I’ve been thinking about the way life is unfolding this year for church people. Because of the unexpected amount of time we’ve spent away from each other, and the phenomenon of social media, we’ve been able to live a sort of relationship half life. Under normal circumstances we see each other weekly, for some even more often. We hug, smile, speak a “God bless you” and even tell each other that we are loved.
For 8+ months we’ve been relating via zoom, text, email, Facebook and Instagram (and for those who are savvy, Tiktok and the ever prolific Twitterverse). I’m grateful for all of those methods, but they can’t compare to face to face connections.
Especially for church folks
For 35 years we lived in suburban areas with relatively comfortable income people. It was what we knew and we didn’t question it much. When we gathered with others we didn’t really have to put the brakes on political conversations because we all agreed. We despised or supported the same people
Not so much today…
I read a blog post by a Chicago pastor about unity. He listed all kinds of line items that believers disagree about today. I was encouraged, because it’s what I’m seeing in print from every corner of the Christian world. Plus I’m experiencing it directly within my church community. The believers in our church hold differing opinions on many issues, it can be tricky to navigate the minefield of political opinions at times.
But mostly, division among the ‘brethren’ is painful when there isn’t face to face relationship to smooth the way. It’s easy to forget that you love someone when the most you interact with them is in a Facebook post or an Instagram meme. Especially when it’s politically themed and isn’t something you agree with.
And our opportunistic enemy knows this
All of us love Jesus and are committed to live our lives according to Scripture. All of us have Bible verses to support, defend and shape our political views. ALL of us! All sides of the political spectrum. To say that one interpretation over another is wrong is a judgement on that person’s persuasion. And we’ve been told not to judge each other…
But ‘How can you be a Christian and think that social justice is more important than ridding the country of abortion?’, you ask…
Bottom line? You can
Cultural disagreements are no stranger to the American church. Historically, the last time we were so deeply divided was over the issue of slavery. All 3 mainline Protestant denominations, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist held differing views. The Methodists even being divided on the issue among themselves (kinda like today’s marriage issue). What differs this time are the number of issues the church is divided about.
Marriage, abortion, systemic racism, critical race theory, transgenderism, socialism vs capitalism, protesting, virus conspiracies and vaccines, immigration and freedom of religion. But I think our greatest division is over a single man, our outgoing president.
Never, have I ever seen our country so divided over one person
Admittedly he’s an easy target. But the vehement hatred from one side, seems to feed the blind defensiveness of the other side. Neither behavior is representative of Biblical Christianity. And while he may have kept promises to his conservative electorate that are worth a 2nd vote, his loss is deserved simply for his egotistical blather.
There’s that opportunistic enemy again! Taking advantage of a quarantine to divide God’s people, in essence making them ineffective for his Kingdom. Causing hurt feelings to overcome and forgive. People are even leaving their churches that they haven’t been able to attend in 8 months!
1 John chapter 4 is arguably one of the most compelling chapters about love in the NT. I encourage you to read it, setting aside all political filters and allowing it to penetrate any biases you may hold.
1Jn 4:19-21 “We love because he first loved us.Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother or sister.”
Familial context, audience – believers
One of the most challenging truths for me to live, is the duality of Kingdoms that I inhabit. The natural world’s, (America), or the eternal world, i.e…God’s Kingdom. Yes, I can vote to enact laws that will help the natural world effect eternal world. But to keep my focus primarily on the eternal one, when so much of my life is impacted by the natural one, is the challenge.
It requires that I have faith
Faith in a just God, one who ultimately rescues the lost and needy. Who fights on behalf of the oppressed. And who loves mankind enough to do whatever it takes to save all who are willing.
I hope that we can all unite around that truth. Our faith links us, it makes lovers of Jesus into a unique body of people whose commitment to each other speaks to a lonely and lost world. Families are wonderful things, but there is nothing as unique as God’s family. People who otherwise would be strangers yet are bonded by the Holy Spirit.
Sacrificial blood ties vs natural blood ties
As we usher out 2020, I hope and pray that we can find more to unite us than divide us. That we can extend grace, overcome our personal opinions, set aside our arguments and embrace each other with a love that defies the world’s opinion of believers.
In the 70’s we sang a song that exemplified this principle. It was often sung at campfires, in circles with held hands, among diverse denominations that previously didn’t mingle.
“We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that our unity may one day be restored,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love”
I think it’s time for that kind of unity again. For believers of all political persuasions to demonstrate to the world that we love each other. That our love for each other transcends our political differences. And that we want the world to be able to experience that love for themselves.
John 13:35, “By this will all people know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”