Faith In Action: Democracy, Hypocrisy and the Pomegranate

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When I started this blog three and a half years ago, I intended it to be a light-hearted outlet for my writing. I believe my second post was about bananas. Some of my readers started following me because I was attempting a modicum of humor on a regular basis. I’ve probably lost a few followers recently because of a change in the tone and seriousness of my writing, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather lose readers than stifle my needed expression.

 

About two years ago, I entered into therapy. I highly recommend it, by the way. So much so, my 13 year old has gotten into trouble with her friends by suggesting they see a counselor. I had to explain to her that simply because I extol its benefits without shame or embarrassment, that doesn’t mean everyone appreciates that type of advice.

Counseling has changed me, and I’d like to think for the better. It’s allowed me to see myself more clearly, it’s freed me from bondage that has impeded both my personal growth and my spiritual growth, and it’s helped me clarify what really is important to me.

As a result, you’re much less likely to find silly blog posts here. (Also, since I’m in the process of writing a book, you’re much less likely to find ANY blog posts here. ) That doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of humor, it just means that I’m finding if I’m going to exert the energy to write something, I want it to be meaningful; Worthy of both my time and yours.

So, now that those disclaimers are out of the way, I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath (ha!) to hear what has roused me enough to break from writing my novel and post my first blog in months.

It’s fruit. Pomegranate, specifically.

 

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Did you know that pomegranates are filled with vitamins, antioxidents, and anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and pro-heart health properties?

If you’ve ever eaten a pomegranate, you know that the seeds can be difficult to reach. They’re a combination of both sweet and tart. They can get messy. Really messy, but so worth it.

Jewish tradition holds that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, and it is often consumed on Rosh Hashana to symbolize the desire for fruitfulness in the upcoming new year.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes the Fruit of the Spirit. These are all the qualities that should be born out in a person’s life as a result of the Spirit living within us, and as a visible manifestation of our faith.

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These are all great qualities. I like to think I possess them. However, the past several days (probably even the past several months) have challenged me on whether or not this is true.

On Tuesday our nation elected a new president. While the majority of people voted for the candidate who lost, our system is set up not for a majority rule, but with a less-direct version of democracy, the electoral college. Apparently our founding fathers feared a “tyranny of the majority.” As to why each state but two has a “winner take all” electoral allotment system, I don’t have an answer to that.

Regardless, the outcome has been decided, and truth be told, I’m having a really hard time understanding it. When you don’t understand something, it’s much harder to accept it.

I’ve struggled to understand how people could hear the hateful words that I heard, and still want that person to represent them, represent us. I have struggled to understand how people who are proclaimed followers of Jesus, the most inclusive, loving, generous, immaterialistic, peaceful man to walk to planet, heard the things I heard and chose to look the other way, or worse- excused it and picked that candidate. I’ve struggled to understand how the American church has become so co-opted by a singular political party and hateful rhetoric of the “opposing candidate” that as a whole, was completely unwilling to extend grace to one side, but was able to extend so much unmerited grace to the other. Or, barring either candidate being consistent with Biblical values, conscientiously abstained , voted third party, or as I did, picked a write-in candidate.

And I have asked questions. Lots of them. I’ve attempted to understand. I’ve seen lots of Facebook posts decrying the accusations lodged against them of being racist, unintelligent, hateful, and a whole number of things. It saddens me that they have been attacked. They have cited a myriad of reasons why they voted the way that they did, and most of them have to do with party platforms rather than the person they actually elected.

For me, though,  this wasn’t a choice of politics, it was a referendum on civility. I believe everyone lost on Tuesday, whether they realize it or not.

HOWEVER… and here’s where I start to get to the point of this whole convoluted thing.

In a conversation about the election with a friend of mine whose life is devoted to ministry, previously as a pastor, currently as a global missions director for a charity that does a whole lot of good in the name of Jesus, he accused me of assuming that I have taken THE moral high ground.

He’s absolutely correct. I have assumed that.

But his statement has stuck with me. It’s gnawed at me. It’s caused me to look at my own life and my own “belief” system.

If I say I believe something, but have no actions to back it up, it’s not a belief. It’s an opinion. And boy do I have LOTS of opinions. I’m a writer, it’s how I express my thoughts. If I were to compare the amount of words I have expended vs. the amount of effort proving those words with actions, there would be a giant discrepancy.

When I was younger, I was always a little nervous about the verse in James that says faith without action is dead. Because I was brought up with the doctrine of grace, “works” was almost a dirty word.

The reality is that it left me without a clear understanding of either.

Jesus told us that faith was a visible thing, not just things you think or feel. The only way your inner beliefs can be seen is through action. Loving people is a verb. Mercy isn’t feeling pity, it’s compassion. Compassion is a verb, exhibited through extending help and forgiveness .  Sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, reading the Bible or spouting off on Facebook about morality isn’t faith. We don’t ask, “What would Jesus think?” We don’t ask, “What would Jesus feel?” We ask “What would Jesus DO?”

I can have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the poor, maybe even write a post, or share an article about the tragedy and injustice of it, meanwhile my mother in law is quietly serving at the soup kitchen every week– who then is the one who truly BELIEVES helping the poor is the right thing to do?

This morning I studied this concept of living my beliefs through my actions, and it was a heartbreaking indictment.

The following, in no particular order, are the verses that convicted my heart today:

Matthew 12:36 “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgement day for every idle word you speak.”

Idle: without purpose or effect, pointless.

John 21:16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said. “You know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

Revelation 2:19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. ”

Philemon 1:6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

James 2:22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.

1 Peter 2:15 For this is God’s will, that you silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good.

Matthew 25:34- 45 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink, I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply , ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “

And finally, back to the pomegranate.

Matthew 12:33 A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Or non-existent.

Have you ever planted a tree or vine that didn’t bear much fruit, if at all? Last summer I planted a raspberry bush. Number of raspberries it bore year one? Zero. Year two? Three. So instead of providing me with the joy and sustenance of its berries, all I’ve got is an overgrown bush covered in thorns.

Sometimes in my way of living and interacting with others,  I’m that raspberry bush. I give a couple measly berries and an armful of scratches for your trouble.

I want to be a pomegranate tree, and not because those suckers could bean someone on the side with the force of a baseball to get their attention, although at times it’s tempting.

If my life is bearing pomegranates, that fruit is not only providing goodness, it’s also filled with a multitude of seeds that can turn into more trees.

It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, as long as I’m producing fruit, sharing it with others, seeding new trees.

I need to put my preaching into action, starting with the very people in whose choices I’m disappointed. Love, compassion, mercy, grace… if I am only willing to bestow these things to those who agree with me, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree. If I rail against injustice, poverty, bigotry, but it’s limited to a blog post and a Facebook rant, I am a fruitless pomegranate tree.

If I want to see pomegranate arils permeating this country, my friendships, my government, my family, I’ve gotta first fertilize my own tree.