This week’s Sunday conversation came a few days after the historic US election that saw Donald Trump win the presidency. From whatever side of the political sphere you stand, the weeks and months leading up to this, as well as the historic 2016 election day, have been both fascinating and concerning.
This isn’t a political post. We don’t get into sides on this platform that is for sure. However, we can make some observations as bystanders. This election taught those of us watching just how divisive elections are (if we already didn’t know this). The country involved is divided almost down the centre, at least that’s what the vote results show. We know, that as much as North Americans have in common, they also have many things that split them apart. Politics is one of them.
I remember talking with a sales woman in Quebec many years ago. She told me that her and her husband decided to never talk about 3 things: Religion, Money & Politics. She said it’s kept them together for over 20 years 🙂
Well, as right as she may be, we can’t avoid conflict 100% of the time. So the question is, how can we move forward when important issues divide us?
It’s not just a country that’s been divided because of this election – the church is too. Christians voted on both sides of this election. (This happens in Canada too when we vote) As hard as that is to believe, it’s true, and it can cause much harm if we don’t deal with it in a heathy way.
The church is the only organism (community) in the world that should be able to overcome differences, even strong ones like electoral votes for Presidents or Prime Ministers. Why you say? Because the church comes together to be an alternative community, based around one person and one truth, Jesus, his death and resurrection.
One American pastor held a communion/eucharist service on election night last week. He tweeted by saying, “The election booth divides, but the eucharist table unites.” How can that be? Two reasons. Scripture and Tradition.
Both Galatians 3 and Colossians 3 say that we are One in Christ. No matter what our gender, our race, our class, our income, our citizenship, we are One in Christ Jesus. His death and resurrection are what bring us together. Paul says it this way:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3)
…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Col 3)
Historians tell us that in 1st century Rome, there was no other place for a Roman citizen, a Jew, a slave, a free person, a woman and a man, to be in the same room together and share community other than the church. They were our first examples of true christian community. So in 2016, we should really be able to say…no conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, no income level or education status…we can be ONE in Jesus.
The creeds help us here as well. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, creeds were created to bring people together and to remind them of what unified their faith community. They do come with some tainted history unfortunately. The Nicene Creed was encouraged/issued by Constantine, who wanted to enforce Christianity as the state religion. This wasn’t the best idea, mainly because following Jesus was never meant to be on one political side or another. As you may know, this caused some problems. However, The Apostles Creed, (which I like more) is succinct in nature and is a wonderful reminder of what brings us together. You can read it HERE.
Writer Tim Keller talks about ‘creedal issues’. He says we need to focus on creedal issues to bring the church together. There are many branches of christianity that stem from the root and the tree, but the Creeds are what keep us as one – they are the big branches. Denominations may have different things they hang their hat on or expressions that matter more, but what ties us together is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity).
My favourite Creed is the Jesus’ Creed found in Mark 12 which simply tells us to Love God and Love others. If we could just focus on that, we’d be fine.
So now what? How do we come together with so many things coming between us?
Here are a few helpful things to think about (and do):
Learn to disagree with out being disagreeable
– we’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors, not Christ’s lawyers
– Give people the dignity to disagree with you
– Not all ideas are created equal, but all people who hold those ideas are created equal.
Faith grows in difficult times
– we are called to follow Jesus in whatever era we find ourselves in
– Jeremiah 29 teaches Israel to be true to themselves in a land that was governed by the ungoldly. God’s advice? Plant gardens and pray for your the wellfare of your cities.
Don’t grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9)
– we vote everyday…with how we live and how we love
– living out our values is more important than legislating them
– If you want to be holy, be kind (F. Buechner)
Befriend people who are different than you
– we can’t stress this enough
Confess your sins
– we have enough sin to work on and confess with out focussing on others sins (Matthew 7)
Be the change you want to see in the world
– parents, your kids will watch and learn from you more than they will any politician or cultural leader.
– ‘vote for whoever you want, but We are the ones who shape culture’
– If we expect the gov’t to be the voice of the church or do its work, we’ve put our trust in the wrong place.
Lots of stuff in this post. Hope the discussion below helps.
As much as unity is of utmost importance in the church. And as important as it is to be able to disagree in a loving and civil manor. Know this, we are to stand up against the things Jesus stood up against: Racism, Favourtism, Pride, Hate, Violence, etc. And we are to love the people Jesus loved…EVERYONE. Whatever difference you may have, let the Jesus Creed be your ethic: Love God, Love other. You can’t go wrong with that.
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small(er) group discussion : (video wrap up)
Why is it so difficult to disagree without being disagreeable? Is living in harmony that hard?
What about the church? Have you experienced some disagreements that couldn’t be resolved? What were (or are) the main obstacles to unity?
After reading Galatians 3 and Colossians 3, what stands out to you about the early church?
What’s the church’s role in society when it comes to this? How can we help?
What do you think of this – “Our conversation (lives) must be grounded in an identity that runs deeper than our ideas or differences”?
Look over the take home points. Which one resonates with you? Which is easiest and/or hardest to live out?
Pray for unity in the church in Durham Region tonight. Name the churches you know and pray for them? And pray for our cities well-being (Jer 29).