I am writing with our current political circumstances in mind, the day before a new President takes office in the U.S. He will do so in a nation deeply divided over Presidential politics. Many Christ following persons hold extreme opposite views from those of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Here’s how extreme: some feel it’s “the end of the world” because Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President tomorrow; while others feel as though Biden’s election has disarmed the cataclysm that had seemed inevitable. THAT’s how divided the nation is, and the divide characterizes the Church as well. (By “Church” I mean the world-wide community of Jesus-followers, of which there are tens of millions living, worshipping and serving in the U.S.)
I am writing with the assumption that most within the Church agree that Jesus calls us to seek first the Kingdom he announced and made real during his ministry. To seek his Kingdom first along with the righteousness characteristic of life within his Kingdom (Matt. 6:33). We agree that upon Jesus’ return it is this Kingdom—his Kingdom—that will prevail over all; and that in the meantime our call is to represent His Kingdom above all else, since we are its citizens and ambassadors.
I am writing with the assumption that most within the Church have come to know the heart of God through Jesus and want to know/experience more and more of Jesus. We’re not pursuing first or primarily a moral ordering of life, the correct list of rules/laws that assure us we won’t go wrong. We are rather in a relationship with the most significant and decisive Person ever, who loves us and gave himself up for us, who knows what it best for us and all, and has pledged to set everything right upon His return.
I am writing with the assumption that most of us within the Church will acknowledge an ongoing need to be renewed in our minds by the Spirit of Jesus, to perceive and respond to our circumstances with the help of the Spirit who strengthens us, teaches us, and assures us as we walk in Jesus’ ways.
I am writing with the assumption that most within the Church can agree with all these assumptions and STILL disagree, even strongly, about how to assess, process and respond to any given set of circumstances, including those we now face.
With these assumptions in mind—as God’s children, brothers and sisters together in God’s Household—can we “hear” the voice of God urging The Family:
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Eph. 4:30-32 NLT)
If, as I assume, the Church reflects the extreme and deep divisions of the larger nation, could the Church not also reflect a better way forward? I think so.
What if we started with the many within the Church we now know and, by the power of the Spirit within us, WE get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil … and instead are kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us? Not just on matters relating to the politics of the moment, but on any matters now upon us and between us. By the power of the Spirit we’ve been given, get rid of it and be … !
What if we started small with the many within the Church we now know and kept at it, and became modestly “good” at this, adept at getting rid of … in timely ways and being … when it really counts. Suppose we started small and it grew large?
Again, what if we started with the many within the Church we now know, and then decided to focus on the many within the Church we do not know at all? Some of them are quite different from us, but not as different as we once were from God. So, supposing we venture so far as we can to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil … and instead sought to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us?[I know, we may not actually know many or perhaps any of those brothers and sisters, so it would be doubly difficult to be “kind to each other,” and all the rest. Point well taken, but at the least we could give them the benefit of the doubt since we don’t know them well or at all. We could give the benefit again and again. In fact, that is what God has done for us!]
Well … what if we started, even today, in these ways?
I imagine other questions popping into mind. Among them: what does all this have to do with deep divisions over a new President being inaugurated? And what difference would any of this make?
On that last question, we wouldn’t “bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way we live.” At least, we wouldn’t grieve the Spirit in these ways. No doubt, that would be good. Then, if we kept at it—” getting rid of … and being kind …, “we’d develop relational habits that track well with Jesus, the One we’re following. And, then, I suspect our differences could be seen in a different light. Some would remain as matters of principle and conviction, while others might resolve as not worth the bother, but all of them would increase our understanding of, and respect for, one another.
What about the divisions over Presidential politics and governing the nation? By “getting rid of … and being kind …” in the power of God’s Spirit, the Family of Jesus shines a light on the way of Jesus and illustrates how differences can be negotiated differently, with a brilliance and beauty not often even seen in this world. Differences negotiated differently, and potentially powerfully.
Yes, it would be a small and modest thing, easy to overlook and underestimate. As perhaps one of the smallest Kingdom-seeds ever planted.