“May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him. He will take pity on the weak and the needy. He will rescue them from oppression and violence … Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.” – Psalm 72:11-17 (NIV)
Since World War II, the United States has been regarded by many as the leader of the free world. The designation itself is politically charged, given the fact that some countries aligned with the U.S. and thus considered ‘free’ are actually ruled by military dictatorships. Notwithstanding the controversy, there is an expectation among many Americans and among many other nations that the U.S. has a definite responsibility and role to play as a global leader.
Some of us understand that America’s leadership in global affairs is not merely a function of her military might or monetary prominence. Our leadership is greatly dependent upon the ethical values we practice and promote; ethical values that transcend tribe, class, color and nationality. Those values are reflected in Psalm 72, where there is no mention of border walls or military build-up or nationalistic allegiance.
What the psalmist advocates are values that are centered on the defense of the weak, deliverance for the oppressed, and relief for those in poverty. These are the enduring values that make America (or any nation) a city set on a hill … a candle that can’t be hidden under a bushel … and a light of the world. These values are not articulated in any attempt to establish a moral hierarchy. They are expressed as deep needs of our common humanity, no matter our national differences.
William Sloane Coffin once said that before America can lead the world, she must first join the world.
Lord, make me and my country agents of your global justice. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.