Andy Stanley - Like Stars in the Sky
So this week we are celebrating Independence Day, the birth of a nation. I don't know if it's just the leader in me or the entrepreneur in me. And I'm not that entrepreneurial, but from time to time, I think, and I know this is kinda strange, so bear with me. I mean, a lot of you have started a company or you've launched an initiative. Imagine starting a country. Hey, let's start a country. We can't even imagine that. Right? The United States of America.
Now the challenge of course right now is that we don't feel, and it doesn't seem like we're very united these days. And I think that bugs most of us, it seems like everything automatically gets divided up into one of two buckets, even though we're the United States of America. Everything either goes in a red bucket or a blue bucket, no matter what the issue is or whatever the topic is, immediately there's a view that divides. It's like, whatever view you hold it's like, oh, red everything. And you're like, wait, no, no, not a 100% red. You're looking pretty red. Blue you're blue. No, no, I'm not. No, you're blue. If that's your view on that particular topic, you go in the blue bucket. Two buckets, right and left, Right? Red and blue. And I don't think anybody's happy about that, are we? Are you happy about that? I mean, normal people aren't happy about that.
Normal people don't like to be pigeonholed like, wait a minute all I said was, well, clearly you're Republican. Well, no... Now normal people don't like that, but, and don't tell anybody I told you this, some people love it. Some people love the division. And the reason is there is a lot of money to be made by keeping us divided. And there's a lot of power to be preserved by creating the sense that we're more divided than we actually are. I mean, you're adults, you know, this.
Suspicion is profitable. Fear is very profitable. Division, consequently is profitable. I mean, if you convince me there's somebody I should be afraid of, and if you convince me that you will protect me from that person for a donation and a vote, well, I'm gonna give you a donation and a vote so you'll protect me from those evil people, those racist Republicans and those socialist Democrats. Because clearly you have talked to every single Republican and you know for sure they're all racist or you have talked to every single Democrat and you know, for sure they're socialists, right? I mean the socialist. So, you know all of 'em, like you've talked to all of them and they're all socialists or they're all racial. Well, no, but see, we know that's not true, but it's just so easy to allow ourselves to be pushed into those corners.
And the other thing, and this is kinda personal and on a topic like this, I just have to be honest, I can't be personal 'cause my opinions really don't matter. You haven't hired me to tell you what I think about stuff. That's not even that interesting, but so, you know, I do have an opinion about everything and the reason I know that, Sandra is here today, she, from time to time, she'll say, "Do you have to have an opinion about everything"? And I'm like, "Doesn't everybody have an opinion about everything"? She says, "No, you don't have to have an opinion about everything". So if you don't know me or you're new to our organization, or you listen for the first time, if your summary of me is oh, he's just kind of down the middle milk toast guy, I assure you that's not the case.
I have very, very strong political opinions, but you know what? That's a little bit part of the problem. And it's why we're gonna talk about this today. Even though some of you are already nervous about the topic and I'm just getting started, but that's on purpose too. Because when you took speech class in high school or college, a member of your speech teacher said, when you create the introduction to your talk, make sure your introduction gets people's what? Yeah. So I have your attention. So it's working, anyway. So the other thing that kinda bugs me about what's going on now is neither side thinks the other side is paying their fair share. And for the life of me, nobody will tell me what the fair share is so I can pay it. But here's the problem. Here's the problem. The problem with they don't pay their fair share, they don't pay their fair share, is that it leaves us all less inclined to share because we're divided. You can raise a lot of money on the far left. You can raise a lot of money on the far right? But you don't solve problems there ever.
And then I know this is gonna bug you a little bit. You won't find Jesus there because you can't love well from there. And it's why I do my best, and it's why I wade into this topic every once in a while when it seems appropriate, because I don't want us to be found on the far right or the far left either because Jesus isn't there and problems aren't solved there. And I understand your frustration and you can go ahead and formulate your email in your mind because I read all my email, okay? I do. And the more extreme your email, the more likely it is that I'll call you to say, "Hey, that was fascinating. You know, never seen that combination of words before to describe a pastor". But anyway, and it's why it bugs you because it's, I get it. I understand. I'm really not good.
"Andy, Andy, you need to take a stand. You need to take a stand". I'm like, I am taking a stand. I'm standing in the middle. "Oh, it's a compromise". No. You need to take it. When somebody tells you, when somebody tells you that Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity is a friend. He's an amazing, amazing man. And he said, Andy told me this years ago, he said, "Whenever people want us to take a stand. You know what they're really saying"? I'm like what? He says, "They want us to take their stand. And if we're not willing to take their stand, they don't want us to take a stand". Oh, that's what you believe. Remain quiet, please. So I am taking a stand. But if you stand on the far left and the far, right, unless you're raising money, or trying to be a fear monger, you're just not, I mean, it's an echo chamber, you can have lots of friends who all believe the same things you believe and see the world the same way you do.
That's great, if you're just an average person. But today I want to talk about, let's not be average people. It's why I do my best at times to say, come on in from the far left and come on in from the far, right. Not because I don't have an opinion, not because I don't have standards and not because I don't have a lot of energy around our nation and solving problems. But because I do and the solutions, I mean, you can go back in our own history. Even our most recent history, believe it or not. And the problems are solved when people from the extremes come to the middle. So let me ask you this way. Okay. Why, just before you tune me out, why do we fall so easily? We're adults. We should know better. We don't want our kids to do this. Why do we so easily fall for rhetoric? Because it's rhetoric. Why do we fall for rhetoric that divides us? I mean it has division, I don't think there's good answers. Has division ever led to a solution? If it has, it's the exception. Certainly not the rule, right? I mean can demonizing, and this is the, you know, this is the part we should just, this should just drive us crazy.
Can demonizing half the population based on party affiliation or skin color bring us together? Can demonizing and criticizing half the population because of party affiliation or the way somebody acts or the way somebody believes or the way somebody looks, can demonizing a whole group of people that you don't even know, I don't even know, can that possibly bring us together? The answer is no. Here's an idea. Why don't we, why don't we despise division as much as we despise people who don't vote like us? The enemy is not the Republican or the democratic party. Our enemy is not a party. Our enemy is the division because it slows everything down and it causes people to be hurt. And it causes people's voice not to be heard when the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. So why don't we all just decide? You know, who the enemy is? The enemy is the division. And when you're alone by yourself thinking about this, you know, and I know this is absolutely true. Because it's in the middle.
Again, you know this from family, you know this from your business, you know this if you're in sales. You know this in a variety of arenas. That in the middle is where people lay aside, their entitlement and the middle is where people are willing to lay aside their personal agenda to do what's best for one another, and to solve problems for the community. In the middle, in the middle, what's up obvious becomes apparent. In the middle we all agree on this, regardless of your political persuasion or your religious persuasion, or if you even have one. In the middle, we say, yeah, here's, what's obvious. Here's, what's apparent. What's best for people is what's best. What's best for people is what's best. What's best for people is what's best. And in the middle, we can debate what's best for people without dehumanizing and without demonizing people who don't agree with us about what's best for people, because we will always disagree around the edges. And we will always disagree around the margins about what's best for people. But we can't disagree and hopefully we don't disagree that what's best for people is what's best.
And those solutions are found when we come together and leverage our resources, all of our resources, all of our brain trust to solve the big problems that we wrestle with in our communities, in our nation, and ultimately in the world. And it seems to me, I mean, maybe I'm naive, that every American should be able to see through the spin that characterizes our politics. But Christians and by Christians, I don't just mean people who believe Jesus is the son of God. I'm talking about Jesus followers, people who are trying to live this thing out, we of all people should be able to see through and poke through and make our way through the spin.
So here's what I want to do for a few minutes. And this is gonna be uncomfortable for some of you and I understand it. And I've asked you to do this before. For just a few minutes, and if you're new, or if you're watching for the first time, I know you're suspicious and you've got your guard up. I understand. You should, you know? I would like for you to try to take your political filter off your face for just a few minutes, your Republican filter, your Democrat filter, your Libertarian, filter, your librarian filter, you know, whatever your filter is, you know, your MSNBC or Fox News or Newsmax or CNN or whatever, would you, if you could just take the political thing off, and I just want you to set it, don't let it go too far. I want you to sit it right there beside you, because when we're finished, I want you to pick it back up and put it on 'cause I don't want to have to go around and clean all those things up off the chairs, okay?
So you brought it in, you wore it in, you know, I just want, if, just for a minute, if you'll take it off and then when I'm finished, you can just put it back on and go out and be whoever you want. But I just want you to try to listen for a couple of minutes, all right? And again, pick 'em up on your way out. One thing to start with some common ground, 'cause I think to move forward, we gotta find the common ground. The common ground, one thing that we all appreciate about our nation, I hope we all do, is our Bill of Rights. Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It was created as you know, to protect individual liberties because the founders were so amazingly smart, they get a lotta grief these days, but goodness gracious they started a nation. And what they even said about their own work as we'll see in a few minutes, it's amazing how transparent and how realistic they were about the limitations of what they formed.
So that the Bill of Rights is, you know, free speech, free press, right to assemble, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, due process, the right to a jury trial, the right to not be overwhelmed with search and seizure. Anybody see what I did here? Bare arms. It should be bear arms. Can we go back? Can we show 'em before, 'cause I said, bare arms. Can we go back? Yeah, see then I went bare arms. Now the truth is either one of these words if you focused on it for very long, it gets weird. It's either bare arms or it's bear arms. Anyway, we're gonna need some humor today. That's all I got. Okay. Cruel and unusual punishment. And then quartering soldiers. This is an issue for nobody right now. This is so interesting. And you probably maybe remember this from some high school history class. They made it a law that the government can't force you to house soldiers if we're not at war. And again, it's somewhat irrelevant, but you know, that was a big deal.
So again, they were trying to protect individual rights. Now, today, if we were coming up with a new Bill of Rights, some of these probably wouldn't be on there. I mean, quartering soldiers seems is kind of irrelevant. We would have different things. We would have free wifi, right? Free healthcare, free education. And so our founders were so smart. They looked into the future and they realized, you know what, what is so relevant for this generation may not be as relevant for the next one. So they came up with the 9th amendment. That's kind of the catchall amendment, the kitchen sink amendment, just in case. Well, not just in case because they knew in the future, there would be other individual rights, there would be other individual rights that they wanted to make sure that the people in the United States knew there was room for, that those weren't the only rights protected.
So here's how the 9th amendment reads. It says the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage other, other rights, retained by the people. It's like, what? So basically they're saying there's gonna be some other things that come down the road. And so this isn't saying this is the only list. So this is kind of the kitchen sink. So I think, this is my opinion. If we were to rewrite the 9th amendment, because it's a little legal ease, a little stilted, our version of it would look more like this. It would be like this. The right to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's rights. Because this is kinda the American way. I mean, this is why people love to come to this country. This is kind of what we expect.
Now, this brings us to the tension point I want us to talk about a little bit. And it's something that all of us know intuitively and from experience. And it's something that the founders were so dialed into. And yet it's something that's so easy to lose sight of. That rights, rights, rights must be coupled with responsibility or things go terribly wrong. You know this, if you're a parent. Because you have given your children freedoms and they weren't responsible with those freedoms and you had to reach in and take those freedoms away. Growing up, some of you, you got your driver's license, you took off in daddy's car, momma's car. Maybe your parents bought you a car or got you a used car, and you got a speeding ticket, or you did something irresponsible. You had a freedom, but you were irresponsible. So they took the keys. They took the car. Some of you, growing up, your parents took your door off of your room. Some of you had that punishment. Or maybe you've taken the door off of a child's room. Why? Because I've given you the freedom to have your own space. You have been irresponsible that freedom.
I'm taking your door only because I can't take your room. And your brother and sister do not want you to move in with them. So there has to be a combination of responsibility to go with freedoms, right? Individual rights must be coupled with individual responsibility or this whole thing doesn't work. Because again, you know this, rights without responsibility, you know what at leads to, it leads to isolation and ultimately to anarchy. That liberty apart from responsibility, undermines liberty and requires more laws. So theoretically, if you're kinda following me, what we need in addition to the Bill of Rights is we need a Bill of responsibility. But this is impossible. Because you can't legislate responsibility. And yet without responsibility, individual responsibility, we isolate and we divide. And the founders knew this. This is so amazing.
John Adams, the second president of the United States. Now, when I read what I'm about to read, you may have read this before or heard this before, and it's like, you're gonna go "Yeah, that's right". But I want you to think about who is saying this or who wrote this. This is the person. These are people who are at the epicenter of the process of developing the Constitution of the United States. And you know a little bit about constitutional history, how long, how many people, how many voices and wrote and they rewrote and they rewrote. And they rewrote in so many drafts. So you've got the smartest guys, you know, in our nation at that time, you know, totally committed to coming up with the best document possible. And when they're finished, they are all aware of the problem and they're not afraid to state it. And here's his version. "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people".
Don't kid yourself. He says. We've done a great job. I think it's a great document. I think we're off to a good start. But don't kid yourself. As careful as we've been, as meticulous as we've been, it won't work if the people for whom this was written are not moral and religious. It is whole, and this is amazing. "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other". So, "Hey guys, what do you think about your document"? "Well, it's pretty much inadequate". "Wait, wait, you've been in here for months". "I know, but it's inadequate. Unless the people of this nation understand that there is a moral absolute, a sense of ought to, that stands outside our laws and above our laws and outside our nation and above our nation, that stands as ruler and king and authority over our conscience".
Unless there is a collective sense of conscience it's not going to work that. They understood. They knew apart from this, from you know, a moral sense of obligation, whether it's religious or not we're gonna talk about that in a minute that the American experiment in freedom would fail because when my rights infringe on your rights, who's to say, who's right? This is why we have laws. Because when rights collide, you know this, the law decides sides. But as when you have a group of people who have abdicated an understanding, a shared sense of understanding what is ought and what ought not to be done, then our collective conscience begins to begin to evaporate, begins to devolve and to be undermined. And when that happens, you know what you need more of? More laws and more laws and more laws and more laws and close the loopholes, close the loopholes, close the loopholes, more laws, more laws, more laws. But the problem with law is this, law reflects the minimum requirement.
How low can I go and still get to go home? That's what the law tells you, how low you can go and you still get to go home. The law tells you and tells me what we can get by with. It's designed to keep bad things from happening. But the law doesn't inspire us. It doesn't inspire greatness. It doesn't inspire virtue. It doesn't inspire us to be responsible. I mean, traffic laws are great, but traffic laws don't make you a courteous driver. Do they? Right? Tax laws. Tax laws are important and there's even a benefit to being generous. But tax laws don't make you generous. Civil law doesn't make you civil. Does your homeowners association rules make your neighbors good neighbors? No. It underscores the fact that they really aren't that good of a neighbor, right? It kinda highlights the fact that they really need to do something about the stuff in their front yard that they think is so great that nobody else in the neighborhood thinks is great, right? Free speech. Come on. Free speech doesn't make you kind with your words. Laws? Laws, just give us the limit. Laws just put a limit on our self center ed expressions of our rights and our sense of entitlement. Rights, what we're entitled to. Law, what we're allowed to do.
And our founders said, if this is all you got it's not gonna work. And we wrote it. The law protects us from each other's entitlement. That means that you can't come into my home uninvited to exercise your free speech. Right? But still none of it inspires me or causes me to look up and ask, how much can I do instead of how low can I go? And because of this, because of human nature, these two things alone, because of human nature, these two things alone, actually foster division. If this is all we have, this actually fuels division and it makes it easy to profit from our division.
So a third component is necessary. Again, let's, here it is John Adams tells us. "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people". only for a moral and religious people. If there's not a third component, the founders who wrote it said, it's gonna eventually break down. So to borrow his terminology, even though we don't use this term the same way perhaps the founders did back in that era, the third, the third piece of this has to be morality, what we ought to do. What we're entitled to do, what we're allowed to do, what we ought to do. Virtue. Now, why am I talking about this in church? Because I want to talk about this. Because this is where you come in. This is where followers of Jesus comes in. This is where the church comes in. This is where people who wake up at least few days a week, or at some point along the week and say, you know what?
Heavenly Father, I want to know your will. I want to do your will. I want to actually be a follower of Jesus. I don't want to just believe a bunch of static things then live a life disconnected from what I believe. I want my belief and my confidence and my faith in you to invade my life and my relationships and my money and my generosity and the way that I treat people.
Because, and here's the thing. This is just to make sure you don't misunderstand me. I, and I hope you agree. Our legal system is appropriately decoupled from any religious absolutes. We do not want to live in a theocracy, but what we do need, what we must have and what you can provide and what we can provide is a national conscience, a national conscience informed by the law of Christ. Now, if you're not a religious person or a Christian person, you're like, oh, here we go. No, no, just, just hang with me. Okay. This is super important. The law of Christ, that phrase the law of Christ is a phrase that doesn't get much airplay in church and in Christendom, which is so unfortunate. And I didn't even grow up knowing about this until I began reading the New Testament.
The phrase, the law of Christ, is a phrase the apostle Paul coined to describe and to summarize Jesus' new covenant command that before Jesus was crucified, he said, Moses was your guy. Now I'm your guy. Moses was your guy. Now I'm your guy. Moses gave you the law. I'm giving you a new law. How many? Just one. And here it is. "As I have loved you, as I've honored you, treated you, cared, treated you, cared for you, accepted you, as I have done for you," he says to his followers, "I want you to do that for everybody else". And the apostle Paul comes along. He was the greatest Pharisee who ever lived. We know because he told us, very good self esteem, very, very healthy sense of self-esteem, said "I'm the greatest Pharisee ever". And then he said "All that great stuff I did as a Pharisee, it's like garbage compared to following Jesus".
And the apostle Paul comes along and he takes this giant idea of do for others what God through Christ has done for you. And he calls it the law of Christ. He references Galatians chapter six and 1st Corinthians chapter nine, verse 21. And here's what it looks like teased out in the real world. This is why, if you're not a religious person or not a Christian person, you should embrace this. This is the world you want to live in. This is the community you want to live in. These are the kinds of kids you want to raise. And whether you ever to follow Jesus or not, these ideas, if they would shape our conscience, it would address every single social ill and perhaps almost every single legal ill that we deal with and would impact the way that we treat and respond to the world. To honor one another the way that God through Christ honored us, honor one another, honor one another.
Do you know what it means to honor one another? It means you don't dishonor anybody. It means that you defer to other people. It means that when you see people, you see someone initially, automatically, initially, right out of the right out the gate, you see somebody made in the image of God who reflects the image of God, someone for whom Christ died, someone as valuable as you. We honor as God through Christ honored us. I'm gonna treat you honorably. Not because you necessarily deserve it. I don't even know you that well. I'm going to treat you honorably because my heavenly father saw that you had so much value. he sent his son to pay for your sin and at the foot of the cross, it is a level playing field. So I'm gonna honor you. What if that informed the national conscience to care for one another the way that God through Christ has cared for us? You can't mandate care, right? You can't legislate care. Care is I don't have to, but I choose to, to forgive, to forgive one another. The way that God through Christ forgave us.
Forgiveness is a gift. Can't legislate forgiveness. You can't demand forgiveness. You can't create a law we have to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift. And if it's a law, it's no longer a gift. Forgiveness is a freewill gift. Forgiveness says this: You owe me because you hurt me. You owe me because you damaged my reputation. You owe me because you took from me, you owe me because of what you said about me, you owe me but I'm deciding freely to cancel that debt. I'm gonna walk halfway across that bridge. And the door is open if you choose to walk in my direction. Imagine a national conscience connected to and formed by forgiveness to accept one another, the way that God through Christ accepted us. Do you know how God accepted you? As you were. He accepted you when you were unacceptable. You're like, well I wasn't all that unacceptable. Well compared to some folks you know, no. But that's the beauty of the New Testament.
For God so loved the world that he gave. For God so loved the world that he deferred. That God so loved the world that he served and he cared and accepted. And Jesus says, okay, you're not gonna remember all those 10 commandments. You're certainly not gonna do 'em. There's a whole bunch of others. And they were great for their time. Moses was your guy. I'm your guy, now listen to me, look at me. I want you to treat people the way that my heavenly Father through me has treated you. And then the next day he would put on a demonstration of love that would take their breath away and take their sin away. And honestly take all our excuses away to love the way that God through Christ loved us. What if that shaped the national conscience? Our founding fathers who wrote the documents said if it doesn't, it's just a matter of time.
The apostle Paul, again, who's the greatest Pharisee, then becomes a Jesus follower. He's writing his letters. He writes these letters, they were circulated through churches in the first century. He's writing one particular letter and it's to Judean and Gentile Christians. And he's reminding them, hey, you're not under the old law. You're not under the law of Moses. Moses was your guy. Jesus, is your guy. But he's warning them. He's saying look, you're not under that law, but don't do what most people do when the restrictions are lifted. Don't do what most people do when the restrictions are lifted. Again guys, you probably remember, like I did the first time you were able to get in one of your parents' cars without your parents, and you were free, right? I was in a four-door beige, Catalina, 455 four-barrel, which means nothing to most of you, but I'm telling you it was a tank and it was all steel. And why in the world, they let me drive off in my mom's car. I don't know.
And I was, now I'll just admit, I was not careful because I was not supervised. I was not careful because suddenly I had this new freedom and I could do what I want to do. I don't have somebody over there in the passenger seat, you know, trying to stick their foot through the floorboard of the car to slow us down. You know? Whenever we get new freedoms, our tendency is to abuse those freedoms. Paul says, look, your heavenly Father has reduced it to one overarching command, but because certain restrictions have been lifted, don't leverage your freedom for your benefit. Here's what he says. "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free". Yes, but, what? "But don't use your freedom". Don't use your freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to. "But don't use your freedom to indulge the flesh".
In other words, you're free, but you're not free for your sake. You've been resourced. You're not resource just for your sake. You have opportunities. It's not just opportunities for your sake. You have entitlement, you have rights. You have law. You live in the United States of America. Hello! But it's not just for your sake. So don't, here's what he's saying. Don't stoop to, is it illegal? If it's not illegal, it must be permissible. Don't stoop to how low can I go? He says, you've been given a brand new freedom, but I don't want you to consume it on yourself. Rather, and he goes right to the heart of Jesus' new covenant command. Rather, here's what I want you to do with your freedom. Rather I want you to use those resources, I want you to use your margin. I want you to use your freedom to "serve one another humbly in love" as your savior served you. But neither the law nor the Constitution, the Bill of Rights can make us serve one another.
As an American citizen you have every right not to. As an American citizen you are entitled not to. The question is, will we choose to? Because unity can't be mandated. Unity must be chosen. And here's the most important part. And somebody has to go first. What about going first in your family in your community, at work. I'm telling ya, if you go first, your people aren't gonna be upset. They'll feel like you're abandoning the cause. You're leaving the party. What's happened to you? Who you been listening to you. What have you been reading? Liberal, conservative. Oh, you've just been consumed by capitalism. Ah, you've just been consumed by socialism. You go first, you move outta your corner. You move outta your little echo chamber of all your friends and people who all believe the same thing, look the same way and act the same way, as soon as you start moving, you'll be criticized. Somebody has got to go first.
It seems to me Jesus' followers should go first because if we follow Jesus, he's not gonna lead us far left. And he's not going to lead us far right. As one of my favorite seminary professors, Tony Evans, some of you listen to Tony on the radio, when I was in seminary he taught me in school, one day he was in class and you know Tony, he's African-American and in class he would kinda leave lecturing and start preaching. And I'll never forget this. I'm not gonna try to mimic him. He's just too amazing. But he was lecturing, we're in some, I don't know what we're talking about. He said, "Jesus, didn't come to take sides. Jesus came to take over". And we all started clapping in class. Like yeah, preach it Tony. But it's true. I mean, read the gospels. He's sandwiched between an empire and a temple.
The temple is like, come on, be one of us, be one of us. You know, you don't know. The empire is like, oh no, no, no, no, no. Jesus is like, no, I've not come to take sides. He said, look at me. I have come to introduce the kingdom of God to Earth. And everyone is invited to participate in it. And there's a simple kingdom ethic. It's others first as your heavenly Father placed you first. When we choose to set aside our right not to love and not to care and not to accept. And you know, not to forgive, when set aside those rights, not to do that. The distance between us decreases. Here's what he says next. He said for, this is amazing. "For the entire law," talking about the law of Moses, so complicated and so complex, and I'm not being critical. The law of Moses was so advanced compared to all the ancient law codes of its time. I mean, we've talked about that before. I mean, it was way, the law of Moses is way ahead of its time, but it had a time, it had a limit, it had a the parentheses, it had a bracket, it was come to an end.
And what Paul says is so brilliant. He said "For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command". It's so simple. It's so brilliant. It's so catalytic. It's so life-changing. But unfortunately what comes next is so familiar it just goes in one ear and out the other. And everybody's like, yep, I believe that. Yep, that's right. I mean, you can hardly argue with this. And Paul, Paul says, look okay. Even if you don't want to go the whole distance of, you know, love others as God through crisis loved you. How about this? How about we take it down a notch and make it more palatable for everybody? The entire law is summarized and he's quoting Jesus in this one command. Just "love your neighbor as yourself". You don't even have to believe in God to do this.
What if we just did that for six months? Three months, three weeks? I mean, I mean, just, I mean, what if the entire nation says, okay, just, we're just gonna do this one thing. The temperature changes, the culture starts to change. And I'll tell you what'll happen without anybody intending to, everybody starts coming out of their corners. And outta their extremes. And they have less tolerance for all of them and all of those and all of them and all of this, like, wait no no, not every Republican. No, not every, do you know every Democrat? You don't? Well then shut up, okay? You can't say all the Democrats, you don't even know 'em all, you know, four, okay? And they're all in your family. Okay? All the Republicans, all the Republicans, they say, wait, wait, wait.
So you've talked to all the Rep... No. Okay. Well just shut up with that. Okay. You can't say that. Just come on outta your echo chamber, come out of your corn, I'm not saying give up what you believe. I'm not saying give up your standards. I'm not saying give up your morals and your values. I'm saying come out and come together. Because when you come together, a terrible, wonderful thing happens. You begin to hear other people's stories and you understand other people's experiences and you begin to see life through their filter. And when that happens, you've all had this happen. When that happens, do you know what you do? You go, oh. Do you know what oh means? Oh means, oh, I learned something new. Oh, I was wrong. Oh means, oh means, you know what? I've never factored that in. Oh means that problem is not as simple as I thought it was.
Okay. Don't forget this. If you're way over on the right or you're way over on the left, don't ever forget this, the further you are away from a problem, the simpler the solution appears to be. The further away you are from a problem, the simpler the solution appears to be. The further away you are from a problem, the simpler the solution appears to be. And this is why when people have shared experiences or I should say, share their experiences, when we begin to get into the lives and the stories and the backgrounds and the narratives of people that aren't exactly like us vote like us, and I'm not saying change parties or change anything, but when you move toward the middle you learn, you grow and you say, oh. And your perspective is different. And suddenly what was, why don't they just stop? Why won't they just start? It's like, oh, because from way over there, that problem looks so simple to solve.
Mature people understand that. And they don't put up with all the yikkety yak around them that makes everybody think they know how to solve every problem in the world because they're a gazillion miles away. And come on, we're Jesus followers. We should know better than this. So what if we just did that? Paul tells us what happens if we don't, if we just settle for, you know, law and rights. This is so graphic. If you read the New Testament, you'll read right over this, but I want the, I don't know, it's just gross honestly. I want the grossness of this to settle in. Here's what he says, because he's trying to make a point. He says, "If you're just gonna do your rights and your laws and I'm free, I'll do whatever I want to with my freedom, my resources, and my ,it's just all about me". He says, "Here's, what's gonna happen. If you bite and devour each other".
Let's just pause and think about that phrase for a minute. If you bite and devour me, ask you a question who in your experience with humans, not animals, humans, what kind of humans bite other humans? What'd you say? Kids! Little bitty, immature kids who don't know any better. That's who bites other people, right? It's kids bite kids. He's going, Paul's going look. If you're gonna act like a baby, if you're gonna act like a child, if you're gonna be so immature, then I'm gonna bite you and bite you and pick at you, and nick at your heels. He says, look, look, if you're so consumed by your rights and your entitlement that you just pick, pick, pick, and bite, bite, bite, you're gonna devour each other. He says, "You better watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other".
This, to some extent, is a picture of what many of us feel is happening in our nation. We're devouring each other. Legally because every man or every woman for himself, or every woman for herself, eventually isolates men unto themselves, women unto themselves, people who look the same way and believe the same way. And living there, they just, we just get isolated. Every man to himself, you just get isolated. And eventually, some of you know this, eventually every man to himself divides a man from himself and a woman from herself.
C.S. Lewis says, that's what hell is. C.S. Lewis says hell, this was just his vision, it's not theological. He said, hell some of you've read his book, "The Great Divorce". It's not about divorce. It's about hell. Why they call it "The Great Divorce", you'll have to read the whole book to figure it out. He says, hell is everybody gets whatever they want just by thinking about it. That's hell because nobody needs anybody and everyone is isolated. So wrapping up, I want to give you three suggestions. If this sounds familiar, I hope so. I have suggested these things before. I'm gonna come back to 'em over and over and over because I want us to get it right. And I want the church in general to get this right. And it's not easy, but it's so simple. And if we would just put on a different filter, if we keep our faith filter on before our political filter, we can do this. I mean, I don't know you.
This is the world you want to live in. This is the culture you want to raise your kids in. This is the future and the founding fathers, again, I know I keep saying that, at the epicenter of the action say, "Hey, if you don't do this part and we don't know how to legislate it, we could not figure out how to write it into the Constitution. If you don't get this part right. The rest of it, well, it's just a matter of time". Paul's words. You're gonna devour. You're gonna bite and devour one another. That's number one. Three decisions. Do what's just, not what you can justify. Just do what's just, not what you can justify, not what everybody else is doing, what you can get by with, right? Well I can get away with it. Not how low can I go? But how others first can I be? How high can I reach? How can I help? How can I help? How can I help?
Number two: do what's responsible, not what's permissible. If you are not willing to take responsibility for the outcome of a decision, don't make the decision. If you're not willing to take responsibility for the outcome of an option, don't choose that option. Be responsible. When you're irresponsible, responsible people have to come along behind you and clean up your mess. Parents, you understand this, you have to clean up the mess of your children because they're not old enough to clean up their mess. But do you really want a nation where we have to clean up each other's messes because we're surrounded by and full of irresponsible people who think, well, nobody can make me, nobody can legislate it. And I can just kinda leave my mess and walk off. And somebody else is gonna take care of it. You don't want to live in that world. But somebody has got to go first and decide, you know what?
If I'm not willing to take responsibility for the outcome of an option or a decision then I'm just not gonna choose that option because I'm gonna do the responsible thing, not just what's permissible. And look, it doesn't matter if nobody saw you, you saw you. Doesn't matter what everybody else is doing? Just don't be like everybody else. You're not everybody. You're a Jesus follower. Number three is do, to use the founding fathers' word, do what's moral, not what's modeled. Be the hero, not the villain. Be the hero, not the villain. Come to the rescue. Don't be a regret. Write a story. We say this all the time, write a story you're proud to tell. A story you're proud to have told about you. You don't have to, but you can choose to. You know, I'm super grateful for the Bill of Rights. And I'm grateful that we're a nation of law and grateful that we don't have a king that, you know, we don't have a dictator.
I'm grateful that George Washington in such an amazing moment, decided when he had an opportunity to be king or to be president again, he said, nope, this is amazing. He said, all this power, I'm gonna hand it off. Oo, gonna hand it off. Supposedly King George is, it maybe a fable, King George heard that, when he heard that George Washington decided not to allow himself to be made king and he decided to hand the power off into a free election, King George said, "If that's true, he's the greatest man alive". Because a king understood what it means to give power away. That's the precedent. That's the gospel, that's what we've been called to do. And we all have an opportunity to do it within the context of our families, our communities, our nation, and the world.
So let's not kid ourselves. It's not enough to be a nation of laws. It's not enough to have a great constitution. We need ought to, we need ought to otherwise we will devour or continue to devour ourselves. James Madison, fourth, president of the United States, sometimes referred to as the father of the Constitution. Again, I mean right there in the thick of things, he certainly understood the inadequacy of the American experiment apart from individual responsibility. So in a convention speech in 1788 he said this, this is amazing. He said, "No theoretical checks, no form of government". They just are establishing one. "No theoretical checks, no form of government can render us secure".
It's like wait, wait, wait. Wait, I thought that was the point of the government was to render us secure. He said, don't kid yourself. "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea". It's a fairy tale. It's a fable. It's an illusion. Don't kid yourself, he says. At the end of the day this comes down to the virtue, the morality, the responsibility of the people. I think we the people can do better. But we the Jesus followers, we have no excuse because in following Jesus, we have tied our future to and we have renewed our conscience to this one, solitary ethical mandate to love other people the way that we have been loved, to see them the way our heavenly Father sees them and to see the value in them that our heavenly Father sees in them.
So let's not just tolerate one another. Let's love one another. Let's don't just be law abiding citizens. Anybody can do that. Let's be Jesus followers. In the words of Paul, perhaps this will be a reality. When Paul wrote this, this was laughable. When Paul wrote this, the Christian community was a disenfranchised, socially ostracized, I mean, they had no power, they had no nothing, they had no literature. I mean, they were kinda nothing. And the apostle Paul writes to these little fledgling churches scattered around the Mediterranean rim. He says, okay, I know, I know you think I'm thinking too big, but just trust me on this. I want you to "do everything without grumbling or arguing so that we may become blameless and pure". "Blameless and pure children of God". Like father, like son, like father, like son, like father, like daughter, like father, like daughter, "that we will become children of God without fault in a warped and crooked," a divided and self-centered generation.
And then, I mean, when they read this, they're like, okay, Paul, I know you got big ideas, but okay, do you even know what's going on in our community? He said, trust me. "Then we will shine among them like stars in the sky". Isn't this what you want to do? Isn't this worth giving your life to? Isn't this why we should follow Jesus? That we don't have to wait. We don't have to wait for an election cycle. We don't have to wait. We can shine among them like stars in the sky. Just by embracing the simple idea that I am to leverage my freedom for the benefit of the people around me. And then maybe, just maybe, we can make our way to the middle where problems are solved and things change and not for our sake, but for the sake of our communities and our nation. And ultimately for the sake of the world.