It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for those of us who pay attention to national issues in America. As a closet fan of politics, I’ve been all eyeballs on the two political conventions over these last two weeks. And as a not-so-shy American, I closely followed our Olympic team’s efforts and victories in the Beijing Games a few weeks ago. Events like these–that only come every four years–always energize me and remind me that there is a larger world beyond me, my beautiful village of Mokena, and MY WAY OF DOING THINGS.
National and global events quickly shrink what I’ve ridiculously magnified as colossal in my own life. It reminds me that MY struggles are slight in comparison to the everyday struggles of those in the larger world. Example: my annoyance at recent gas prices should be a reminder to me that I don’t have to walk miles to bring home water and food for my family since I enjoy the blessing of owning a car. Example: the starving and orphaned African child on the run from wicked rebel armies who are trying to conscript him … or the fears of his sister who has encountered violent rapes daily from her birth 10 years before remind me that I haven’t had to experience real heartache and hopelessness. It reminds me that when my “bills and budget challenges” demand me to eat salad instead of steak, I don’t really have problems. I have full use of my eyes, my hands, my legs, my hearing, my taste, my ability to smell, and the full faculties of my mind and soul. I have a beautiful wife and children who mirror their mother’s beauty, I don’t have problems. My faucet always brings clean water to my cup. I live in the shade of beautiful trees.
National and global events remind me that to be an American is a blessing. It’s a blessing with a responsibility. Our impressive Olympians reminded me of how important excellence-in-endeavor is a part of the American spirit. Something that has always made Americans unique in our world. (This is not to say that we are above the rest of the world–just that we are blessed and have often rightly-used that blessing for others through our history.) It’s when we TURN THE BLESSING INWARD that we as individual Americans begin to sour and spoil that heritage. Our rich heritage as Americans–but specifically as people who share God’s love with the larger world–is a critical role with which we have been entrusted. If we don’t live as generous, loving, and godly Americans, our profound richness will leave us with the only other qualities left to be claimed: greed, discontentment, self-protectionism, unsatisfiable hunger.
The author of the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, says that “whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value” (3:10-13–nlt). In other words, we have the daily choices to offer our God and our world (1) our golden best or (2) our bonfire kindling of self-absorbed living. The pushback we receive from others in our personal lives and the outcry against Americans we hear from the larger global family often are associated with whether we are sharing our gold or sluffing off our leftover hay on others.
The safest and most blessed America is possible when we are the most self-less versions of ourselves. Our global and national challenges will never be overcome by governments, political parties, presidents, legislatures, blogs, or newspaper articles. Personal and global life will be rightly handled when blessed Americans like you and me start living differently towards the neighbors we encounter in our backyards and in Berkot’s as well as the ones we rarely see in Belize, Bosnia, or Bangladesh.
How much anxiety would we feel about being robbed if we had already given all of our things away? There is a reason we as Americans are the anxiety society. We have so much blessing, but we have kept the gold and pawned off the scraps. We don’t know what to do with all of the extra time, money, and possessions but to worry about them. About how to maintain them, protect them, preserve them. Jesus didn’t have His own bed, because the world and the people of the globe formed His home. He never gave anything but His absolute all–His gold–to every single person and every single moment. Americans used to remember that. I still have hope that we will again.

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