This last week was my first opportunity to vote as a US citizen. Actually it was the first chance I have had to vote since I left Australia 25 years ago and I felt privileged to be able to cast my vote at a such an historic moment. No matter what our political views may be I think that all of us need to realize that we watched history in the making this last Tuesday evening. As I watched the tears roll down Jesse Jackson’s face I was overwhelmed by the change that Obama’s victory already represents particularly for those who have grown up in an era of racism and discrimination. And as I have read the comments from friends in Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia I realize that this election is a moment of change not just for America but for the whole world. It has given hope to many that thought there was no hope.
At the same time however, maybe because I am still at heart a cynical Australian, I have very low expectations for the kind of change any earthly government can accomplish. In fact as a follower of Christ I am not sure that any of us should look to our earthly governments for the kind of change that we really long for in our world – the in breaking of the kingdom of God with its promise of wholeness and freedom and abundance for all .
Maybe that is just as well because I am also very aware that as a follower of Christ my primary loyalty is not to the government of any country but rather to the kingdom of God and to the values and policies of God’s eternal world. However I do believe that the kind of change that represents the in breaking of God’s new world can transcend all governmental boundaries and is possible in small ways in our world today. It begins at the grassroots level when the people of God catch hold of God’s vision for a new world in which freedom does indeed come for the oppressed, healing does come for the sick and wholeness does come for all of us in whom the divine image is distorted and maimed. I love this quote from Compassion: Reflection on the Christian Life by Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison, Henri Nouwen which for me sums up my feelings on this issue:
This is the vision that guides us. This vision makes us share one another’s burdens, carry our crosses together, and unite for a better world. This vision takes the despair out of death and the morbidity out of suffering, and opens new horizons. This vision also gives us the energy to manifest its first realization in the midst of the complexities of life. This vision is indeed of a future world but it is no utopia. The future has already begun and is revealed each time strangers are welcomed, the naked are clothed, the sick and prisoners are visited, and oppression is overcome. Through these grateful actions the first glimpses of a new heaven and a new earth can be seen.
In the new city, God will live among us, but each time two or three gather in the name of Jesus he is already in our midst. In the new city, all tears will be wiped away, but each time people eat bread and drink wine in His memory, smiles appear on strained faces. In the new city, the whole of creation will be made new, but each time prison walls are broken down, poverty is dispelled and wounds are carefully attended, the old earth is already giving way to the new. Through compassionate action, the old is not just old anymore and pain is not just pain any longer. Although we are still waiting in expectation, the first signs of the new earth and the new heaven, which have been promised to us and for which we hope, are already visible in the community of faith where the compassionate God reveals Himself. This is the foundation of our faith, the basis of our hope and the source of our love.
I cannot imagine a more difficult time to become the leader of any country and I am sure that over the next couple of years many will feel frustrated and disillusioned because their expectations are not met and their hopes have been dashed. Change that is possible through any government is limited by the flawed and far from perfect nature of all human beings. How wonderful it is to know that there is a far greater hope that we have to lead our lives.