Worthy of our roles?

Ministry of reconciliation is everyone's duty now

Nov 21, 2016 by

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Conceding the presidency to Donald Trump on Nov. 9, Hillary Clinton quoted the Apostle Paul: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). Reflecting on the wisdom of Scripture is a good way to begin a presidential transition, especially after an election that divided a nation more bitterly than at any time in recent history.

A second word of hope from the apostle calls out to us as well: God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).

Every election opens rifts. This one exposed a canyon. There are two Americas, split into warring camps who can scarcely comprehend how the other thinks.

The reconciliation Scripture calls for depends on breaking out of our like-minded clusters. It requires listening to different perspectives and recognizing each other’s humanity. Thousands of Mennonites are part of the rural, white, evangelical America that Trump rode to victory. Our congregations could lead the way in defying the stereotype of red states as bastions of nativism and racial prejudice. Congregations that sponsor refugees are ministers of reconciliation, proving that their people do not fear multiculturalism.

The need to speak and act to defend the dignity and rights of vulnerable people may become even more important in the years to come. Immigrants, Muslims, racial minorities, those at risk of losing medical insurance — all will need allies more than ever. Reports of verbal and physical harassment of immigrants, Muslims and Latinos spread in the days after the election.

To many Americans, the election’s outcome feels like a validation of prejudice toward racial minorities, fear of immigrants, intolerance of religious diversity and disrespect for women. To others, the dark passions Trump’s campaign unleashed mattered little when compared to the prospect of an abortion-restricting Supreme Court, an administration sympathetic to the plight of working-class people or a shake-up of the Washington establishment.

Whether Trump’s victory leaves us heartsick or hopeful, followers of Jesus form an alternative political community whose citizens try to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. We seek racial reconciliation, embrace religious diversity and fight sexual abuse. Dedication to these causes grows stronger when dealt a setback.

Fears have grown: of a greatly expanded military budget, abandonment of efforts to fight climate change, a ban on Muslim immigrants, mass deportations. But where there is fear there must also be hope and prayer. Whatever one thinks of Trump as a person, all are called to pray for him as the president. We believe many who voted for Trump will join those who opposed him in praying that he does not govern as he campaigned. Perhaps his most disgraceful words do not reveal his true character. We hope he will repudiate the racism and sexism he abetted during the campaign.

It would be hypocritical to pray for the next president to grow in wisdom and become worthy of his role unless we ask God to help us do the same. If we urge the president-elect to respect diversity and defend the oppressed, we have to model those values, too. We need to be humble about where we have failed and engage our neighbors as ministers of reconciliation.

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