This last summer while on vacation in Europe, many people upon hearing our American accents, would stop Philip and me and ask what was going on in our country. They asked how we ended up with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I certainly didn’t have all the reasons, and I just apologized and laughingly said, “You should pray for us.”
Now, months later, I am not really laughing. Neither Hillary nor Donald was my ideal choice for President, and yet here we are.
For the past thirty-three years, my husband and I have been pastoring Oasis Church in Los Angeles, which according to a study done by CNBC, is the most ethnically diverse city in our country. There are more than 200 languages spoken here. I love and value the diversity of my city, which is reflected in our church, our leadership team, our staff and is reflected amongst my friends. I grew up in Venezuela, where I had to learn Spanish if I was going to be successful in school; Indonesia where I went to a school with forty-four nationalities represented, and London, which is another melting pot of cultures. All that to say, I have grown up seeing the beauty and diversity of our world and one of the things that makes our country strong is the incredible diversity of people, cultures, languages and ways of thinking.
In light of some of the tensions in our country, I just want to share a few thoughts. I am not a politician, and I am aware that I might offend some by what I say and by what I might not say. This just might be a no win situation for me, but I am going to give it a go.
I love my country. I am just a little sad at the division that seems to be growing rapidly. The media can make it challenging to understand the full truth in politics because each outlet seems to have a different agenda. In trying to discover facts about any issue I have found that I need to get news from a variety of sources, including those outside the US. When I watch CNN, I see and hear things from a different perspective than when I am watching FOX News. I have realized in life, if you only sit in a room with people who think like you, your perspective might stay small and it could be hard to ultimately make the right decision. I heard some television reporter say that one of the reasons Hillary lost the election was because she, and her team were shouting in an echo chamber. They didn’t listen to other voices with different viewpoints. Regardless of whether that is true, I don’t want to be like that. I welcome conversations, sometimes-difficult ones, with those who might think differently than I do. There is room for them at my table.
The most recent controversy has been over the US dealing with refugees. As most of you know, President Trump issued an executive order which includes a 90 day travel ban on all citizens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya; and suspended the entry of all refugees for 120 days. His reasoning was so that the vetting processes could be reevaluated, and so that criminal activity into immigrants could be researched. This is not a “Muslim ban” on Muslims in the other forty or so Muslim nations, just these seven. As President, one of his jobs is to make our country safe, and while it is not fully clear that this idea will do that, this is one of the ways he thinks it should be done. The tragedy is that for the last few years Syria has been in a civil war and millions of people, including children, have been harmed and displaced. The Syrian refugee crisis has been the largest humanitarian crises of recent history.
So as the Church what are we to do?
Pray, love, listen.
Pray. Pray for our President and leaders. (1 Timothy 2:1-2). It doesn’t say bash the President. It says pray for him. I just want to know, how many of you are praying for him? Maybe even through gritted teeth? I would like to be so bold as to say that if you spend more time complaining on social media, or to your friends than you do praying for him and our country’s leaders, you are missing the mark. Pray that he listens to good counsel. Pray that his heart and words are moved with wisdom and compassion. Just pray. He needs it.
Pray for the refugee. (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:9-10, Matthew 25:35-40, Luke 3:11, Hebrews 13:2) Most of them just want to go home, and sadly don’t have one to go to. They are victims themselves from tragedy in their own nation. I can’t even imagine the pain that most of them must be in. And after you pray, put some action to those prayers. Again, I would like to be bold and say that if you are posting compelling images on social media but aren’t actually doing anything for the refugee, you are missing the mark. Faith without works is dead. Love is not a feeling, love is a verb. It always involves action. So pray, and then how about giving? At Oasis we have received offerings to help those on the ground working with the refugee, and are currently researching how we can be of assistance to those who have recently immigrated to our area. I am sure you can find someplace to contribute. And how about loving your neighbor, your actual neighbor. Instead of picking a political fight, let’s be encouraging and kind to people right where we are. I am sure there is a refugee, or foreigner or first generation immigrant in your neighborhood. It is often easier to have compassion on those far away than those who are close. So, before you post that next Tweet, see if there is someone right next to you that you can help, someone you can actually demonstrate love to.
There have been some pretty massive marches around the world recently, and I like to think that if I had been old enough I would have marched right alongside Martin Luther King Jr., but if all we do is march and don’t pray or even consider listening to another person’s perspective on something, we will never reach a solution. In the midst of tension, sometimes the hardest thing to do is have empathy for the other person – to try and understand their intentions, their pain or their situation. We can be so quick to give our opinion on every issue, but sometimes the best thing to do is listen and then help provide a solution. It is easier to walk in the march-for- life (and I am all about protecting the unborn; they are truly defenseless) than it is to take care of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy and walk alongside her to help make a different choice. We cannot mistake social media posts, marches or angry blogs for actual action.
We are the church. We are to love. We are to lift our voices for those unable to. (Proverbs 31:8-9) Jesus did not come to earth and go after the abusive government of Rome to try to change politics; he went for the hearts of men and women. He loved people of all cultures and backgrounds – the powerful and the marginalized, and as a leader he brought others on the journey with him.
I know this may not have answered your questions or solved any major issues. But in this season when tensions are high, I am trying to help pastor my congregation through all of the toxicity. I won’t do it perfectly, and there are things I might say or not say that can be misinterpreted. Regardless of the political climate, our mission as His Church does not change. We are to love rather than hate, to respond rather than react, to be the ones bringing peace and hope in a world so desperate to see it.
How about letting the truth of this verse speak to your soul?
Do not be anxious about anyting, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
ABOUT HOLLY WAGNER
Holly and her husband, Philip, co-pastor the Oasis Church located in Los Angeles. She and Philip have taught many relationship seminars around the world and are committed to healthy marriages, especially their own! They love spending time with their two young adult children, Jordan and Paris, and enjoy seeing them fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives. Holly is also a student at Liberty University.
Holly is passionate about seeing women become who God has designed them to become, and to see every generation of woman extend a helping hand to the generation that is younger. Through the women’s ministry of Oasis, GodChicks, Holly seeks to blow the lid off the boxes that women have sometimes put themselves in and encourages women to be the amazing, world-changing champions they were made to be.
She has written several books, using her humorous yet challenging style to encourage readers. Her books include: GodChicks, Daily Steps for GodChicks, WarriorChicks, Survival Guide for Young Women, and Love Works.
Welcome to 2017!
You have 8,760 hours to reach your goals for 2017. How are ya doing so far??
This is the time of year when many of us set goals. Goals are good things; they can give our life direction. My children have played basketball since they were four. I remember watching those early games when the team was made up of four and five year olds. Many times one of the young players would get the ball and then head toward the wrong basket, sometimes even scoring points for the opposing team. So, it is good to keep the right goal in mind as we make decisions with our time and our heart this year.
There are personal goals we can set like:
What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? Do you want to lose weight? Eat healthier? Read more good books? Take a class?
What little things or big things would you like to achieve? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in your relationships?
What problems in your workplace or community would you like to see solved?
As leaders we have goals for our department and church, and they are needed. Measurable goals. How many people do you want to see in small groups? How many people do you want to see baptized? How many people do you want attending your conference? And what are the steps you are taking to get there. Wanting the results will not guarantee them. Goals are only reached one measurable step at a time. Each goal needs a practical series of stages to see it achieved. But you know this, and I am sure you have started. I have.
Goals are good; they keep us on track with the desires in our heart. But I started thinking…perhaps we should include not only goals about what we want to do, but also goals about who we can be. Here are my “being” goals:
Be more forgiving in my marriage….today.
Be more patient with my children….today.
Be kinder to the people I work with….today.
Be more willing to let go of past hurts….today
Be willing to let someone else get the last word….today.
Be ready to meet a new friend…today.
Be a better listener…today.
Give a little more financially this year than I did last year…starting today.
And if I string all of these todays together, by the end of the year I will have lived a year marked with forgiveness, patience, kindness, honor and generosity.
So yeah…I am going to eat better and work out more. I will read some great books and finish writing another one, but I am hoping to focus just as much on the “being.”