From the Desk of the Moderator: Inauguration Reflections
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (I John 3:18). Appropriate words for this week in the United States as we observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and we watched a peaceful transition of power during the U.S. Presidential inauguration ceremony. In the third chapter of 1 John the author is telling his audience about the need for Christians to act on love and not just talk about it. Words do matter and even more so, actions matter. Verse 18 uses the Greek word agape, meaning a selfless and sacrificial love. The third chapter also contrasts hate and love, with hatred being the equivalent to murder. As Christians we are commanded to act on love, not merely saying we love each other, but show the truth by our actions.
As I watched the Presidential inauguration ceremony, when it was over and the crowds were dispersing, I found myself sighing in relief that it was a peaceful ceremony without incident. My last three years serving in the U.S. Navy I worked in Washington, D.C. Every workday I drove past the Capitol, the White House, and the Washington Monument to my duty station across the street from the U.S. State Department. While security is always tight at these events, I cannot imagine how surreal it must be to see 25,000 plus military troops deployed in the district. The scenes I saw felt like an occupied city. While many were celebrating the inaugural event, I felt grief and sadness for our nation. Sadness that hatred and divisiveness from all sides has brought us to this moment where a peaceful transition of power had to be done with a backdrop of thousands of military troops as a deterrent to violence. Grief that news commentators, social media keyboard warriors and yes, even persons of faith, were less than kind, even spewing vitriol, over the departure of the 45th President and administration.
It is time to let go and move forward towards healing a broken nation. One man and one government administration cannot do this alone. We have a lot of work to do. Words do matter. The power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). The words of 1 John 3:18 remind us that actions speak even louder. In other words, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Here are some thoughts to ponder.
President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address faced a nation ravaged by civil war and a deeply divided country. Some would say today’s climate is just as divided. “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” (delivered March 4, 1865 during the final days of the Civil War and a month before he was assassinated.)
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
President George W. Bush, speaking in Dallas, TX at a memorial service for police officers killed in a mass shooting (2016), said “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values. We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound together by things of the spirit-by shared commitments to common ideals.”
In my last pastoral letter, I said “the concern should be about what affects the heart. It is a heart issue that is inside each of us. The issue is not everyone else. It is what is inside each of us. External words and actions come from internal places, the heart.”
As we each follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and listen to God’s voice telling us how we can make a difference in our own families, communities, churches, our nation, and the world, may these words speak to us:
To our Cumberland Presbyterian family living outside the United States, please continue to pray for us and our nation as we continue in prayer for you and those you serve.