At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our two part series called Kingdom Come.
Are you already tired of this election season? The social media arguments, news coverage, family bickering, and lawn signs are constant reminders of our starkly divided communities. As a follower of Jesus, we are called to love our neighbor which can be difficult when we disagree. Thanks for joining us as we close out two weeks of learning to unite through the words of Scripture and to prioritize relationships over politics. Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
It’s the fall! We come together from diverse walks of life with one united purpose – football!
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.” – Nelson Mandela
This fall, we have another type of competition that is looming – the Presidential election.
The only issue with sport vs the real world is that sports have clearly defined rules, teams and outcomes. In the end, the person/team who follows the rules, has the best team and gets closest to the desired outcome, wins! In most sports it is the team with the most points, in the end, that wins. There is clearly a winner and a loser. In the real world, the rules are fuzzy, the end goal is murky, and winners can win without really winning.
As a church, we are working towards a Unity across Diversity that brings God’s Kingdom to earth, even in a season like this:
Last week, we talked about the first three thoughts:
Thought #1: God is Bigger than Politics (and uses all people for His purposes)
Thought #2: We are 1st Citizens of God’s Kingdom (2nd America’s kingdom)
Thought #3: Give Yourself to God not Partisan Politics (no party is God’s party)
This is where we find ourselves as we dive into scripture today, Ephesians is written by the Apostle Paul, and he finds himself addressing a lack of unity in people he cares about. We have a diverse group of talented people, and as they are growing and maturing there is a tension between individualism and collectivism.
Dr. Sze-kar Wan (SMU) wrote a Biblical commentary on Ephesians and put it in this context.
“Unity stands in tension with the variety of individual gifts, but all must work individually and together to accomplish the same goal.” – Dr. Sze-kar Wan
The apostle Paul wrote to a church he helped start who was having issues with division.
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. – Ephesians 4
Thought #4: Build unity with words (Avoid negativity and slander)
Let’s read Ephesians 4:29 together, but I want to read three different translations so we can truly get the gist of what Paul is trying to communicate.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 ESV
29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. NLT
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. KJV
The goal of our communication, in all of its forms, should be to build bridges between people. If you are new to faith, or you don’t even know if God is real, we all should strive to use our words in a way that builds up. If you are already following Jesus, we have no choice but to use language that encourages or spurs on the other person to good works.
Marcus Samuelsson, born Kassahun Tsegie in Ethiopia, was separated from his family as a child during civil war. He lost his mother to sickness, and was adopted by a family in Sweden. He is a famous chef in NYC, and after all of his loss and life turmoil, I was struck when I read this quote from him.
“But one of the things I have learned during the time I have spent in the United States is an old African American saying: Each one, teach one. I want to believe that I am here to teach one and, more, that there is one here who is meant to teach me. And if we each one teach one, we will make a difference.”Marcus Samuelsson
This is the heart of this passage by Paul, can each one, teach one? AND are we the one who can be taught by another one?
When conversations start to turn to gossip and bad-mouthing candidates. Did you know that Gossip/slander is forbidden for Christ Followers—what? Yes—Gossip of all kinds, talking bad about people—not okay. Well, then what will we talk about—exactly. I’ve found myself falling into this—the more I watch, the more riled up with fear I get, I enter in talking bad about others. Ideas—you can talk bad about ideas, but not bad about people. We ought to be able to civily debate the best or worst idea—and there’s nothing wrong with that. Especially if we can not let it devolve into divisive speech. Here’s a governing principle:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 4:29-30
Only let things come out of your mouth that is helpful for building others up. And BTW, God doesn’t say “Well, during political season, we’ll take a break from that one.” No—it still applies.
I love Andy Stanley said: So when you’re a part of conversation that starts bashing or bad mouthing anyone—even a politician—here’s what you do. Just ask, “Oh, do you know that person personally?” To which they’ll say “No.” And you say, “Oh…” Nothing else, just Oh—leave it there.
Thought #5: Vote Your Conscience (without Quarreling)
Let me be clear, at Gateway we do believe you should vote, and exercise all of the responsibilities of citizenship. People gave their lives in order for us to live out what we now consider basic rights, so we are compelled to do something.
What is a conscience?
“an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior”
What is the voice we are listening to? Last week John (our lead pastor) encouraged us to spend as much time in prayer and scripture as we spend listening to the news or our favorite pundits and talking heads. Why? Because we are charged with creating space for God’s voice to speak to us.
I saw this quote making its way around the internet this last week and I wanted to chew on it with you. “Jesus is not on the ballot for 2020, but last time he was, we chose Barabbas.”
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” – Matthew 27
It’s not necessarily that the people truly wanted to kill Jesus, or that they had it in for Jesus. The truth is verse 20…because the crowd was persuaded by chief priests and elders, or those “who knew best” to choose Barabbas. It’s as if the masses gave over their ability to think, and allowed a select few to cloud their judgement.
So when someone says, “Jesus is not on the ballot for 2020, but last time he was, we chose Barabbas.” They are saying, in our humanity, our sin, our selfishness, we may not always choose what IS right, we will lean to what FEELS right.
So as we listen to the inner voice God has placed in us, it is important to understand that voice, listen to that voice, and to know if we are listening to the right voice.
John 10:27 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Let me also be clear, we vote every day by the way we live our life. We have to be aware that we do not merely vote in an election, we vote by how we spend our money, how we invest our time, who we serve, and being mindful of what is considered the other.
If the only time we are mindful of our vote, is when a political office is at stake, then we are blinded by the power we each yield to make change.
Vote your conscience and let others vote theirs.
We live in a democracy–which means we have a participatory form of government that’s a privilege to live in (other options are like Venezuala where a coup will probably have to happen–this is much better). So as citizens, we should vote in line with our God-given, well thought out perspective of what’s best for all people in line with God’s principles. The problem is…no single party fully aligns with that, and all parties detour in areas. So that makes voting almost always a gray area.
Romans 14 speaks to that.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God… Romans 14
Here is the situation: cheap meat was available sacrificed to idols. Jews thought you’re participating with demon worship to buy that meat—supporting demon worship if you buy cheap meat. Others thought—it’s okay—all things are lawful if done in moderation and gratitude.
We can be in community with people who vote differently.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister… 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. – Romans 14
We can hold differences of opinion, we can even debate them in kind and considerate ways without dividing, but I’m asking you to do what
Rom 14:19-21 says:
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
Thought #6: Don’t Become a Stumbling Block Online
The aim of our communication should be to inform and bring light what you are for not merely what you are against. Can we be known by what and who we are for?
- Let’s stay away from generic statements, like all ____ people.
- Ask yourself this question, what is my real purpose for posting or saying this? What am I hoping to get in response?
- Do we understand the other side’s perspective, even if we do not agree.
- How do I make my neighbor better when I say or post this?
- How will what I post affect the people I’m trying to reach?
“Don’t be a social media stumbling block.”
Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
James 1:26 – If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
Psalm 19:14 -May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
I did a blog to help followers of Jesus discern about posting.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are we trying to get more “shares” or “likes”?
- Are we trying to start a debate to get ourselves more attention?
If “yes” then don’t post it.
- Will this truly help someone change their mind?
- Are we reflecting Jesus well with the tone we use in what we are writing?
- Did my wife/husband/roommate/co-worker, think what I wrote was in good taste and “shareable”?
In these instances, if “yes” then consider posting it.
If we truly feel strongly about something and even led by God to do something about it, we could use Facebook or Twitter to invite people over for dinner to discuss the merits of an issue and consider the next path forward.
CONSIDER THIS IDEA: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO UNITE PEOPLE AND BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER.
Move hard conversations to face to face or over the phone. Rarely does an online debate make any progress.
We should ask ourselves: does posting this help me advance the Kingdom of Jesus or not?
When in doubt, don’t post it.