“Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people, or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?”—Barack ObamaLast night, America’s President Obama gave his seventh and last State of the Union address. His assessment was extremely positive: “The U.S. has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” “The U.S.A. is the most powerful nation on earth. Period.” He praised a number of things about the American way of life: “America is about giving everybody who’s willing to work a chance, a hand up.” “The spirit of discovery is in our DNA.” President Obama was also inspirational as he called our nation to become “clear-eyed, big-hearted… optimistic” and “change the system to reflect our better selves.” Amen to all that.At the outset of the State of the Union, Obama also said we need to address four questions:
*How do we give everyone a fair shot at jobs in the marketplace?
*How do we make technology work for us and not against us?
*How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policemen?
*How do we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst in us?
Excellent questions.I was also touched by his admission: “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. A president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.”President Obama also rallied Americans to overcome our anxieties and move forward with confidence into the future: “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control, and each time, we overcame those fears…We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did — because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril — we emerged stronger and better than before.”Of course, when you only talk about the positives, many things are left unsaid, as the commentators were quick to point out afterward. I thought Nikki Haley summarized it best: “Many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels. We’re feeling a crushing national debt, a health care plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities. Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.”Finally, President Obama challenged Americans (and all people): “The future we want—opportunity and security for our families, a sustainable, peaceable planet for our kids—are within our reach, but it will only happen if we work together.” “Our collective future depends on your willingness to work hard and speak out.”
If we want change and improvement in the state of the union, it really comes down to each of us acting responsibly and altruistically, and I am on board with trying to do my part. However, I am ultimately grateful for being a part of the Kingdom of God. In all the insecurities and upheaval of life, it fills me with peace and hope to know that the God of Love and Life is overseeing his kingdom with omniscient power, and that someday this kingdom of love and light will be established, not only in America, but throughout the world. I think as believers around the world, we would do well to consider Obama’s question in relation to the Kingdom of God: “Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people, or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?”
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
(*I tried to transcribe my quotes as carefully as possible and believe they are correct, but if you notice any omissions or errors, please tell me! Thanks.)