“If she is a [insert political label], how can she call herself a Christian?!?” That question was asked in bewilderment about me during a conversation for which I was not present. After I heard about this conversation, I spent days pondering what my response might have been, had I been present. I’m a far better writer than speaker, so I find myself grateful that I’ve had the gift of time to formulate a response. My knee jerk response was 1) God probably isn’t concerned about my vote and 2) God probably isn’t even particularly concerned whether I am American. That does not mean I do not appreciate or feel passionately about either of those things. They just probably are not at the top of God’s list of important things—the things Christ taught us about His kingdom while he was here.
In Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV), Jesus teaches us about the most important commandments: 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Every decision I make, I ask myself, am I loving God and am I loving my neighbor?
In Matthew 25:34-40 (NRSV), Jesus tells us how to love God and Neighbor: “34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Every ballot I cast, I ask myself if my decision is helping the least of these or hurting the least of these.
In John 21:15-17 (NRSV), Jesus gives further instruction: “15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” I have written previously about how this passage speaks to me and how it has shaped my life. Every lever I pull, I ask myself if I am feeding His sheep.
So you see, I don’t make my decisions in the absence of Christ. He is fully present with me in that booth. He is fully present with me everywhere I go.
Our son is about to be confirmed into the Church. As we review the PCUSA Study Catechism: Conformation Version, the first two questions speak loudly to me:
Question 1: What is God’s purpose for your life? God wills that I should live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the love of God, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
Question 2: How do you live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. The Lord Jesus Christ loved me and gave himself for me. I entrust myself completely to his care, giving thanks each day for his wonderful goodness.
Do I get it right every day? Absolutely not. Some days, I fail abysmally. Those are the days Christ saves me from myself. But through Christ, I get up each day with a new start—with gratitude for his grace. What does gratitude for God’s grace look like in my life? It looks an awful lot like urban gardening, block parties, health and wellness initiatives in underserved areas, living in community with this congregation and telling stories. I don’t do these things because they are good things to do. I do them out of profound gratitude for the grace bestowed upon me through Christ. These things I do, they are like air for me. I am CALLED to do these things, in my breathing in and my breathing out. How I vote, begins to seem trivial when it is stacked up against those things. My call may not look your call. That’s OK. That is what makes us the body of Christ.
So how do I call myself a Christian? Through God’s abundant grace. It is for all of us. In Christ, there is no conservative, no liberal. No left, no right. No American, no non-American.