My heart is full with all of the unrest in our nation. More than anything my heart is pained by the way I see believers responding to one another. I’m grieved that our unity so often is found in things other than Christ.
After the unrest in Charlottesville over the weekend President Trump said, ““Above all, we must remember this truth, no matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.” I don’t expect the President of the United States to say anything different. But I am a bit shocked when I see Christian’s giving a hearty ‘amen’ to this sentiment.
And this is the problem for us as believers. We cannot biblically sign on to this. Scripture tells us that our primary citizenship is in heaven. We are followers of Jesus first, not Americans. To be anything other than “Jesus first” is idolatry. The refusal to say “Rome first” is what got many of the early Christians beheaded.
But I also believe President Trump is absolutely correct in his understanding of how unity happens. He is correct in saying that the fundamental reason for our disunity is that we are placing other things above our shared identity as Americans. When you move away from that you will have nothing but civil unrest.
This is why I say only the gospel can fix what is happening in our nation. And I don’t mean a Republican gospel or a Democratic gospel. I mean the unfettered gospel of Jesus which unites tax collectors and zealots. Idolatry doesn’t fix idolatry. The vision of America, as beautiful as it is, pales in comparison to the vision of the kingdom of God. The vision of America doesn’t hold the power that the risen Christ holds. It’s not powerful enough to unite us.
But this is why I’m saddened. I see many professing believers selling this birthright for a pot of political stew. We hold more in common with those on the same political aisle than we do our brother or sister in Christ who sees social issues different than we do. We look at things first through the lens of an elephant or a donkey instead of a disciple of Jesus. We fight to protect heritage or racial identity before we fight for our brother and sister who is different than us.
The typical response to a post like this is to say, “well, what about…” This just proves my point. It seems we’ve lost the ability to assess ourselves in light of the gospel instead of a party label. And we keeping screaming at each other. We keep taking shots at our brothers and sisters in Christ and calling into question their fundamental identity simply because they don’t share our political identity. I understand that for the world, for those who aren’t followers of Jesus, their identity has to be fixed in something else. But believers must follow a different path.
I’m not calling for some sort of amorphic Christianity where everybody gets along and sings “kumbaya” but doesn’t have firm ground to stand upon. There are issues of truth and answers to social issues clearly defined in Scripture. It is possible to be on a different side than Jesus—and in those instances we are placing ourselves outside of our unity in Christ.
Switching idols doesn’t fix white supremacy. Switching idols doesn’t fix abortion. Switching idols doesn’t fix racial tension. Only Jesus heals.
And so I’m trying to learn from Moses. He’s the guy who stepped away from his privileged status as an Egyptian to identify with the suffering and the hurting Israelites. He stepped on the same well-trodden path that our Savior walked. You cannot expect to walk down this path without getting it from both sides. You cannot expect to identify with the persecuted and not get persecuted yourself. So I’m praying for the courage to continue on the path of a suffering Savior.
And I’m also trying to learn from Moses what not to do. Once his eyes were opened to the plight of the Israelites, and once he made that leap, he took matters into his own hands. He killed an Egyptian and tried mediating between a couple Israelites. He made himself prince/judge. This ended with him being exiled for about 40 years. But Exodus 2 ends with the Israelites praying and God responding to their plight.
Prayer does what my pen and pulpit cannot.
There is a time to pick up my pen and to passionately persuade from the pulpit. But that time is always after prayer. Only the gospel can heal. One heart at a time. That’s not a dodging action. That’s recognizing our foundation and then getting to work to see the kingdom of God consistently lived out.
Idolatry doesn’t fix idolatry. That includes me.