"Best Behavior"

Political rancor, dispute, animosity, disparaging commentary, and caustic behaviors are nothing new to the American political landscape (unfortunately). From 168 years ago, this famous cartoon depicts elected Senators on their “best behavior.”

As our own United States Senate Archives tells the story (senate.gov), On May 22, 1856, the "world's greatest deliberative body" became a combat zone. In one of the most dramatic and deeply ominous moments in the Senate's entire history, a member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate Chamber and savagely beat a senator into unconsciousness.

While the issue that caused this great stir has now been long settled and put to rest, the approach and acrimony of modern-day politics is still very much alive and malignant on American society. We are, it turns out, a very contentious people (prickly, quarrelsome, combative, antagonistic, and highly critical). We often see and think the worst of those with whom we may disagree. This is not Christian, not biblical, and not Wesleyan.

John Wesley famously (and rightly) said: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” A grand and glorious vision of how humans should behave with one another. But culture and chaos often invite us to think and behave differently. Benjamin Franklin was the one who defended the idea that “Only a principled people can survive a democracy.” Unholy freedoms, unchecked and unmeasured, will be our defeat.

John Wesley was highly concerned about his own politically rancorous culture back in the 18th century. He sought to share this wisdom with those who would engage in political discourse and voting. Wesley had three points to keep in mind, which he recorded in his journal from October 6, 1774. He wrote:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
  •  To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy:
  •  To speak no evil of the person they voted against:
  •  And, To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other         side.
In other words, don’t merely vote for what gets you advantaged (selling your vote). Don’t speak evil of your opponents (silence is golden). Keep a generous, gracious, civil, and curious spirit toward those who disagree with you. These will help us to behave well with each other through this tumultuous time.

As the “Republican Primary Season” has now officially begun, we are now guaranteed that the next eight months (leading up to our 2024 Presidential Election) will fill the airwaves (and social media), with rancorous accusation, blaming, finger-pointing, and lambasting characterizations. This is unholy, unjust, and unbecoming of those who steward the gift of freedom.

Let’s keep our focus on Jesus and His kingdom and heed the wisdom of the Prophet Isaiah who spoke a corrective word to God’s people who tend to stray in these areas:
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger
and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the
hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will
rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday”
Isaiah 58:9b-10 NIV

“I am humble and gentle” ~ Jesus
Matthew 11:29
Pastor David 😊

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