Being home all day long gives one a lot more time to think. And more time to spend on social media and other informative websites. As stay-at-home orders continue the flow of information about coronavirus, conspiracy theories, and politics shows no sign of ceasing. I will not be addressing any conspiracies or political stances in this post. But I do wish to say something that I hope you will take the time to read with an open mind and open heart. Especially if you know me personally.
My heart has been burdened for many years now with a message I don’t know quite how to speak. I flounder between fearing my words will fall on deaf ears or bring upon further commentary that only hurts me deeper and burdens me more. But I honestly believe that God has given me a pretty unique perspective. One that gets to take in a little more of the picture than most people do. By no merit of my own, I have had the opportunity to step out of my country and my culture and learn from believers outside of my own context. And this is what I have learned:
Politics is not the gospel. And agreement on policies, parties, and candidates is not an ‘essential’ issue. Don’t write me off yet. It’s likely you and I agree on a great number of things. But you see, so many people, people who I love, admire and respect have hurt me. And they have hurt others like me. I am not here to retaliate or prove that my point is right. I am here to say what Paul already said:
¨Therefore, let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block of hindrance in the way of a brother.¨-Romans 14:13
¨May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.¨-Romans 15: 5-7
Paul speaks on Sabbath days and eating in this particular passage. But the concept applies to other areas as well: Often we may have a personal conviction so strong that we simply cannot overcome it. And we today face the same kind of situation. But political convictions are not Biblical truths. Just as circumcision or vegetarianism in the time of Paul, when two people disagree on issues like how to manage the economy, gun control, a response to a pandemic, or who to vote for our responsibility as followers of Christ is to not pass judgement on those who view these issues differently. It is to never put a stumbling block of hindrance in the way of a brother. But rather to live in harmony, peace, and joy to the glory of our Heavenly Father.
Social media has done a very dangerous thing in making us feel so confident in expressing each and every one of our opinions. From memes, to articles, to personal posts no one has any doubt anymore about where their evangelical friends stand on the ‘hot topics’. Now before you call me out for being a coward or a fraud: I have convictions too. Ask my mother, father, brothers or closest friends and they will tell you that I often stand on my convictions to a fault. (I’m preaching to myself too!) Paul wasn’t counseling the church to keep the peace while innocent people were murdered or sin was being openly entertained. We can and should speak up when we see a brother walking the path of sin. These are primary issues. Ones that every believer should stand on because the Bible explicitly states them.
However, I have honestly come to believe that the vast majority of the time, the best thing we can do to preserve our testimony for the Lord and nurture peace and harmony in the church is to keep silent on those secondary topics.
Referring back to the somewhat unique perspective the Lord has given me: I have traveled to over 10 countries and spent 5 years living outside of the US. I am both discipled by and discipling other believers who come from outside of the American context. This has opened my eyes to some beliefs that I once thought of as Biblical and primary. I now see them as being merely cultural. I’m going to use an example here that I have seen on Facebook a lot these past weeks:
‘It’s our God given freedom.’
Your freedom to carry guns, speak the gospel openly, gather in public places for religious purposes…these are given to you by your current democracy. God has allowed you to have them, yes. And if they are taken it will be because he has allowed you to lose them as well. And Biblically, they are not your right and due reward for being faithful to him. How many of Jesus’ followers in the New Testament lived anything close to the American Dream? And it is not your right to fight for them to the detriment of the gospel. Like it or not, these are rights that God has not given to a majority of the people who make up his church. These are secondary issues. Why? Because the Bible does not promise us any of these freedoms. Returning to the words of Paul, we see a rather un-American attitude in our beloved apostle:
¨If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do we not even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.¨ – 1 Corinthians 9:11-13
Paul says ‘Yeah, I have a right to your money and financial support. But I would cede those rights rather than hinder the work of God in spreading the gospel.¨So I leave you with this: Is your freedom to express your political opinions worth more than not causing your brother to stumble? Does proving you are right or showing you are too intelligent to be duped by crooked politicians mean more to you than living in peace and harmony with your brothers and sisters whose opinions may differ? Are you willing to go so far as to give up your rights if that’s what it takes to proclaim Christ crucified and resurrected?
If you can’t imagine ever guarding silence or peacefully submitting to a brother who’s opinion is different than your own, perhaps your primary has become your secondary. Your glory and your platform a stumbling block to the gospel. For I fear far too many of us have fallen into the trap of believing that our political stance is just as much a part of being a Christian as believing in God’s only son.