One Nation Under God

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares…    (Isaiah 2:3b-4)

On Monday morning, I received a video of a pastor sharing that the media had declared that former Vice President Biden had become the President-Elect.  He then began to maniacally cackle like this was the most ludicrous thing he had ever heard.

Last weekend as President Trump’s motorcade was returning to the White House after the media had called the election, people on the side of the road made rude hand gestures and screamed out foul language.

I would say that both of these episodes contradict today’s scripture about beat[ing] swords into plowshares.  I would also say that mocking pastors and crowds deriding the president are not what is needed right now in our country.  And finally, I would say that hearing and heeding Isaiah’s prophetic voice would be tremendously helpful for us.  Even though Isaiah wrote these words 2,800 years ago, his message couldn’t be more pertinent or timely.

What would it mean to beat our swords into plowshares?  It would mean that we don’t mock our political and democratic process.  If that pastor had urged that all possible questions and issues around the election be investigated, that would have been his right.  But to scorn all that has happened while speaking from a pulpit that doesn’t belong to him but to Jesus is irresponsible sword-making and dangerous sword-wielding.

What else would it mean to beat our swords into plowshares? It would mean that regardless of how anyone feels about the current president, we would not aid, abet, condone, or resort to using rude hand gestures or nasty language as his motorcade passes.  Even if someone doesn’t respect the current president’s leadership, it is important that we respect the office of the presidency, even if we judge that the current incumbent hasn’t.

Mocking the results of the election or trashing others only brings out the worst in those who see things differently.  In a frenzied sword fight, who wins?  No one.  Beating our swords into plowshares means that we lower the temperate in our reactions and temper our language while also showing a modicum of respect for those who voted or who believe differently than we do.

The prophets from ancient days, like Isaiah, and the prophets of our day, like Martin Luther King, always point out the gap between how we are living, speaking, and treating others from the ways that God desires for us to live, speak, and treat others. Prophets point out the separation between what we are doing from what God would have us do.  They call us to account.  They tell us to repent and to change our ways.

We need a prophetic voice right now to ring out across our land.  There is indeed a gap between how we are conducting ourselves and how God would like us to do so if indeed we can say that we are “one nation under God” with any credibility or integrity.

I pray that the mocking pastor is convicted to repent and confess his bad leadership.  I hope that those who indulged in name-calling and vilifying any public official, or any person of the “other” party, would be convicted to see that such unbridled gestures only deepen the painful divisions in our land.

This is now our time to beat our swords into plowshares.  Swords lead to dismemberment, blood, and death.  Plowshares lead to crops that feed, fruit that delights, and harvests that give hope.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you have some swords you need to put down? If so, what are they?
  1. Do you have some plowshares you need to pick up? If so, what are they?
  1. What would it take for our nation to beat all of our swords—all that divides us and maims our common life—into plowshares—all that brings us together and makes for peace?

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