I am torn with mixed emotions as I watch my social media news feeds well up with agitating statements from pole to pole. The inauguration and the women’s marches have set my social media world on edge – or rather edges. Polarization is the structure and substance of our modern discourse.
In the middle of it all are my brothers and sisters in Christ, dividing over the same issues that divide the country. We feel compelled to take sides, to hold up our own partisan signs, to signal where we stand and to look around to see who is standing with us.
That we seem to be lining up in the same fashion as the rest of our world has me feeling uneasy. Are we no different for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus than the world around us who finds no need of a Savior and no palate for a Lord?
Have we been born again, born of the Spirit, born from above? Or have we simply adopted a layer of adornment that we have put over the worldviews we already have?
I ask these questions for myself as I put them on paper. I am asking these questions for all of us who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
These questions are prompted by an editorial in Christianity Today, The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years, by Mark Galli, December 30, 2016. He makes a point of saying that the early church was comprised of disparate people who all came together to follow Jesus, who forever changed their lives by introducing them to the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God changes everything. It should change everything!
Jesus sought out disparate people and brought them together. The twelve disciples included a progressive, Simon the Zealot, who was a member of a group advocating for violent, revolutionary change. Walking with Jesus, sitting and eating with Simon. was a sell out to the tyrannical rule of the occupying Roman government, Matthew, the tax collector.
Simon and Matthew, like Peter and Andrew, the fisherman, left their backgrounds, let go of everything, and followed Jesus.
Jesus told His followers that the kingdom of heaven awaits for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for those who are reviled, persecuted and spoken against falsely on Jesus’ account. (Matthew 5:10-11) But we seem to be trying to find our place in the camps of this world – right, left, Democrat, Republican, whatever the direction we lean. And we seem to be becoming indistinguishable from all the people in the world who choose their sides.
We are persecuted, and persecute each other, not for our relationship to Jesus Christ, but for our political stripes. By Jesus’ stripes we are healed, by the political stripes we wear we turn from His saving grace that was won for us on the cross to an earthly savior.
Jesus was resisted from the left and the right, from the Jews and the Romans, from the Greeks and pagans. People rioted in the streets due to Paul’s preaching the kingdom of God, not an earthly political persuasion. (Acts 19)
Unfortunately, we in the body of Christ are divided, and that tendency toward division began to creep right in from the beginning. James had to exhort the believers to which he wrote to stop being impartial to the wealthy. (James 2:1-7) He labelled that impartiality sin and a failure to love their neighbors as themselves. (James 2:8-9)
Paul had to remind the Galatians, there is no difference in Christ between Greek and Jew, slave and free, male or female. (Gal. 3:28) Paul also had to remind the Ephesians that they were one in Christ. (Eph. 2:11:-21) Jesus is our peace, reconciling people through the cross, “killing the hostility”. (Eph. 3:14-16).
Are we looking to Jesus who is our peace? Are we preserving that peace or returning to hostility?
Paul wrote an entire letter to the Corinthians because of the division among them, appealing to them to agree, to be united and to be of the same mind and judgment. “Is Christ divided?” he asked. (I Cor. 1:10-13) He called the divisiveness fleshy and childish, nonspiritual – in short human. (1 Cor. 3:1-4)
If we are born again, we are born of the Spirit, born from above. We should be nurturing the spiritual life within us, not the fleshy tendency toward opinions and positions that divide us. I believe we should be especially careful not to be drawn into the divisiveness in the world that separates people along partisan political, cultural and social lines.
Just as Jesus welcomed into his fellowship a progressive revolutionary (Simon the Zealot) and a regressive tool of the Roman government (tax collector Matthew), the church should be a place where we come together in unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and nothing else. As Paul told the Corinthians, no one can lay a foundation other than the foundation God has lain, and that is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)
Our efforts built on a different foundation other than Jesus will not stand.
Paul urged the Romans to welcome those who are weak in faith, but not to quarrel over opinions! (Rom. 14:1). We are each answerable to God ourselves. We need to leave room for each of us to be guided by our own consciences and the Holy Spirit. Paul even told the Romans to stay away from those who cause divisions! (Rom. 16:17).
The article ends with this admonition:
Our main political task in this new administration is more urgent than ever. Along with doing our civic duty as we see it (and we will see it differently!), we can speak charitably to one another about our disagreements, taking the time to find out what each of us really believes and why.
The bottom line is this: We should be different from the world. If we aren’t different, then we have to wonder if what we have is even real. If we find ourselves quarreling, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to go back to Jesus.
 In this context Paul said,
“2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:2-12)