The State of Your Union

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Each year in the United States, the President delivers a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The address fulfills a Constitutional requirement, during which the President traditionally outlines the administration’s accomplishments over the previous year as well as the agenda for the coming year. It has become customary to use the phrase, “The State of the Union is strong.” During most of the country’s first century, a written report had primarily been submitted until the 28th President, Woodrow Wilson, began the regular practice of verbally delivering the address to Congress. With the arrival of radio and later television, the speech became an effective tool for the President to communicate with the people of the United States as well. In modern times, the State of the Union is seen as one of the most important events in the US political calendar, one of the few instances when all three branches of the government are assembled under one roof . . . even though its house is often divided. This separation is often defined by the members’ response of standing/not standing and applauding, or not, during key moments. In 2020, there was such political animosity that the Speaker of the House, who is presented with a signed printed copy of the speech, literally tore up the pages following the President’s delivery.

Three years before his presidency, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Lincoln was speaking about the nation’s divide over slavery, he was likely referencing his knowledge of scripture, specifically Matthew 12:25. In that passage Jesus was responding to the religious leaders of Jerusalem who were claiming that He was possessed by Satan because of His ability to cast out demons. By saying that “a household divided against itself will not stand” – Jesus illustrated the fact that success relies on a state of harmony rather than that of conflict. Whether it is a worksite, a sports team, a government party, or a place of worship – things have to work together if anything is to be accomplished. Once conflict occurs, cooperation and usefulness inevitably grind to a halt and the organization becomes vulnerable. Politics aside – sometimes the best we can do is to honestly examine our personal unions – our own houses, so to speak. For if we are unable to be civil in our day-to-day relationships, we have no right to expect that our appointed leaders will act any different.

The challenge before anyone who claims to follow Christ is to be unified around a common understanding, beginning with our own family. Through the difficult and intense moments in our life, the family should be the mutual support system that strengthens and encourages each of its members.  Unfortunately, over the past few generations we have seen a general breakdown of the family unit. The significance of this basic relationship is regularly mentioned in scripture: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1), and “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Likewise, in our chosen relationships such as marriage and friendship, we should: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2). In Christ’s own body of the Church, we should always strive for unity over quarreling. In this case, Paul appeals that “there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Throughout history we have read of nations and families divided, but it sometimes seems that we have never felt the effects of divisiveness quite as much as today.  Rather than having fair and open discussion, character assassination often prevails. Hatred, scorn, and ridicule seem to have become the norm. The state of our personal unions can only be strong if God is at the heart of their foundation. Additionally, our prayers for those with whom we disagree are essential to keeping our relationships solid. Only God can bring peace to the troubled soul, the troubled nation, and a troubled world. He calls us to serve as modern-day messengers of His love. We are challenged to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Rather than dig our trenches and plant ourselves firmly in the ground, we must reach out a hand of love and help heal the discord that is so prevalent. When we find common ground, we will come to realize there is far more that unites us than divides us. Then we will be able to say with absolute certainty that the state of your union is strong.

REFLECTION: When you take a close look at your everyday unions like marriage, family, friendships, your job and church – where do you have work to do? How can we expect our personal unions to continue to survive when we throw truth, decency, civility, and respect out the window?  What first steps will you take to initiate the healing process for the rebuilding of healthy and cooperative unions?

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