Believers in the Midst of a Political Breakdown
America is hurting today. Our political system has always had its divisions, but our embrace of plurality and democracy seems to be breaking down. We're giving way to gridlock between right and left, Fox and MSNBC, red and blue. Weeks into a government shutdown, our situation has become impossible to ignore, both in our homes and across the world.
These symptoms point to a problem that runs deep into the fabric of our society. In my office, in my playgroup, and on my Facebook feed, angry people toss around stereotypes and call names; folks point around wildly, oblivious to the plank in their own eyes.
As a nation we sling so much mud, we can't even see the facts. Mud covers and clouds our friendships, our neighbors, our families...and sadly, our churches. I see no less hateful filth spewing from the mouths of Christians than from the mainstream. Whether our faith points us politically right or left, we sling the ideological mud with Christ's name on our lips.
Without a doubt, Jesus' teachings have deep ethical and political implications. No wonder when we internalize his ways, we become passionate about social issues. Far too often, our words and tactics mimic those of our political party, and so rarely mimic Christ's own. As a Body we may not agree on many things, but Jesus' instructions for following him offer relevant guidelines for our political conversations. We need to stop overlooking them.
For better or for worse, our two-party system offers a limited framework and sets of ideologies from which we can work. But we are not first and foremost citizens of America. We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We pledge allegiance not to the flag, but to Christ's body, broken for the healing of the world.
For a moment let's not point fingers at either party, or ask whose fault this is or whose agenda we should support or tear down. Instead, let's point the finger at Jesus and ask ourselves, What does it mean to pursue the peace of Christ during a time of national political discord? How are we to behave in a conversation that is so deeply divided? What difference does following Christ make in this dilemma?
When I asked myself those questions, I found a starting place in Ephesians 4. The NIV gives this section of Paul's letter the heading "Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ." Yes, that sounds like what we are looking for, a way to respond with unity and maturity to political differences, inside and outside the church.
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