So I am human.
I knew before I went to sleep on that Thursday evening that Covid-19 had found its way into the inner circles of the White House, so when I awoke later in the night I immediately checked my phone for an update. Like most of you I was confounded to learn that the President and First Lady had both tested positive.
As my brain shook off the lingering fog of sleep it also wrestled with how to respond to the news. I knew that I should pray for the Trump family, but how to pray? On one hand I am stridently opposed to the President but on the other hand I know that he is loved by God like we all are.
So I started out slowly, searching for words that could be both kind and reserved. I wanted the President to feel better but I didn’t want him to prosper either. Nevertheless, as I prayed in the small hours of the morning my heart slowly softened and I remembered again why Jesus wants us to pray for our enemies: it’s good for our enemies; it’s good for us; it’s good for the world.
Some of you ‘old-timers’ might remember a Firestone television commercial in the late 1960s featuring a male voice proudly singing, “The name that’s known is Firestone, where the rubber meets the road.”
That advertising jingle is a cultural wisdom; simple but profound logic. The components of an automobile – your transportation, comfort and safety – all come to bear at the four small points where the tires touch the ground. If those tiny meeting places don’t work, your car is a useless five-figure expense.
“Where the rubber meets the road” is a moment of truth; that place where an idea is put to test. How good is this thing, really?
If you think about it, that is the Incarnation. God confirmed his deep love in a “rubber meets the road” way by physically appearing on earth as Jesus and living with brutish, sinful people who could barely comprehend him at the best of times.
The word ‘christian’ means to be like or related to, Christ. In my last post I talked about the importance of discipleship – learning from Jesus and imitating him. Discipleship is where the ideals of Jesus meet the road of daily life.
We humans are skilled at justifying ourselves but disciples seek to find a deeper, more truthful way. Dead faith is easy but useless; living faith is difficult but meaningful.
We usually think of sin as an ungodly thought, word, or deed but sin can also be a lack of thought, word, or deed. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer contains this traditional confession:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
The prayer asks discipleship questions: Is my love focused on myself or is it focused outward? What good things have I left undone because my head and heart were not in the right place?
Discipleship is having our motivations and actions shaped by something grander and purer than ourselves. The potential for beauty and goodness on earth are increased with every small act we do with God’s Kingdom in mind rather than our own. It’s called holiness.
Imagine a world where christians dropped their opinions and focused on learning the thoughts of Jesus? Imagine what could happen if christians learned to use our money and prayers and words and time and affections the way Jesus teaches? That’s where the rubber meets the road.
So you see, praying for our leaders is not about politics (as many religious leaders would have you believe). Instead, it is a cry for righteousness – for God’s will to be done – regardless of our own opinions. It’s an example of what disciples slowly learn to do in all kinds of ways.
That is why I ultimately prayed for the President: because of him, because of me, but mostly because of Jesus.