Confirm Thy Soul in Self-Control
In a polarized political environment, how can you show wisdom and self-control?
“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!” These are the opening lines of one of the most popular of our national hymns, “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.” It was written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893, and was partially inspired by the view from the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.
“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!” These words from the second verse are particularly appropriate for Independence Day, which we celebrate today. Our founders declared their independence from England on July 4, 1776, and put their lives on the line for a cause much bigger than themselves. Although they were not perfect people, they set an example of heroic service and sacrifice in the cause of freedom from tyranny.
“America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!” This line reminds us that we need more than human effort to create what the Constitution calls “a more perfect union.” As Americans, we ask for God’s grace to be with us, because we know that the words of the Book of Proverbs are true: “all decisions are from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). God is constantly working out God’s purposes in the course of human history, so our success as a nation will come from making choices that reflect God’s wisdom, justice, and righteousness.
So yes, even though our country came into existence through a War of Independence, we do not advance God’s interests in the 21st century by engaging in partisan political fighting or fostering divisions between Red States and Blue States. Instead, we should remember the wise words of Proverbs, “Better to be patient than a warrior, and better to have self-control than to capture a city” (verse 32). Patient discussion and debate is always more productive than fiery rhetoric, especially when national issues are at stake. And self-control? The hymn says it well: “confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!”
We need to remember that none of us is perfect, and every one of us needs God to mend our flaws as individuals and citizens. Somehow, we have become so polarized that we don’t see our opponents as wrong — instead, we think of them as evil. On this Fourth of July, let’s turn down the temperature of our debates, and look for ways to find common ground with our friends and neighbors. If we do, God may choose to “crown [our] good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”
God, help me seek your wisdom and show self-control in all of my conversations with neighbors. Amen.