Isaiah 40 is one of the loveliest chapters in the Bible. In one moment, it speaks softly and tenderly. “Comfort my people,” it says. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” and tell her that her suffering is at an end (vv. 1–2). The Lord is coming out of the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed.
In another moment, it casts a majestic vision of the surpassing greatness of God, who created all things and rules equally over the princes of the earth and the stars of the heavens. The people are grass, it says, “but the word of our God endures forever” (v. 8). God has measured the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand. He has weighed the mountains as though they were dust. Set before the everlasting God, the Creator of the unspeakable vastness and beauty and complexity of the universe, even the nations themselves are “as nothing” and “less than nothing” (v. 17).
Americans will remember 2020 as a year in which our union of states felt far more fragile than we had imagined it to be. In one recent survey, 80 percent of American voters said the country is “out of control.” The once-rich fabric that weaves us together is now thin, strained, and splitting. And as Daniel Silliman and Ted Olsen illuminate in this issue, the split runs straight through the heart of the church. With so much at stake in the next few months, it’s hard to imagine the situation will improve.
Which is why passages like Isaiah 40 provide a more expansive theological perspective. Pandemics come and go. Battles are fought and forgotten. Political powers pass in a blink, and nations rise and fall like the grass beneath the withering sun. The Word of God endures into eternity, and those who are joined to Christ will outlive the mountains and the seas. Politics and culture are not unimportant, but neither are they the hope of the world. Love requires that we engage in public life for the good of our neighbor, but it also requires that we show our neighbor the grace of Jesus Christ.
So what can we do in this painful and perilous moment to reflect the grace of Jesus? We can demonstrate in our behavior that the eternal things remain eternal. We can lift up the wounded and speak hope to the fearful. We can be quick to listen and slow to speak. We can conduct ourselves with humility, compassion, and grace, showing kindness where it is least expected. We can honor the inestimable worth in each and every person and invite them with us into life everlasting.
Perhaps we can even do what is most countercultural when the culture is soaked through with hatred: tell someone on the other side of the aisle that we love them and demonstrate it in our deeds.
Timothy Dalrymple is president and CEO of Christianity Today. Follow him on Twitter @TimDalrymple.
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