In Matthew 12:25 we read, “(Jesus) said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.’” (English Standard Version)
Watching the deterioration of a country where I’ve lived and worked has been very painful. Every family I know has suffered some loss, either of family members or homes or jobs or all of these. Most of my friends are part of the third-party – neither Dinka nor Nuer. I’m frequently reminded of the African proverb “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”.
I frequently read postings on a South Sudanese Facebook site, and am disappointed to find so much hate speech. It doesn’t take more than a second or two to figure out if the writer is Dinka or Nuer. It is ALL or NOTHING from both sides, no compromise, no forgiveness. These (mostly) young men seem to be in a feeding frenzy of hate, insult and accusation. They call each other names but don’t listen to what is being said. The voice of moderation is absent in that conversation. Thankfully, that is not true in other venues, where the church leaders are actively seeking to bring about reconciliation and peace.
During my recent visit to my home in the USA, I listened in horror at the “dialogue” going on as the 2016 election cycle begins to heat up. While the rival parties are not ethnic in the same way as in South Sudan, the polarization is certainly similar. The voices of moderation and compromise are portrayed as being traitors to the “cause”. The loudest voices are the extremes, with the media often encouraging the most radical to speak even louder.
Our “tribes” are the Left and the Right politically, yet we are walking down the same road to destruction that has led to the disaster that is South Sudan. Where is diplomacy, reason, moderation? Yes, where is a willingness to compromise so that ALL sections of the population can feel united, heard, part of the nation? We are a nation of immigrants, people who have come to a place where we want to be free to say what we think and do what we want. But up until now, those rights have been moderated by a willingness to allow those freedoms to everyone, not just those who share “my” opinion. In the current climate, anyone with a different opinion may be characterized as evil, stupid, racist or without moral values. Do we really want to destroy ourselves in this way? Aren’t we better than that?
Where is the voice of Jesus in all of this? Where is the willingness to be gracious, kind, forgiving, and patient? Is the church contributing to the divisiveness?
As I reflected on these thoughts last night, I found myself praying for unity for my country. Let us pray for peace, for repentance from our pride and selfishness, and maybe God will be merciful and restore our land. Maybe God will stop us before we destroy ourselves.
A Prayer from 2 Chronicles 6: 37-39
LORD, may we turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly. May we turn to you with our whole heart and soul and pray for this land you gave to our ancestors—toward this place you have chosen for us, then hear our prayers and our petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold our cause. Forgive us who have sinned against you.’
LORD, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.