I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world– John 16:33 NIV
We live in an age of division and hate.
The list of issues dividing us is long and growing at a rapid clip. These would include tax policy, the minimum wage, immigration, the number of genders that exist, abortion, who should use which bathroom, sexual orientation, education, critical race theory and how elections should be managed. We are divided over masks and whether it’s safe to gather in groups and how to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19. The vaccinated accuse the unvaccinated of being dirty, ignorant, backward, uncaring unscientific super spreaders. The unvaccinated accuse the vaccinated of being sheep, followers, sellouts, judgmental jerks and silent super spreaders.
How do we become a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable time?
Do we keep our heads down and hope for the speedy return of Jesus? Do we dive into the melee and fight the man? If so, which man? How do we fight? How do we represent Jesus well while we fight? Do methods matter?
There are no easy answers. Christians are instructed to do hard things (Matthew 10:8). The methods we employ matter (Philippians 2:14-15, 1st Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 4:13). Hope is not a strategy, therefore, simply hoping fervently for the return of Jesus will not make disciples or reform broken systems. God does not call His people to retreat (Genesis 1:28). To the contrary, the uglier the age the more a Christian witness is needed in every sphere of society and life. To be that witness we have to recognize three realities:
There is no distinction on God’s team-
1st Kings details the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were sinful, horrible, apostate leaders who championed Baal worship in Israel. They oppressed and slaughtered faithful believers without mercy. In chapter eighteen there is a meeting between Obadiah, an official in Ahab’s court and Elijah, a prophet of God. It’s obvious from the text that Elijah is openly disdainful of Obadiah, while Obadiah clearly longs for Elijah’s approval. It appears that Elijah saw Obadiah as a sellout and a collaborator. While Obadiah appears to envy Elijah. On the surface it looks like one man is better than the other. It appears that one man is clearly more righteous than the other. It seems as if one is taking a much bigger risk for the kingdom than the other. However, that view is simplistic, incorrect and absurdly human. Both were righteous. Both were risking everything for the cause of Yahweh. Both were serving on the same team and doing exactly what God had called them to do. Obadiah was operating covertly (at great risk to himself) within the existing political system to protect the remnant of faith who refused to worship Baal (1st Kings 18:13). Elijah was working openly (at great risk to himself) within the religious community to bring the wayward people back to faith, obedience and moral purity. Both men were preforming crucial, albeit different roles. Too often we do what Elijah and Obadiah did, we judge one another (and ourselves) without mercy or grace. We make arbitrary and unbiblical distinctions between the sacred (religious) and the secular (political). Anytime we make this error, we miss out on opportunities to encourage one another and correct each other’s wrong thinking and actions. When that happens, the whole team suffers.
Some things are worth fighting for-
As a general rule Christians are called to live in peace with others (Hebrews 12:14). This does not mean it is somehow godly to excuse ourselves from the fight (Philippians 4:3, 1st Timothy 6:12). We should never ignore societal decay, divisive ideologies or outright lies. Christians should not force their views on anyone. That being said, neither should Christians ignore acts of evil or philosophies that will clearly lead to evil if left unchecked (Proverbs 24:10-12). Christians should act to protect women, the weak, children, the elderly and the unborn from exploitation and evil. Protecting the vulnerable is an issue of justice and righteousness—not politics (James 1:27, Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 24:17). Christians should be cautious about acquiescing to evolving ideas on gender (Genesis 1:27). These viewpoints place children in danger and cause confused and hurting people to degrade themselves in devastating and sometimes irreparable ways. Christians should fight to protect the God-given rights every human on earth has to life, equal treatment under the law, free speech, and the ability to worship God freely and without fear (Exodus 20:13, Galatians 3:28, Exodus 9:1). We cannot in good conscience concede to the culture on issues of right and wrong just to maintain “peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).
We have to do all the things but in the right order-
There are two things Christians are called to do. Leading the lost to Jesus is the first thing (Matthew 28:19). However, discipleship is a critical thing as well. We must begin the process of helping people to align their behavior and politics with the truth of the gospel. But only after their hearts have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Confusing the order short-circuits the work of the Holy Spirit and only succeeds in producing well-behaved heathens. This error is how we got into the cultural mess we find ourselves.
God is calling His people to better. He has called us to unite around the person of Jesus and support all members of the body of Christ. He’s calling us away from the tribalism of our culture and into a purity of heart and action that might just transform our age of division and discord into a glorious season of spiritual reform and revival.