Like Stars in the Sky

Red or Blue. For or Against. It sometimes feels like the United States isn't very united. But unity can’t be mandated; it must be chosen… So how do we choose it in the midst of so much division?

  1. When political conversations arise, what is your first response? 
  2. When asked to love, accept, or forgive someone who disagrees with you, how do you typically respond?
  3. What’s one area in which you could choose to do what is just over what you could simply justify?
  4. Where have you seen behaviors modeled by others that do not align with your personal morals? How can you choose to stand your ground when the modeled behavior criticizes you for staying true to yourself?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

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 kind of strange, so bear with me. I mean, a lot of you started a company or you've launched an initiative. Imagine starting a country. "Hey, let's start a country." I mean, can you... 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, I'm not 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 is happy about that, are we? Are you happy about that? Normal people aren't happy about that.

Normal people don't like to be pigeon-holed like, "Wait a minute, all I said was... " "Well, then clearly you're Republican." "Well, no... " You know. 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 this sense that we're more divided than we actually are. I mean, you're adults, you know. This suspicion is profitable. Fear, very profitable. Division, consequently, is profitable. 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.

If you don't know me or you're new to organization, or you're listening for the first time, if your summary of me is, "Oh, he's just kind of down the middle, milquetoast 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, remember 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... And 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, and 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

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... And 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, has division... I don't think there's a good answer... Has division ever led to a solution? If it has, it's the exception, certainly not the rule, right?

Can demonizing... And 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's 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 that a 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.

In the middle, in the middle, what's 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's what's best." What's best for people's 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.

So here's what I wanna do for a few minutes, and this is gonna be uncomfortable for some of you. I understand it, and I've asked you to do this before. For just a few minutes... And if you're new, if you're watching for the first time, I know you're suspicious, and you've got your guard up. I understand, you should. I would like for you to try to take your political filter off your face for just a few minutes, 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, alright?

And again, pick them up on your way. One thing, just start with some common ground, 'cause I think to move forward, we gotta find a 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 US Constitution. It was created, as you know, to protect individual liberties because the founders were so amazingly smart. They get a lot of grief these days, but goodness gracious, they started a nation. And, 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 Ninth Amendment, this kinda the catch-all amendment, the kitchen sink amendment, just in case... Why? Just in case because they knew in the future there would be other individual rights that they wanted to make sure that the people of the United States knew there was room for, that these weren't... Those weren't the only rights protected. So here's how the Ninth 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 the kitchen sink.

So, I think, just my opinion, if we were to rewrite the Ninth Amendment, because it's a little legalese, 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 the American way. This is why people love to come to this country. This is 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.

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 with 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. 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 it 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 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.

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. But is... When you have a group of people who have abdicated an understanding, a shared sense of understanding of what is ought and what ought not to be done, then our collective conscience begins to, begin to evaporate. It 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. 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. Traffic laws are great, but traffic laws don't make you a courteous driver, do they? 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. It 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. 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-centered 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."

So, the third piece of this has to be morality. What we ought to do, what we're entitled to, what we're allowed to do, what we ought to do. Virtue. Now, why am I talking about this in church? Because, I wanna 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.

And here's the thing, this is to make sure you don't misunderstand me. I... And I hope you agree, our legal system is appropriately decoupled from any religious absolute. We do not wanna 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 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 have 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 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 1 Corinthians 9:21. 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 wanna live in. This is the community you wanna live in.

These are the kinds of kids you wanna raise and whether you ever decide 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 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 gonna 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. 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. You 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, 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, informed by forgiveness,

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 who loved the world that he served, that he cared and accepted.

What if that shaped the national conscience? Our founding fathers who wrote the document said, "If it doesn't, it's just a matter of time." The Apostle Paul, He writes these letters, these... 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."

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 resourced 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 that... 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 or 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. How about going first, in your family, in your community, at work? If you go first, people are gonna get upset. They'll feel like you're abandoning the cause, you're leaving the party. What's happened to you? Who have you been listening to? What have you been reading? Liberal, conservative. Oh, you've just been consumed by capitalism. Oh, you've just be consumed by socialism.

When we choose to set aside our right not to love and not to care and not to accept and not to forgive, and we set aside those rights not to do that, the distance between us decreases.

And what Paul said was 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. Everybody's like, "Yep, I believe that. Yeah, that's right." I mean, you can hardly argue with this. And Paul, Paul says, look, okay, even if you don't wanna go the whole distance of love others as God through Christ has loved you, how about this? How about we take it down a notch to 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? What if the entire nation said, okay, we're just gonna do this one thing. The temperature changes, the culture starts to change. And I'll tell you what will happen without anybody intending to, everybody starts coming out of their corners, now they're extremes, and they have less tolerance for all them, and all of those, and all of them, and all of this... Like wait, 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 them all, you know four. Okay? And they're all in your family. Okay?

All the Republicans, all the... Republicans... Wait, wait wait, so you've talked to all the... No? Okay, well then shut up with that, okay? You can't say that. Just come on out of your echo chamber, come out of your court... 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, then never 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 towards the middle, you learn, you grow, and you say, oh. And your perspective is different. And suddenly, 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.

So what if we just did that? Paul tells us what happens if we don't... If we just settle for law and rights. he says, here's what's gonna happen. If you bite and devour each other... he says, look, look, if you're so consumed by your rights and your entitlements 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 isolate men into themselves, women into themselves. People who look the same way and believe the same way and live in the... 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.

CS Lewis says, "That's what hell is." CS Lewis says, "Hell... " "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 wanna give you three suggestions. 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. 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. To do what's responsible not what is 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.

And look, 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. Number three is do, to use the founding fathers words, 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.

So let's not just tolerate one another, let's love one another. And the words of Paul, He said, trust me, then we will shine among them like stars in the sky. Isn't this is what you wanna 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.