Things we do not talk about at the dinner table, workplace or in public

Published 9:21 am Friday, November 9, 2018

I was taught that there are two things that you do not talk about at the dinner table, in the workplace, or in public: politics and religion. Unfortunately (at least for my personal life), I have never been able to figure out how to keep myself from engaging in both spheres whether in private or public spaces. These are two topics that have brought me great joy, but they are also two topics that have brought me great concern and anxiety. Therefore, I understand just how divisive politics and religion can be. As a minister and a political science major, I have seen first-hand how we have the mix of politics and religion look like oil and water. This column isn’t meant to be divisive or perceived as an attack in anyway. However, in light of our recent elections, I find that the ways in which Christians are engaging the political sphere are becoming harmful to our Gospel message and mission.
Matthew 10:32-39 reads, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
I think that many times we take the words of Christ that He came “not to bring peace, but a sword” to mean that we should run around cutting people down until we are the only ones left. We assume that if we tear enough people down, badmouth them, and destroy them, then surely our victory represents our monopoly on truth and authority. But I think the linchpin of this text lies in the sentence, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Make no mistake about it, the message of Christ has come to divide families and friends, but might I dare say, Christ has come to divide parties as well. Christians have lost sight of the fact that we are Christ-followers in our identity, and the adjectives “Republican” and “Democrat” are just to be descriptive words. Far too many people have firmly established their identity in the red or blue political platforms. Our lives look too much like the elephants and donkeys and not enough like the Lamb.
The reason the message of Christ is so divisive is because it requires that we love people, including our enemies. The politics of Jesus transcends that of our American politics. Our political parties in this country have one agenda: power. But the agenda of Christ is simple: people. When we lose sight of the fact that our citizenship lies in the Kingdom of Heaven, we can too easily trip into vicious political games of name calling, whistleblowing, and mudslinging. The way of Christ has taught us that we obtain truth, not by dividing people, but by bringing them together on the common grounds of love and harmony.
The sword of Christ is not power. The sword of Christ is reconciliation. Our world would have us believe that we should fight, bite, and scratch until we get our way, but Jesus would have us see that bringing people, especially opposing parties, together is much easier to say than to do. People don’t like reconciliation because it forces us to recognize our own flawed humanity. It is much easier just to assume that we are right. As Christians, our job is not to testify to the world that we believe Republicans or Democrats are right but that Jesus is right. He is our Way, our Truth, and our Life.
Rich Villodas, a pastor in Queens, New York, posted a great quote on Twitter this past week. He says, “The Church is not to be found in the ‘center’ of a left/right political world. The Church is to be a species of its own kind, confounding both left and right, and finding its identity from the center of God’s life.” The politics of Jesus transcends the politics of this world. Christ has shown us that we can do more with love, mercy, and grace than any president or king ever did with an army, money, or laws. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think Jesus was red or blue. I think He was much more purple. For purple represents that we must value all people regardless of their political beliefs.
Go vote. Go to party meetings. Wear your candidate’s pins and use their bumper sticker. But friends, please never forget that Jesus defines who we are, and ultimately, He is our King.
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church and his associate, Hunter Greene.)

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