What has become of America, the Beautiful? Has it not become America, the Divided? All we hear about is the unrest of different factions and groups that far too often lead to violence as it did this week in Sacramento. The picture above is of a man who was stabbed during a fight that broke out between white supremacists and an opposing group. You would think it was the Neo-Nazi group that incited the violence, but from the news reports I have read, it was the other groups that outnumbered and initiated the violence against the Nazi’s.
Now, let’s be clear. This Nazi group is a racist, militant group that has no problem with violence. I do not want to paint a pretty picture of either group but rather spotlight the culture we live in where shouting down others, destroying their property, stabbing, and even killing other Americans who have a different viewpoint has become the norm. Civil discourse is out the window.
It is clear that injustice exists in our world and in our land: America. One of the earliest and best lessons we can teach our children is that life is not fair. Injustice is a simple reality that we must all live with. When I look at extreme groups such as those involved in this brawl in Sacramento, from the White Supremacists to the Black Panthers, I see groups so incensed at injustice that they are now willing to reciprocate the injustice on those who first did it to them. The intent is not to work toward fairness, but supremacy and dominance. It is an overreaction that requires anger and vengeance to stay white hot. But don’t think for a minute this is just a race issue.
I remember when I was younger seeing different parliaments and branches of government from other countries where fistfights would break out in the middle of a government procedure. I would think to myself, “I am so glad that I live in a country where our politicians do not engage in that kind of behavior.” We have the maturity to debate without hate and remain united as Americans even while disagreeing about what America should be. But I see those days are soon dissipating. I have not yet seen a fistfight in the chambers of congress, but I have heard politicians from each side of the aisle stand and accuse the other of the most heinous acts. They tout inflated accusations from the floor of Congress. I have seen groups shout down people they politically agree with on 95% of the issues but because they did not agree with the other 5%, they violently erupt to keep them quiet and unheard. Civil discourse is going the way of the telephone book; nobody is using it anymore.
This is the spirit of covetousness. To covet is not simply to want what someone else has. It is the desire to take it away from them. If your neighbor has a Cadillac and you want one, that is not coveting. To covet means you want to go and forcefully or in a cunning way take your neighbor’s Cadillac so that you have it and they don’t. What we see now in our society is a powerful spirit of covetousness. What is worse is that some people are trying to take from others what they don’t even have, but are simply perceived as having. People believe that this person, that group, or some entity has some kind of privilege over them. And let’s face it…it is not always the case, but sometimes, many times it is true. But the answer is not to go and take what another should never have had in the first place. I do believe that racism still exists in America. But I don’t think the answer is for the group that has been the victim of hatred to use hatred to usurp dominance. It is a fact that political parties have polar opposite beliefs, but what good does it serve America for both parties to put all their effort into dominating the other party. Yet, this is what we are seeing and America is dying. (I almost wrote that America is dying a slow death, but it is coming quickly.)
If I have not gotten personal yet and jumped into a fire pan, let me do it now. This spirit of covetousness has overflowed into our families and marriages. The idea of agreeing to disagree for the sake of the relationship is also being stacked up with old phone books. Listening and giving careful consideration to a different opinion is a lost art. And what is crazy is that everyone of us have been certain of something only later to find out that we were wrong, yet we will willingly walk into a discussion with someone without leaving room in our mind that we might be wrong. (I do this way too much for a preacherman!) This thought process will easily lead us to shutting down all other thoughts different from our own. We not only want to maintain our legitimacy on the issue, we work to strip other opinions of their legitimacy. Walls are built up and relationships are broken down.
As followers of Christ, we must not fall into this trap. Let us not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12). After all, when Adam placed blame on God for his sin, God did not shout him down. God did not disown him. God led them out of the Garden, but then God went with them. And when their son Cain coveted and killed Abel, the Lord remembered Adam and Eve and blessed them with another son. When Jonah was angry with God for the revival that took place in Nineveh, God engaged in discourse not dominance. Jonah did not believe the Ninevites should have received the mercy of God and He became so angry with God. He attempted to use his anger to shut God down. (Eeeash, I am pretty sure I have done that before.) The Lord did not reciprocate. He did not shut Jonah’s mouth to keep him from expressing his opinion. Instead, the Lord engaged Jonah in discourse. How many times have you argued with God in your spirit and at times in a very loud voice? Yet, the Lord did not shut you down. If anyone has the right to shut us down, it would be the Lord, but the Lord doesn’t seek to lord over us though He is the Lord. He seeks a relationship not dominance. Is this not the example that we should follow: loving those who hate us, blessing those who persecute us, listening to those who disagree with us, humbly considering other better than ourselves no matter their opinion that we might treat them with love and respect? It seems this is the way of the Lord. In our disagreements, we are to put people first, not our issue or belief. We may disagree, but not in a way to wipe out their opinion or crush their spirit.
In the end, we must understand that when our passion for the issue exceeds our passion for humanity, we have fallen victim to the spirit of covetousness.