“Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness.” Isaiah 12:6
January 20th came and went with all the commotion we’d imagined it would, regardless of one’s political preference. We are a divided nation and while this is not breaking news, the divisions are more pronounced than I’ve ever witnessed. The issues are more charged; the people attached to them more passionate; the gaps between ideologies as impassable as canyons.
Everyone wants to make America great (again), that’s not the problem; the glaring issue is that we all have a different opinion of what greatness means. And I put again in parenthesis because not only can’t we agree on what greatness is, many can’t agree on whether America was great in the first place. This leaves us with a slogan we all want—Making America Great Again—with opposing opinions of how this is achieved, and whether it has ever been so.
Dealing with the Political Landscape
When I view the political images on Instagram with varying captions, and read the posts on Facebook, and scroll the sound-byte opinions on Twitter—praise God I’m not savvy enough for any other social media platforms—I, like you, find myself unsettled by the divisions both within the church and without. Sometimes I feel defensive; other times mad; fear and confusion can rattle my sense of well-being. I even find myself hurt by people I don’t know or barely know. Suddenly an imaginary friendship is ruined because we feel so differently about really important matters. In other words, I’ve found a new way to drum up drama in case you need some—having my feelings hurt by online non-friendships.
What Really Makes Us Great
At any rate, in the middle of the heightened strife over what will make America great or really not so great, I happen to be going through the book of Isaiah in the mornings. I’m reading about powerful kings like Uzziah whose people flourished materially and militarily under his rule, as well as kings like Ahaz who ruled in not so flourishing times. Be it President Trump or President Obama, or a president of years gone by for whom we long, they hold or have held monumental positions of power and influence over our country—just like the kings in the days of Isaiah. But Isaiah reminded me anew that the greatness of our country does not rise or fall on their shoulders.
Isaiah 12:6 says, “Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness.”
And there it was—what greatness of a nation looks like. We often think of it in terms of material wealth, freedom of speech, military power, opportunity for all, stellar education, the president we really wanted. Yet it’s about something more meaningful and breathtaking.
Greatness is about God’s presence among us.
So I had to take a step back from the political discourse and think about how I can contribute to making the country I live in great from a Biblical worldview. How can we be great, not because of our inner-power, credentials or political banners, but because we’re a people whom God is in the midst of?
His Greatness through Obedience
In the New Testament one of the ways we experience God’s presence is by keeping in step with His Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25). We keep in step with Him when we put to death the stuff of our proud natures and follow Him in obedience according to His Word. For all the times you’ve heard that truth, don’t miss it for its familiarity. To obey Him is to walk in His presence. If we have brilliant opinions on how to make our country great but are personally in a state of disobedience toward the One whose very essence is great, then we’re just adding to the noise.
His Greatness through the Fruit of the Spirit
We know we’re keeping in step with His presence when we lead with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (among others). I’ve been sitting under a remarkable local teacher who’s been teaching through Galatians 5:16-26. She makes me long for the “fruit you can’t fake”, as she puts it. If gorgeous soliloquies flow from our lips on how to make America great, but the fruit of the Spirit is not what’s characterizing those words or the delivery of them, we’re only out to make ourselves great.
His Greatness through Prayer
We know we’re in step with His presence when we pray. Again, for all its familiarity we can’t miss the reality that where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ Name He is with us (Mt 18:20). There we have His presence again, and wherever He is there will His greatness be. Are we kneeling with one another and praying for our nation? Not just discussing it, but actually doing it. If all we do is bitterly dissent against the rulers of our land but haven’t poured out our hearts before the Lord, then we haven’t experienced the true Presence of greatness, only our hope for our idea of it.
Obedience to Christ, the fruit of the Spirit and fervent prayer aren’t exhaustive in their scope when it comes to making our country great. But perhaps they’re a start for us personally. I have more pondering to do, but in the midst of all the conflicting opinions one thing I know: greatness is not defined by a president or a government or even the collective solidarity of the people. Greatness is God’s presence in our midst.
I don’t want to add to the commotion or unrest, or even be offended by it. I’d rather spend the time seeking His presence with you by seeking it in our own lives and in our corporate fellowship. Perhaps then our beloved country will experience true greatness, because God can come no other way but in His greatness.