None of us need to be told that public discourse in our culture right now has become…less than civil. But in the midst of discord, we have a wonderful opportunity to be a much-needed breath of fresh air; to be radically loving and gracious in the ways we interact with others. Because the fact is, that our assignment doesn’t change, no matter what is going on around us. We are to make disciples. To help people get connected and transformed by the love and freedom available to them through the resurrected Christ. To teach them how to become more and more like Jesus.
Jesus was and is indeed a political figure, but the government he represents was not the government of Israel or of Rome, and it is not our government in the present day U.S. And while people threaten to move to Canada if the election doesn’t go their way, we already have citizenship in Jesus’ kingdom, which has the advantage of being here—where we are already living and working. At this tense time, we have the privilege of inviting people into a different campaign—one to bring the shalom of the Kingdom of God into our cities and neighborhoods and homes.
Here are a couple ways to refocus on Jesus, and to invite others into that same discipleship, even when politics seem to be more and more shocking and polarized every day:
Love our neighbors
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37
After one of the most contentious elections, we still have to live with our neighbors. As a church, we are called to deeply love our neighbors, even the ones with completely different political views. What would that look like in your community?
- Serve. It’s fall. In many areas of the country, that means yard work. Could you bless your neighbors by meeting a practical need and helping them with leafy yards and winterizing gardens? Strategize with those you are discipling about how to reach out to meet practical needs around you.
- Listen. The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and David Runyon asks you to look at a map of your neighborhood and assess how many people’s names you know, and how much you know about each of your neighbors. So, make an effort to know them. Listen to their concerns (just listen!) about this election, but also listen to what else is going on in their lives.
- Speak peace. Our neighbors don’t necessarily need our advice (unless they ask for it). But we can bless them by sharing the peace we have through Jesus Christ in both our words and actions. If something is bothering them, offer to pray for them. Think through how you can communicate the peace of Christ in all your interactions with your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, family, etc.
Love our Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44
Many people, have become increasingly worried about persecution by people who are different than they are, whether it’s a political, religious, racial, or gender difference. But we know that people aren’t really our enemies. Ever. Ephesians 6 tells us the battle is spiritual, not with flesh and blood.
Ask yourself, and discuss with those your are discipling, “who do I see as my enemy?” Got an answer? Ok. Now ask, “how can I practically love that person/group of people today?” Much like loving our neighbors, loving our enemies isn’t theoretical. Love is a call to practical action. So will you commit to pray for your “enemy?” Make an effort to befriend him, or her, or them?
Remember who’s in charge
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I’ve heard Christians expressing fear that the Church will be destroyed by whoever ends up in our nation’s highest office next year. And to that, we can absolutely say: No. It won’t. The fact is, the church cannot be destroyed by any political leader or party or policy. Ever. Jesus makes it abundantly clear, not just in the great commission, but again and again, that we have nothing to fear in that regard. Every gambit by the kingdom of darkness to overcome God’s kingdom has already been defeated, once and for all, on the cross of Christ.
Therefore, we can be certain, no matter what happens in our government, that God will continue to be good and faithful to us. And we can continue to keep our eyes on the one who’s in charge: Jesus. He is and always has been the only leader in whom we can safely put our trust. Let’s continue to remind each other of that fact.