Watching the State of the Union address this week was another reminder of the political divide in our country. Whether you identified with the hopeful, tangible stories of progress that President Trump tried to emphasize or the shredding of the “pack of lies” that Speaker Pelosi attempted to give voice to; the divide is obvious. But what does the divide say about our country, or perhaps more uncomfortably yet, what does it say about you and me?
Robert Samuelson, a columnist for Newsweek and Washington Post recently said the following about life on the campaign trail. “The chasm between stump rhetoric and governing realities will haunt whoever wins. It also defines a dilemma of democracy. People want their leaders to tell the truth, but they often don’t want to hear the truth.Genuine leaders escape this trap by persuading public opinion to acknowledge distasteful problems. But these leaders are rare. Most pursue immediate popularity over truth even if this deepens long-term public mistrust.”
There is a lot here to parse out; particularly about leadership. But what captured my attention is the idea that while we want our leaders to tell the truth, we often don’t want to hear the truth. Living in the light is not all that comfortable. The reality is, as great as we may want America to be, it is always going to be flawed, it is never going to be the utopia, Christian or otherwise, that we have burdened it to be. The reality is, that as much as we may bleed for social justice causes, humans at their best will never be the complete solution for these causes. These truths are hard to hear. So we stay in our echo chambers, celebrating the things we value and decrying what the opposition stands for.
But hearing the truth is the heart of the Gospel. As Jack Miller famously puts it, “Cheer up you are a lot worse off than you think. But cheer up again, because you are more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared hope.” The gospel invites us to radical truth-telling about ourselves, our world, and most importantly our God. The gospel invites us to this truth telling because the gospel can handle the truth. Yes, we are more broken that we can believe. I see this each week in confession as I think through the harsh words that I said to my wife or my kids, and realize that the harsh words are magnified because they actually comes from a selfish heart. The truth was worse than I thought. But dealing in the truth allows me to have an even greater vision of how great God’s love for me actually is. He didn’t just deal with my wayward actions, he dealt definitively with my blackened heart! This is truly great news! I love the words of the Psalmist “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23–24. Living in the light, this is truly a heart set free.