I’ve spent a good part of this year reading and listening to articles, blogs and podcasts that are from a different perspective than the rank and file Evangelical/Republican view. I link those 2 words because for several decades they’ve been linked in my own mind and in the various churches I’ve attended. In fact, to be anything but an Evangelical/Republican was to invite speculation of,
“How can you even be a Christian if you’re not a Republican?”
Living in Chicago has definitely expanded my view of political realities. Here’s just one. Because of the number of immigrants in our city, both legal and not, I’ve adjusted my view. When living in California, my views were heavily weighted by the anti-immigrant sentiments of the 90’s. Entire school districts shut down in December to accommodate the illegal workers who left the country to spend time in Mexico.
Today, I understand more fully that the immigration laws on the books need reforming. Yet congress is too concerned with maintaining the status quo, in order to use this issue as a weapon for riling up their voters. And that goes for both parties. This country has room for more immigrants, especially refugees!
Society is deeply divided today. I find that people everywhere are united not by what they feel is good for society, but because of their passion about what they perceive is bad. But what grieves me even more is that this division has infected the local church.
Verses in the Bible abound about the believer’s role in the secular world. Lift up the oppressed, show mercy, be humble, do good, love each other, lay down your life, live in peace, share your possessions, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Look up any of these words in your Bible app and numerous verses will appear.
Always, always hoping that the world will see this united, loving, sacrificial and merciful people and be drawn to them. They will want to know what makes them so different from the society they are living in. And they’ll want to know how they can have some of it.
But some of today’s church behaviors, both individually and corporately, beg this question,
“Why would anyone want to be part of such a contentious and divisive people?”
The number of church scandals over the past 5 years are tantamount to ones plaguing Hollywood. And the crimes committed are as numerous as our dysfunctional government’s. Sexual abuse, cover ups, money mismanagement, injustice, plagiarism, racial discrimination, workplace abuse…
In the 80’s Woody Allen made a movie titled “Hannah and her Sisters”. There is line spoken by a character, who was so disgusted by the televangelists of that day that he said this,
“If Jesus came back and saw what they were doing in his name, he’d never stop throwing up”
Little did anyone ever imagine today…
My goal isn’t to convince anyone that they are right or wrong about an issue. But instead to remind us that how we live out our faith before society, is far more critical than whether or not our government is out to get us, (ask an Afghan Christian). What a gift to the world it would be if Christians who hold varying views on societal issues could be more passionate about being united to each other.
Precious, elusive unity
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway…what unites us is far greater than what divides us. Jesus’ sacrifice, his love for us, the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, mend, restore and empower us, is a far greater source of strength and comfort to a world that is hurting. And it’s an entire world that is hurting! Dare I say it?
American is still the freest and most religiously protected country in the world
I was recently told by my daughter that Pentecostalism in Europe is considered a cult. Now I guarantee that we Pentecostals may have invited the label for various nonsensical reasons (like not repenting when prophesies aren’t fulfilled)! But at the same time, no one has legally labeled us a cult here in America.
On a side note, I’m looking for a Pentecostal Quaker denomination to arise, so far no go.
There is a lot of language being used today to describe society, but what grieves me is that it also applies to the church. Polarization, news/information silos and confirmation bias being a few. People are listening to and reading voices that speak the things they want to hear, rather than challenging them to think critically or Biblically. And anymore, Biblically is not as readily defined as it once was!
2 Tim 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear.”
With the age of the “Christian Industrial Complex” (to quote Sky Jethani), the church has never been so saturated in voices. Pastors worldwide diligently prepare sermons each week to speak a word to their flocks and then the flock listens to other voices (I should know). Voices who have no accountability to us, yet we listen to them, quote them and often preach them to our fellow church members.
We have itchy spiritual ears…
I would never encourage believers to cover up or ignore un Biblical leaders. In fact, I applaud those who’ve bravely made known, the unscriptural crimes and behaviors that have been exposed of late. There are also times when listening to other voices vs the ones within our church walls are helpful for discerning when a church has gone down a path that isn’t where your own heart leans.
But one of the biggest problems that I find with outside teaching, is the lack of accountability that exists. No one is going to be accountable to you like your local pastor! My heart breaks for them. Can you imagine the headache for the pastor who truly wants to be a pastor to their flock?! To speak words of life, truth and wholeness to them, but are stifled because the flock is too addicted to CNN, FOX or a celebrity pastor that has absolutely no idea who they are?
I’ll finish with a 2 of my favorite verses when it comes to promoting a faithful witness to the world outside of the church. And lest you think I’m only an OT gal, I have one from each testament…
Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
When I filter social issues and divisive topics through the lenses of these 2 verses, I find that most of what riles me up is far less important than the eternal issues that God is concerned about. Humility = genuine love and care for others. Letting go of my opinion on what is ‘right’ leads me to a richer and fuller earthly experience. And isn’t that a truer reflection of God’s Kingdom?
Such a precious, precious gift!
And lest you think I’ve gone off the political deep end, I consider myself politically homeless. It’s not a bad place to live either!
Barney Wiget says