I have been thinking recently about how our obsession with politics has eroded the testimony of the church over the past four years. This should be of concern for all those who want to worship Jesus at Christmastime. Though the coming season focuses on his birth, the days leading up to his death are also important. At that time, Jesus prayed to his Father that his followers would be unified:
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind… Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me… I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me. John 17 (MSG)
I know Jesus wasn’t praying for political unity, but there’s no question that partisan politics has hurt our Christian oneness and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
First, evangelicals underestimated the negative impact of attaching sacred ideals to Donald Trump. If saving the unborn, preserving traditional marriage, and religious freedom are the golden cars on the political railway, then we have to entrust this cargo to a conductor who won’t wreck the train. The godless world wants evidence of authentic faith that is consistent and bold. Unbelievers mock evangelicals for their weak response to Donald Trump’s sin.
Second, left-leaning Christians underestimated how a passion for justice – comingled with a dismissal of absolute truth – does equal harm to the testimony of Christ. True justice warriors point out that the innocent baby in a manger became an innocent man who was executed for us. A godless world needs to know that God is a Judge. When we stand before our Maker, He will not want to hear about how the president trampled on American democracy. He will ask us to account for ways we trampled on the blood of Christ with our silence about the standards God set up to protect us.
What can we do now? How can we regain our testimony as a unified family with a single goal: providing evidence to a godless world that God sent Jesus to save? Heading into the holidays, when everyone we know wants to feel love and joy, we have an opportunity to redirect their attention from Washington chaos to Kingdom peace. Here’s how:
Personal Repentance. In his early sermons, Jesus Christ told his listeners to repent of their sin and each of us must engage in this daily. Let’s admit right now, humbly and sincerely, to what we have done and what we have left undone before God. Allow him to cleanse us of slander, bitterness, fear, and disdain for those who are not like us. Confess the ways we neglect and harm our spouse, our children, our colleagues. Acknowledge we do not serve God with our whole hearts, that we run to him only in crisis and at Christmas. He deserves more honor than this.
Personal Evangelism: Evangelism is not trying to convince people to vote a certain way, yet our political fervor can blind us to our mission of soul winning. We do this best when we see people the way Jesus did:
He saw the crowds of people and felt sorry for them because they were worried and helpless. They were like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
Each of us has a plot of ground given to us by God, a harvest of people we come in contact with all the time. It seems like our political divisions are huge, but our hearts are more aligned than we think. Whether Democrat or Republican, we all agree that the problems we face on the earth require a human response. The way we vote is an expression of hunger for the government to play a role in alleviating human suffering and lawlessness.
Our job as believers is to feed that hunger with our compassionate presence and consistent lifestyle. Everyone we know has a deep need, a place in their soul that longs to feel God’s touch. A circumstance that worries them. A weakness they feel helpless to overcome. Now, more than ever, with so many church buildings closed, we get to be the church. We get to act as living epistles of truth who point people to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
Hunger for Truth: Jesus said, It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth. – Matthew 4.4 MSG
In the age of social media, we are often more hungry for the steady stream of words coming from everyone but God. We wake up in the morning hungry for op-eds, tweets, and posts while our Bibles sit idle on the nightstand. We proudly spout and share conspiracies, fake news, and nonsense while we hide our Christian lights. The elevation of political discourse is now a weird religion all its own, distracting us from the scriptures that feed our longings and equip us to love our neighbors.
The godless world is watching and listening in, looking for evidence that our faith is genuine. Our social media “feed” is a window into our convictions, an accurate term because it’s a modern version of the Roman Colosseum where we throw our detractors to lions disguised as friends and followers. We offer cruel and merciless character assassinations and delight in put downs and trash talk. Meanwhile, every person commenting has some soul need, some desperate personal circumstance that the truth of God can heal.
Everyone we know is hungry for Him, even if they don’t know it. As Jesus said, they need evidence that God sent Him. Unified Christians are supposed to be that evidence. His Word on our lips and at work in our lives offers hope no matter what politicians do.
Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is a month away. There are easy opportunities to display generosity, gratitude, and grace. Feeding the spiritually hungry is our highest call. Let’s answer that call now and forevermore.