be the rain.

Christians, be Living Water with me.  This is the moment that will define us for years to come.  We will be known by our response.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2:12-17

We have a job to do. If we consider ourselves redeemed we have one work–to share the gospel–the good news, the coolest water to thirsting mankind.  This is when we know we’re not like Sherman.  He pilfered and looted his way home. We’ll not continue the wreckage, will we?  We’ll stop here and now, and we will rebuild.

We will pick up our hammers and our nails and our boards, we will walk to the homes of those who voted differently, those who wanted some other outcome, those who are bewildered and perplexed and frustrated and angry and even possibly hateful because they are hurting, and we will ask to rebuild their barns, their homes, their lives.

We will do just what Jesus said to do.  We will.  Because it is our identity.  It is who we are, and anything less DOES NOT find its source in Christ.

And if you happened here today, and you are frightened.  If you happened here today, and you are hurting because your person didn’t win and you see this as the potential beginning of the end.  If you happened here and you’re angry, can I just say to you, that there are countless believers devoted to bridging this gap.  Please don’t throw out Jesus because someone who claimed Him misrepresented Him.  The Jesus here in this blog is the only Jesus of the Bible.  Anything less does NOT find its source in Christ.

Please don’t turn from God because someone tried to beat you over the head with Him.

God?  He’s near you in this.  He’s with you in this time.  And so are we.  Where can we begin to rebuild with you?

He invites you.

There is love.  It’s something different.  It’s called Living Water and it is free, abundant, and all consuming.

Let the flames be extinguished.

Let love rise from ash and form a bridge that unites.

It’s our move, Christians.

Let’s carry the hose that extinguishes flames, and once they’re silenced, let’s go build bridges.

Because in the end, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

When I look out over the horizon, I still see the smoke hanging herself over my mountains.  And I pray for rain.

But on this earth, we are that rain, aren’t we?

I think so.

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