These were the words of Arthur Brooks, in his address at the 68th National Prayer Breakfast. He asked the audience to imagine a sign above the door reading, “You are Now Entering Mission Territory.” He was encouraging biblical love amid what he called a nationwide, “crisis of contempt and polarization.” He noted, “contempt is ripping our country apart.”
Brooks, who described himself as a “follower of Jesus,” reminded listeners that Jesus taught us to love God and to love each other. Today,” he observed “the biggest crisis facing our nation and many other nations [is] the crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.”
In our cultural crisis, Brooks called for “moral courage,” which he defines not as, “standing up to those with whom you disagree…..[its] standing up to those with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree.” I want to recommend this suggestion to the readers of this blog.
Men, we need to stand together in our desire to love our enemies. Brooks thinks that talk of civility and tolerance is not enough, “because civility and tolerance are a low standard.” Jesus didn’t say “tolerate your enemies.” He said, “love your enemies.” Our calling as followers of Jesus is to answer hate with love. To do this is to be “subversive and counter-intuitive” in a culture that is getting more polarized.
Brooks give us men three pieces of advise. May we pick up the mantle and take the lead in following his advice. First,”ask God to give you the strength to do this hard thing, to go against your human nature, to follow Jesus’ teaching.” Brooks encourages us to ask God to “take political contempt from your heart.” If it’s to hard, you might have to fake it for a time.
Secondly, “make a commitment to someone else to reject contempt.” We are going to have disagreements. Brooks calls it “the competition of ideas.” There will be times when we need somebody to hold us accountable.
Thirdly, “go out looking for contempt.” Why? I love what Brooks had to say. May this burn into the souls of godly men. “Because when people treat you with hatred and you answer with love, you change the country. It’s like being a missionary. This is your opportunity to show people what leadership is all about. Run toward the darkness, bring your light.”
Notice what Brooks says about leadership. Men, it take moral courage to stand for what you know is right. You will be hated and misunderstood. We need to be able to take the arrows? Yes! Brooks encourages us to “run toward the darkness.” Why? Because we have the light.
Interestingly, President Trump who was in attendance, after hearing Mr. Brooks remarks, seemed to go off-script at the end of his remarks and had this to say. “I’m sorry, I apologize. I’m trying to learn,” he said, appearing to return to the question posed by Brooks. “When they impeach you for nothing, you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I’m doing my best.”
Men, I include this remark from our president, as a strong reminder to pray for our president. We are strongly encouraged to do so. “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well…” (I Tim 2:1-3 – Message).