A House Divided

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At no other time is the division of the church more apparent than during the heated and passionate weeks leading up to a Presidential election. But politics in general is just an umbrella label that covers several very controversial and divisive issues that separate the church, some to the point of drawing lines in the sand against brothers and sisters of the faith.  As free moral agents God equipped each of us with the ability to reason and form opinions.  Those opinions may be based on several factors including life experience, demographics and upbringing. Thank God for diversity of thought lest we be zombie-like followers void of any uniqueness. However, are we as believers afforded the option to differ over basic tenets of Biblically doctrine?  What are some of the hot-button topics the enemy is using to divide the church?  With much trepidation, I want to examine just a few, in no particular order.

  1. Same Sex Marriage-this is most certainly not a new issue as the early church had to deal with this shortly after the birth of the church. It has only become a hotly contested issue with current legislation that makes it legal for same-sex couples to marry.  As with any good argument, opposing sides seem to be extreme.  Stones are cast with equal velocity by those who view this as the mother of all abominations and by those who “judge not”.  Is it indeed biological, is it a moral choice, is there restoration offered or is restoration required?  As with anything under the sun these answers may be found upon close study of scripture and a sincere seeking of God’s spirit for direction.  One thing is certain-it is dividing the body at the highest of levels.
  2. Racism-perhaps no other issue in modern times has resulted in or been the result of a blasphemous twisting of Holy Scripture.  Slave Owners used passages with slave references to instill fear and obedience in a way that was never intended.  Although we have evolved as a society from those shameful days of hatred, cells of bias still exist in the church that propagate a continued mistrust particularly between black and white Christians.  I have seen and felt this first hand in largely futile attempts at spurring racial dialogue between us.  That level of bias is exhibited even behind many pulpits.  You have on one side a black church body that continues to see and feel discrimination in a system largely lopsided to their disadvantage, resulting in a defensive and sometimes revolutionary posture. On the other side, a white church that knows the evil of bigotry between brothers but is either ill-equipped to properly engage in the battle, or for self-preservation, chooses to stay clear of controversy completely resulting in a complete ineffectiveness in ending racism.  I’m convinced we will never see a complete dissolution of racial hatred in our lifetimes, and it continues to plague the health of the church.
  3. Abortion-the number one reason some will vote for their favorite candidate or abstain from any vote.  More than any other issue, this one affects the voiceless and defenseless innocent.  It has been masked as an anti-government invasion of privacy between a woman and sometimes the biological father.  It has been debated on arguments of life vs. conception, whether pain is experienced by the unborn child, whether or not the fetus is a living soul before birth, whether or not an unborn child is entitled with the same right to life and liberty the living are afforded, etc.  It has been a painful and shameful cancer in the church that tears us asunder much like that of a late term abortion.  It’s ugly, disheartening and continuing. There are solutions to reducing abortion that include education, counseling and yes, birth control.  While I would never sponsor government endorsed contraception in schools, parents need to stop being naïve about sexual activity during teenage years and be active in teaching Biblical precepts regarding sexual intimacy accompanied with practical advice on contraception.  While some would argue that there is no difference in the sin of fornication vs. the sin of abortion, one involves an innocent victim.  Yet the church will look the other way on this topic when voting for their candidate of choice, which leads to the next issue.
  4. Politics-perhaps it has always been this divisive in the body and the popularity of social media simply casts a spotlight and magnifying scope on its existence. That said, the ugliness of partisan political affiliations displayed on posts and threads available for public consumption truly shed a bad light on the body of Christ. At no other time do Christian brothers and sisters hurl such hateful insults at each other than when done over political stances. Core convictions are placed to the side in preference to personal gain and welfare.  Personal responsibilities are discarded in lieu of government intervention and regulations. The custody and control of “do unto others” is surrendered to a largely non-Christian administration, defended by those who cite separation of church and state as if we are personally absolved of considering “the least of these” in light of big government agencies. Believers are highly criticized if they vote red-they are equally criticized for voting blue-they are called un-Christian if they abstain-they are called mindless if they vote third party and even accused of supporting ABC candidate if they vote for XYZ candidate. A temporary man-made form of secular leadership has caused many to overlook our eternal citizenship and relationships to each other long after any two-party system ceases to exist.  And lest I sound like a stuck record, this too is a top (clergy) down situation where even pastors hang their dirty laundry on social media for all to observe.

What ever the issue of the day, the Word is still relevant and has MUCHO to say about divisions in the church.  It plagued the early church just as it does us today.  John the Baptist or Jesus, Paul or Apollos, circumcision or not, foods, rituals, traditions-all divisive then just as our social issues are today.  Consequently, much was recorded for our consideration:

Romans 16:17; “I appeal to you brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to what you have been taught, and to avoid them, for such do not  serve our Lord…”

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you brothers in the name of Jesus Christ that you agree and that there be no divisions among you but that you be of one mind and judgment. “

Titus 3:9; “Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law for they are unprofitable and worthless. “

Like 11:17; “But He, knowing their thoughts said to them ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls'”.

Our commission is to present through words and our lives a unified gospel of hope, peace, love and forgiveness to a world looking to us for answers.  That can’t be accomplished when there are canyons of division that present anything but unity.  Love has to be a bridge that holds the church together during enemy attacks.  There is but one Holy church, the body of Christ-one savior, and He’s not red or blue but He’s always Right-one Holy Gospel that should be “rightly” divided, not torn into sections to fit preferred lifestyles-one blessed hope that secures eternal communion. How I long for the day when love rules over all evil and the teachings of Christ become our only guiding principle.

 

 

 

 

 

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Politics and the Church-Our Filthy Rags

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We as the Church in America are about to embark upon what has become a heated, sometimes hostile, divided and downright nasty debate that leaves those outside the church scratching their heads as they observe. With the onset of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, candidates are throwing their hats into the ring and announcing their intent and the Church is rolling up their sleeves and forming battle lines that would intimidate Navy Seal teams.  They will back their candidate and prepare for a war that will play itself out in embarrassing fashion on social media with misquotes, creative memes and misguided scriptural support that will be at least as muddy as the campaigns themselves. It has always been this way but with the transparency of social media outlets the debate within the Church is now exploited for the world to see like a window dancer in the Red light district.  It’s shameful, divisive and heartbreaking to witness and the resulting battles divide the American Church more than any other social event or issue.

We all have different ideas and expectations of those we elect to represent us both at the State and Federal level of Government.  Foreign policy, local economy, Government spending and taxation, entitlements, education, healthcare, social agendas, all have different weight and priority to the individual voter, which is completely understandable. We all come from different backgrounds and carry with us varying ideals formed from our own unique personal experience and upbringing. Some vote Red or Blue because that’s just what their family has always done; some vote one way or another strictly on a single issue.  Some approach their decision prayerfully while others approach it based on the good of their personal bank account.  Some are very private and secretive in their balloting while many will use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and other Social outlets as their soapbox for all things holy and political.

I am so grateful to be born in a country where we can cast a vote in a democratic process to elect leaders, to be able to voice opinions or displeasure with the administration with little or no repercussion, and to be engaged at whatever level of activity we choose in the process.  And I can appreciate that just as there are apparently 35,000 different Christian denominations of the Same Gospel there are also at least the same number of opinions and criteria for voting in elections. What is hard to accept is the vile and the tone of speech and posts from siblings in Christ displayed with each other who don’t come to the same political conclusions as others believe they should.  I have actually seen the following comments displayed on my page over the years from confessed believers:

“How can you call yourself Christian but vote for that person?” 

“A real believer wouldn’t be part of that party”

“If you vote that way your an idiot”

“Just shoot them all”

So in considering what is about to be played out for the unchurched public, I have to approach this with my eyes open from two points of view; 1) What does the Word say, if anything, about casting our vote, and 2) What does the Word tell us about being an example to a world who is watching us or looking to us for real hope and solutions?  For me, these are the only things that should matter.

First, what scriptural references do we have for elections or for those we elect?  Not surprisingly, there are several passages dealing with this subject:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;” Psalm 1:1

“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Exodus 18:21

“He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. ” 2 Samuel 23:3

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?   2 Corinthians 6:14

“Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is the reproach of any people.” Proverbs 14:34 –

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalms 33:12) 

However you approach your ballot, there are fundamental truths laid out for us in scripture that should guide your decision. Contrary to what is being sponsored as truth, God’s laws are not to be disregarded. The welfare of widows, children, homeless, sick-the integrity of life-these things should always trump the welfare of our net worth, the protection of our retirement or any other non-Kingdom criteria used in making a voting decision. Sometime the best vote is not the one that benefits you.

Second, how should the world view us during this process-should we be boisterous in our arrogance and piety which only serves to emphasize our divisions? Or should Christ be glorified in our speech, in our debate, in our tones, in our posts and in the words we choose as we label each other Red or Blue?  So back to the Word we go:

Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Romans 13:14; Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy 

Ephesians 5:7-14 Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

Acts 13:47 “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'”

I can only speculate that God may question the motives behind our voting habits and our public expression or our political affiliation.  But based on the passages above, I can pretty much guarantee we will be judged by how we let our light shine before the world or what fruit they saw in us during political seasons. When the Church takes on the appearance of the world in our political bantering and the mud bombs launched at each other over Presidential candidates, to the point we are no longer distinguishable as the Church of Christ, our magnified division and ultimate demise will be thunderous and catastrophic to a world looking for something we possess but lose focus on at times-the hope of the Gospel, the evidence of “love thy Neighbor”.

We have a long journey to November 2016. I fear that the potential for much harm will be realized before it’s over. I pray that we in the Body of Christ hold to our right to vote but live our lives in the process in a way that does not divide, that we disagree with reason, sobriety and respect, and that above all else, Jesus is glorified in our actions and not defiled in our debate.