I often joke that of the three -- religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin -- I now only discuss the Great Pumpkin. In this Charlie Brown special, only Linus historically takes offense with the others’ disagreement, but he’s fictional anyway. Actually, all the characters are!
What isn’t fiction is our recent election. It has been contentious and raucous, with both sides predicting near apocalyptic consequences if the other side makes it into office. There are scars and wounds.
Now that it’s essentially over, how do we move forward? We have both sides represented in our congregation, so how do we respond and how do we relate to each other?
Here are two principles I recommend we apply:
The Gospel is the transcendent truth which is as far above our earthly concerns -- including politics -- as the sky is above the earth. The Gospel is our defining truth, the truth which makes sense out of everything else. It’s our starting point which fits everything else together.
Who we truly are is not grounded in being a republican or a democrat, or even in our national or racial identity. It is in the Gospel where we find our primary identity. Paul declares, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, ESV). This is where we find our true identity.
Paul goes even further stating, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). It’s via the Gospel that we can move forward to true unity.
President-elect Biden has stated that now is the time to forget our differences and work toward unity. But where do we find true unity? It’s not in politics, certainly, as the Psalmist reminds us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation (Psalm 145:3).” The political and ideological rifts, heightened by rhetoric unimaginable even 20 years ago, are so deep that unity on that score will be impossible.
We find true unity only through the Spirit of God as we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Sin creates dichotomy and division, and only something as transcendent as the Gospel, the work of Christ accomplished and applied, can heal that division.
True unity based in the Gospel is far more real and substantial than the transitory nature of this world and its ills.
Paul explains, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).” Paul is specifically talking about his apostolic ministry, but the principle is general and applies to the entirety of our existence. We are new creations in Christ.
The church is not an earthly club or political party but a supernatural (meaning, above nature) creation of the Holy Spirit. Our unity is therefore far more real and substantial than anything else that might unite or divide us, “For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
How do we practically apply these principles? We focus on them. We study them in the Scriptures. We own them through daily prayer. We assemble with one another and celebrate our unity in Christ through worshipping our Lord and Savior. We take the focus off ourselves and put it squarely on him. This will give us the foundation to work through even the most difficult earthly issues which divide us because we see them in proper perspective.
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