Can you still love me if I didn’t vote like you? That’s an elephant in the room question that will be hovering over our holiday meals, lingering inside our sanctuaries and meandering the halls of our office buildings (if you actually still go to yours) for a while. What has been shocking has been many in the church’s response to this moment. The incendiary language that has spewed has been deeply troubling when it is not about positions, but about people. We should all be okay if someone disagrees with our positions. Look at your family. I mean how many times have you not even agreed with your family on certain issues. But do you cancel them? Do you reject them from the Thanksgiving table? So, why then has it now become okay to call me a name or label me or cancel me when I don’t agree with you?
Yet this is where we find ourselves. Even those who say they are followers of Christ are now canceling family and friends. I’ve read posts from people I love, followers of Christ who have labeled me inconceivable things, whether they realize it or not, that are not who I am because I didn’t vote like them. Yet this is what my Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Let’s just start here. How has Christ loved us? Seriously, how has He loved you? Well, He has loved me in spite of me. He has loved me when there wasn’t much worth finding lovely. He has loved me in my sin, in my shame, in my fear, in my critical moments. He has loved me when there was nothing that deserved love. And that is how He has loved you. When we forget how we have been loved it is very easy to forget how others should be loved. That is why He started here. But He didn’t finish here.
(vs35) By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…
We might need to read that one again. By what will they know we are Jesus’ disciples? By our love. Not by our screaming. Not by our name calling. Not by our need to be right. But by our love. I can only imagine how confused the world is right now by the church. How can a dying world be impacted by a divided church? Whether you agreed with the position of John Piper in regard to voting, or Wayne Grudem’s response to John Piper’s opinion on voting, one thing we should all be able to agree on is the civility and decency with which they handled each other’s hearts. When we lower ourselves to name calling and labeling, we lower our Jesus we profess. James 4:11 (MSG) “Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the message, not writing graffiti all over it.”
Is there a place for healthy debate? There better be. Because if we can’t have healthy conversations regarding things we disagree on we are in a very dangerous place. When healthy debate is silenced rest assured much more will be silenced in the aftermath. Until eventually our ability to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be silenced and that is the ONLY thing that redeems a broken world. The ONLY thing.
A friend and I who did not vote the same had a conversation the other day. We shared who we voted for, why we voted for them and not once called each other a name in doing it. We didn’t threaten to cancel our friendship or our shared history.
We listened and were able to share perspectives and our hearts. When we were done, we thanked each other for being friends enough to listen and she even stated that she wished we had that conversation before she voted. Why could she hear me? Because I could hear her.
“But wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard of work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” James 3:17-18 (MSG)
We are not in a battle against flesh and blood. But we have left a battlefield of bleeding people literally and figuratively and if we are okay with that then we need to dig into why we are okay with that. Because that is not healthy or holy.
Our battle is against “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Eph 6:12 Yet, many of us are fighting battles the wrong way. We are fighting people with destructive words and labels, while Jesus called us to fight the powers of darkness through prayer. It is possible to battle for just things without destroying our witness and neighbor in the process.
We should be praying for truth in this moment as we are living in a culture just like Paul talked about in Romans that has traded the truth for a lie. (No one should be afraid of truth. As followers of Christ we know that truth brings freedom.) We should be praying against anarchy and intimidation. (No one should condone or be okay with violence or bullying.) We should be praying for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on the earth. (No one should be afraid of this even if it means it doesn’t look like what you hoped it would look like.) We should be praying against anything that would try to silence our voice. (No one should be against free speech because the first voice they come for will be the church’s voice.) We should be praying…and praying…and praying. We should even be speaking for what is right and just and Biblical and be willing to take righteous stances against anything coming against the church. But we should not be doing it with venom and vitriol.
“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”
“This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!”
“My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (James 3:5-12 MSG)
(Vs 14-18 Youngs)
“Who [is] wise and intelligent among you? let him shew out of the good behavior his works in meekness of wisdom,
and if bitter zeal ye have, and rivalry in your heart, glory not, nor lie against the truth;
this wisdom is not descending from above, but earthly, physical, demon-like,
for where zeal and rivalry [are], there is insurrection and every evil matter;
and the wisdom from above, first, indeed, is pure, then peaceable, gentle, easily entreated, full of kindness and good fruits, uncontentious, and unhypocritical: –and the fruit of the righteousness in peace is sown to those making peace.”
These words should sober the best of us. Because when we open ourselves up to rivalry it is “earthly”, and “demon like” and “we open ourselves up to every evil matter” and our world and our families right along with it. The church of the living God should be okay when the world acts like the world. But we should not be okay when the church does. Does it mean we lay down on the battlefield? Absolutely not! But it does mean we fight with the weapons of heaven, where I true residence resides.
I hope with all my heart God desires to move on this earth with one last great revival. It has been my prayer for years. But my prayer is a revival for the world. The church shouldn’t need continual revival. We should be living testaments of revival! We should not be lukewarm or compromising or indifferent or unkind. But we will only be a faithful and persevering church when we have forsaken all our other lovers. The love of our will, our gender, our race and our denominations. We are not any of these things. We are spirit beings. Supernatural beings living in a natural world. We should be peculiar not petty. We should be loving not lashing. And for the sake of the Jesus that died for us, paid the ultimate price for us we should be kind and not canceling.
“Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly.” James 2:12 (MSG) It is so very important to remember, that the very same people who are screaming for someone to be cancelled will never be safe themselves in a culture like that. Because rest assured, that kind of spirit will eventually find a way to cancel you.