Courtesy, helpfulness, respect, support, camaraderie, and class.

These words are rarely used to describe anything associated with politics in America.  Yet, last Tuesday night during the State of the Union Address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, these qualities were beautifully demonstrated by two Congressional colleagues, one a Democrat, the other a Republican. 

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ presence in the chamber was truly inspiring.  On January 8 of last year, Giffords, a Democrat, was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head during an attack near Tucson in which six people were killed and thirteen others wounded.  While her recovery over the past year has been remarkable, she still faces some significant speech and mobility challenges. 

Seated on Giffords’ right last Tuesday night was Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, a Republican.  There were several instances in which Giffords struggled to stand in agreement and applause with other members of her party.  Each time, Flake helped her to her feet, stood beside her with a steadying hold on her arm, then helped her back into her seat.  This often meant that he was the only Republican standing. 

Shallow and superficial individuals may have been caused to question, “Isn’t Rep. Flake afraid that others might think he has changed his political ideology?  Does he actually agree with statements that are in opposition to his own party’s platform?”  Thankfully, Flake didn’t care about the perceptions of others.  He did what was right, what was kind, what was needful, and what was compassionate, regardless of what anyone else thought about it.  The following day, Flake held Giffords’ hand as her formal resignation from her Congressional seat was read.  May Flake’s tribe increase!

Jesus didn’t worry about “guilt by association” when it came to doing good and extending love and mercy to others.  He gladly received sinners and tax-collectors and ate with them, even though He knew that He would be accused of being a drunkard and a glutton and would have His own morality and standards questioned. 

Neither did Jesus refuse a dinner invitation from Simon the Pharisee, despite the fact that hanging out with the religious elite might seriously damage His “street cred” with others.  He challenged people at both ends of the spectrum (and everyone in between) to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  He was impervious to opinion polls, the whispering of skeptics, and the ranking systems of religious rivals.       

We need no one’s permission or approval to do good.  Compassion and mercy are self-authenticating and transcend all man-made barriers of party, sect, and creed.