Jesus is True Reality
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As our country has become embroiled in the search for racial justice, reality has become extraordinarily elusive. As I watched the Ulysses S Grant’s statue pulled down by a mob out to destroy all symbols of racial injustice, I wondered what was the purpose behind pulling down this particular statue. Did pulling this statue down move our country closer to racial equality? Especially when you consider Grant’s involvement in emancipation and reconstruction efforts.
No individual during and after the Civil War did more for the cause of freedom for slaves than Grant, except Lincoln. A fierce advocator for the right to vote for all people and a demander of equal treatment for black soldiers. As our president, he staunchly remained committed to ensuring that former slaves be allowed to benefit from the rights we all enjoy through the constitution. His record on ending slavery and trying to create equal opportunity Post-Civil War was admirable.
However, Grant and his wife, both had slaves prior to the Civil War, only to release them from bondage just before the Civil War. His record for dealing with Native Americans was suspect. He forced many Native Americans to live on reservations and instigated an illegal war against the Lakota nation.
So as we look at Grant’s history, we find an extremely complicated situation of good and bad. Some will say, because of his efforts to free the slaves and provide an equal future, his statue should stand. While others can point to his treatment of native American’s and say it should be toppled. Raising the question, are we to judge other people based only on their mistakes? And are any of us completely free from poor life decisions?
Does honoring or dishonoring Grant help create a world of equal rights for all people? Does this debate around Grant move us forward in complying with Jesus’s command of love for all people?
Around dinner tables, bars, and gatherings; there are so many opinions about so many things from our historical past. Feelings get hurt and others seeking personal relevancy push their cause. And from where I sit, I see the good and bad in all these arguments.
History has always benefited from the point of view of the victor. They are the ones that write history. Making history always somewhat suspect. Human history itself is always inherently flawed. And so are all of our opinions. Finding and grasping the completeness of history is a daunting task, with none of us, are ever truly have all the facts.
It seems to me that the debate about what is real history is a distraction to helping us live up to our responsibilities to serve Jesus and love our neighbor. History is elusive and often bent to support a particular point of view, making it unreliable in dictating our conduct.
Debating history won’t always help the need to feed the poor. History will not always salve the wounds of modern-day injustices. History will not always help us do that which we ought to do. It is not that history isn’t important, rather history is elusive and if our desire is to be a good world citizen, than history is a somewhat unreliable compass.
I know for the great teachers and students of history, this is a difficult message. And my point isn’t to discredit their efforts, it is more to refocus how we let history affect our behavior. If we want to know the history and its lessons, it has to be studied without prejudice. And we have to be willing to discover the real truth. This in itself is a difficult task and can be distracting to our goals of helping make the world a place of equality.
What single mother of three, living just below the poverty line is helped because Grant’s statue was torn down? How does arguing about an obscure figure in history like Francis Scott Key protect youths from being accidentally shot walking home from school? How does a teen learn about and have access to the bounty of America through mobs burning buildings and toppling statues?
If we want to fix what is wrong and help those underserved, it is our uplifting actions that will provide a lasting solution, not toppling statues because of our view of history. By staying riveted to the lessons of Jesus we can make real change.
Through following Jesus, we can be certain of our path and what is a true reality. In the Gospel of John, we get a quote from Jesus that gives us this direction, where it says; Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” A clear and simple message of what should occupy our minds. Not that of pursing frail and fragile human truth, rather a life that focuses on a sacred truth by following Jesus.
This path is very hard to follow. And on many days we will fall short of truly living this way. We will all become desirous of giving our opinions or become overly bothered by the headlines of the day. Jesus asks us to follow him and through this activity, we become much more productive in helping out in an unequal world. Over time we will discover a more soothing path. A path that removes us from what falsely seems permanent to a sacred purpose.
The world is filled with glimmering nuggets that attract us, only to be disappointed when we grab a hold of them. History is filled with them, never satisfying, and always attracting our thoughts. Following Jesus is quite different, all that He said is true and beneficial.
Today, spend time with Jesus and ask for His insight, what seems illusive will become real.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman