A Divine Call to Unity
a little less than 2,000 years ago
Jesus was walking the streets of a fractured nation. Israel was the promise of God fulfilled. It was a miracle country. God promised to Abraham that this beautiful stretch of land would be the permanent possession of the Jews. In Jesus' time, however, there was turmoil that Abraham could never have foreseen.
Israel, which was intended to be one nation, under God, indivisible, had been overrun by pagans. The Romans sacked Jerusalem 63 years before Christ was born, and brought with them laws and gods which were a complete abomination to those they had conquered. In the days when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, the ruling powers defied God. They ridiculed God. They did not represent the people - rather they represented their own interest and lust for power and wealth.
God's people were divided on how to respond. One group, who called themselves the Sadducees, thought that they should go with the flow, but seek to gain power and influence in the government. There were others, called Pharisees, who thought that they should passively accept the reality of Rome, and simply do their best to live Godly lives in spite of the circumstances. The Essenes started a hippy commune in the desert. The Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome violently.
And I don't blame them: The Romans of Carthage and Phoenicia killed babies ritualistically. The politicians of Jesus' day disrespected God's Temple and His Word. They built temples to their gods filled with religious prostitutes. They ate forbidden food. They enslaved and murdered God's chosen people.
So you can imagine that the thousands who followed Jesus listened with baited breath to hear his take on the political problems of the day. They were shocked by what they heard.
His message was passionate and earth-shatteringly powerful. The message he preached, and the message he sent his followers out to preach was this:
7 Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!
Matthew 10:7-8 NLT
He didn't even mention Rome. Jesus teaches us a different, hidden, better way. He teaches us about a NATION which is greater than Rome, and greater than America. He tells us passionately that through this KINGDOM, the sick will be healed, outcasts will be given a home, people without hope will be given hope. There is even enough power in this Kingdom to raise the dead. You see, God's plan to bless planet earth, Jesus teaches us, has never been simply through nations built by men. Starting with his promise to Abraham, he chose to bless the world through the Spiritual nation of the Children of God, no mater which lines on the map they live between.
Walking down the street in Jerusalem, the long line of people following behind Jesus included Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, losers, outcasts, rich people, and weirdos. Eventually, as they learned, changed, and grew, they were overcome with an uncontainable fire for the Kingdom that is greater than any kingdom...and they changed the world. They believed and preached the message of the Kingdom, they healed the sick, they raised the dead, they changed lives!
I believe, with all of my heart, that if Jesus walked on Earth today...if he was walking down the sidewalk in Old Town Fort Collins where I live, there would be a long trail of people following him. Some of those spiritually hungry and broken people would be Democrats. Some would be Republicans. There would be Independents, Libertarians, Hippies, weirdos, poor people, rich people, brown people, black people, white people...all kinds of people.
You see, followers of Jesus aren't made with a cookie cutter. We've all arrived on this journey from different starting points, and we aren't all at the same level of spiritual maturity. That means that we carry different loads of baggage and different thought processes with us. We haven't been homogenized. That means we're messy!
Now we get to the point of this post.
My heart is breaking a bit. The Kingdom is fracturing again.
Could you imagine if Jesus' followers would have abandoned their hope in the Kingdom and began preaching the hope of Rome? Could you imagine if their preaching became a stumbling block and a rejection of some who were hungry for God, but had different political viewpoints?
Republicans say that Democrats can't possibly be followers of God, because the Democratic platform is evil. Democrats say that anyone who truly follows God wouldn't vote for a hate-monger and womanizer. Many on either side are immovable in their positions and are certain that they carry the banner of God's will.
And here we are, like fools, trying to follow Jesus down the sidewalk in Old Town, but we are stabbing each other in the gut with sharp knives (supplied by our enemy, by the way) as we walk. Read carefully:
10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:10
1 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. Ephesians 4:3
Our nation is heavily divided, and I make a passionate appeal to you, the Church, to remember whose Kingdom you belong to! Our unity as the Church matters more than the politicians in Washington, the nature of the Supreme Court, or whether or not the government of America reflects the Church's values. Our UNITY MATTERS MORE! The hope of the world depends on our unity!
There is one particularly sharp knife which has threatened to hurt the Church in this season, so let me get real here: Followers of Jesus should be very careful and measured in the way we choose to use social media.
Your thoughts matter, and they are valid. Your thoughts should be heard. Perhaps you should consider though, for the sake of unity, a better way to share them.
Facebook and Twitter are cheap platforms to scream our ideas into the wind. The problem is, your good point is most often lost when people misinterpret it or start arguing in the comments. Your good intentions don't come to fruition, and your post ends up being more divisive than edifying. I know that you feel that your ideas are good, and valid, and even Biblical. You feel that others could learn from your point of view. You are probably right! The lesson is, though, following Jesus and teaching other's how to follow Jesus is our most important goal and Disciples are made over coffee, not over the internet.
Social Media is a paper-thin illusion of community, and it is just not the right place to talk about things that are precious pearls. You wouldn't and shouldn't propose to the love of your life, quit your job, discuss your sexuality, or confess your darkest sin on social media. Those things are too sensitive.
Political viewpoints are also deeply personal and sensitive.
And I'm certain, that if you've taken time to read this far, that your heart is focused like mine is on our true purpose on Planet Earth: To make disciples. I'm sure you'd be mortified to hear that you've hurt a brother or sister in Christ, and even caused them to leave the church over something as petty as politics.
23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
So - here's what we do next:
1. Be careful of what you're posting and how it will come across. Season your words with humility and grace for those who disagree with you. Reserve the right to be wrong.
2. Forgive the person who offended you. Check this out:
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48
This is a beautiful part of living in community. We all have rough edges. We won't always get along. We aren't all the same. Because of this, we MUST choose to have supernatural amounts of patience and grace, and we must NEVER be afraid to sit down and talk with someone who has hurt us.
3. Join me in doing whatever it takes to reach as many people as we possibly can with the good news of the Kingdom! Let's remember that we belong to the only true world Superpower: The people of God united in love.