This article is about Jesus and our hearts in light of the election (not politics itself). Also, I’ll specifically be addressing my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ aka the Church. If that’s not you, I hope this article will still be helpful for you and give you hope after a long couple of weeks.
In the midst of some extreme division, can we all at least agree on the fact that the election has exposed some messy ugliness in our hearts?
Our nation is divided almost right down the middle, and unfortunately the Church isn’t much different. Something I’ve observed, and I’m sure you’ve noticed as well, instead of the church shaping the culture and political conversations, we respond to culture and political agendas. We oftentimes twist our theology to defend our political views.
I’ve heard: “If Jesus were here now he’d be (Democrat/Republican) because he is for/against ______.” or worse “No true Christian would ever vote ______.” Let’s be honest, we really don’t know what political party Jesus would belong to, and these statements can cause divisions in the church between true followers of Christ.
John the Baptist had doubts.
Here’s what we do know about Jesus. When he was on earth, he shattered everyone’s expectations of who he was “supposed” to be. For example, even Jesus’s cousin, John the Baptist, whose sole life responsibility was preparing people for Jesus, had doubts.
In Matthew 11:2-6, John is in prison, so he sends his friend to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Being in prison while Jesus was on earth did not match John’s assumption of political deliverance for the Jewish people from Roman domination. If John the Baptist’s assumptions of what a Kingdom under Jesus would look like was wrong, then we need to examine our own assumptions that we write into Christianity. The facts we hold near and dear may in fact just be assumptions we’ve absorbed from our culture, region, or political parties.
What would Jesus do?
I love this quote from Christena Cleveland in her book Disunity in Christ:
“As I read through the Gospels, I noticed that [Jesus] had a habit of connecting with everybody: conservative theologians, liberal theologians, prostitutes, divorcees, children, politicians, people who party hard, military serviceman, women, lepers, ethnic minorities, celebrities, you name it. He was pretty serious about connecting in spite of natural and ideological differences…Rather than using his power to distance himself from us, Jesus uses it to approach us.”
Jesus loved and served those he encountered, and he asks us as followers to do the same. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and he gives us the story of the Good Samaritan to explain who our neighbor is in Luke 10:25-37.
In the story, a Jewish man is robbed, beat up and left for dead. Two religious Jewish leaders pass by the dying man and continue on their way, but a Samaritan man stops, helps, and cares for the man. At the time, Samaritans were Jewish people’s enemy, and they differed in race, culture, religion, and class. To the Jewish people hearing the story, Jesus remarkably states the Samaritan man is actually their neighbor. Friends, let’s look to Christ’s example and love all of our neighbors, even if they feel like enemies.
The Wall of Hostility
Okay, so how do we build relationships when we seem oceans apart? Well, these splits and cultural divides aren’t new. In the early church, Paul addresses the animosity between Gentiles and Jewish people. Ephesians 2:14-18 is one of my all-time favorite passages because it’s such a beautiful picture of the gospel.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Isn’t that compelling? Through his selfless sacrifice for all mankind, Jesus has united two opposing groups into one new humanity. In this picture you can see Jesus’s kingdom is one of unity, peace, family, and closeness. And that’s something we’re all for, right?
Helpful future steps.
- Let’s first examine our own hearts and see what ugliness keeps us from full intimacy with Jesus, and then confess and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
- Then let’s move towards the people we avoid in our life. My challenge for you is to go sit with these friends and listen without changing, contradicting, or judging. Let’s show them dignity, empathy, and unconditional love by really seeking to understand their hearts. Wouldn’t you want them to do that for you?
- We need to open up our Bibles and close our screens. The messages we receive from social media, the internet, and television are divisive and can suck up our time. Let’s spend more time seeking and hearing real Truth, so when we interact with friends online our hearts and minds will be renewed in line with Jesus’s teachings.
- Let’s be “culture shapers” instead of “culture reactors”. As Christians, our first identity and calling is to Christ. Out of that identity and Biblical truth, let’s engage in politics, discussions, and change. Let’s be willing to call out the flaws of our own political parties where they do not line up with God’s kingdom and work to reform them in light of scripture instead of letting our Christian beliefs be informed by what our party holds near and dear. Let’s be culture shapers, dear Church.
- Lastly, please join me in praying for our hearts, for our church, for our nation, for our leaders, and for God’s kingdom to come.