At October’s EFCA East Conference, I led a breakout on Politics and Our Christian Witness. Deepening divides increase the intensity of the call for pastors and church leaders to focus on our witness to a greater kingdom and greater good than partisanship can offer, while continuing to engage in the real life in the real world. The breakout worked to set a vision for leading our churches through the minefield of political division.
You can hear that audio here:
It is all too easy for us to send mixed messages with our lives. What we communicate to people personally, and more broadly on platforms like social media, or even within our churches through sermons, prayers, or side comments, all point to deeper issues of belief. Whether it is intentional or not, our lives tell the story. After all, we know that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
Here are 3 ways we send mixed messages:
1. THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE GOSPEL IS _________
We need to be very clear. There are no threats to the gospel. Jesus reigns and rules over all things now, and is returning to renew and restore all things for His own glory. Perfect justice, righteousness, and peace are coming with His return. Nothing is a threat to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And nothing has God worried. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not overwhelmed by American political divisions. If God is sovereign, there are no crises too big for Him to deal with, or that can ever derail His plans.
2. DIVIDING THE BODY OF CHRIST OVER THIS WORLD’S CATEGORIES
Political division is everywhere around us and it is tempting for every one of us to get sucked into the rhetoric, thinking in partisan binary categories. Whether we do this flippantly or explicitly, dismissing someone because they think or vote differently than we do sets up divides over partisan and worldly categorizations. We don’t baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and [insert party of choice]. Coming to our chosen political views is not a mark of Christian maturation, though being trapped in them and unable to see how Christ’s Kingdom confronts our own tribes may be a sign of spiritual immaturity. If our citizenship is in Christ’s Kingdom, no nation or party supersedes it. We ought to be much more at home with fellow Christians with whom we differ politically than the other way around.
3. SELECTIVELY EMPHASIZING SIN
It is too easy for all of us to fall into the pattern of seeing and emphasizing others’ sins that happen to not be our own struggles. And it gets applause in churches to go after what is out there around us rather than the idolatry and sin in our own hearts. Add into this the temptation to either gut the gospel, minimizing personal responsibility, or truncate the gospel, minimizing systemic realities, and we quickly fall into false dichotomies that eliminate the tensions that we see clearly in Scripture. If sin is real, no person or system is exempt, at least no system set up by sinful people. We need to be able to see the depth of human depravity and its broad implications. Doing so will only make the good news of the gospel more beautiful, powerful, and hopeful.
There is no reason for us to be intimidated or to shrink back. The crisis and division around us create even greater opportunities to show that Jesus is better. The Church of Jesus Christ has the privilege to be the place where dividing walls of hostility are torn down and we meet together as citizens of a new Kingdom, as brothers and sisters in a new family. So, let’s look ahead, praying that God will give the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace in our churches, and that we will be clarion voices to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.