Are we a church that promotes the message of hope?
Are we a church that is confident in the work of Christ in our world?
I don’t think we are.
This year, the church has completed its conversion to being all about doom and gloom. The church has become an institution that makes division in our walls, categories of people we gleefully categorize as “deplorable” despite the fact that they, too, were made in the image of God. We slander one another carelessly with words such as “sexist”, “bigot”, and “racist” to the point that the words are quickly losing all of their intended power and true meanings.
We are failing and we refuse to see it.
We are becoming the Pharisees we swear the “others” represent. “Tell me why you voted this way” we demand condescendingly as if any answer given will be satisfactory to our own self-serving political ideologies. “If the other side would just own the issue we could move along” we boastfully spout in our arrogance.
We have gone from a church working towards diversity and unity to a church that demands complete and total conversion to a certain political ideology or that person is no longer welcomed. Meanwhile we dare to say “everyone is welcome” knowing full good and well they’re not. Evidence enough is that right after our trumpeting of our perceived degree of inclusiveness we lament over the fact that people that voted for Trump and Clinton are both in our pews.
And depending on the political allegiance a church has made, the problem is then outlined as to why voting in opposition to what the church stands for.
It’s as if God never declared to Samuel: “They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting Me.” when Israel demanded earthly rulers. No, we have married the culture we find ourselves in and hide behind the farce that the pulpit is “political” to excuse our hypocritical calls to love all while driving a theological bus over those who feel differently political and otherwise.
This is where we need to start: Repenting of our complicity in perpetuating the culture’s narratives that division and bickering is how we are to function. If we continue to push these narratives, there is no hope for the church. We will cease to offer anything contrary to the media narratives peddled by the likes of MSNBC and Fox News.
Call out the wrongs of society by all means. However, when the rightful addressing of societal ills is our calling, we cannot hold the decisions made by politicians over the heads of our congregants. It is not solely their fault that we are in this predicament, no, the issues are a result of our own blind support for systems that have failed our people because we have put the government above God.
Not everyone spends a large part of their existence on social media, blogs, or cable news. Stop insinuating that people in your congregations are promoting everything a politician does because they’re not promoting the latest NPR article, updating their statuses, tweeting their disgust, or standing on a soap box they manufactured for themselves. It’s no wonder our attendance numbers are dwindling when we’re vomiting all over the internet about how horrible the other sides of the aisle are and standing in the pulpit proclaiming ourselves to be “welcoming”.
This Advent and Christmas, I invite you to consider what it means that we are becoming the Pharisees. Put yourself in the place of the Pharisees. Who are the Samaritans in your life that you have excluded from your walls? What does it mean that we need to be born again in the Spirit?
You see, we talk all the time about how Jesus was a refugee. We use the story of His birth to illustrate the importance of welcoming strangers among us. That’s all well and good, but the issue is that we don’t use these as teaching points. Hardly. We use them as weapons to rub in the face of those who disagree with us. We have turned the Prince of Peace into our own weapon who fires bullets or anger, resentment, and hatred.
Who are the refugees you’re not welcoming? Conservatives? Progressives? Anarchists? Libertarians? Start there. Then MEAN IT when you boast that your church is open to all. “All” is not a word reserved for race, gender, sexual preference, nationality, or sexual orientation. We focus on these because they’re the political hotspots of our day. “All” means welcoming all into the congregation.
I get it, it’s hard. It’s difficult to imagine that we may become a place that is hospitable towards people who we disagree with. It’s totally possible we may encounter racists and bigots in our congregation. In fact, we are. yet, our message remains consistent that these things are horrible. The message of hope we offer is one that says “Christ wants to meet you and change you.” We cannot do that by backing people into corners.
If there is hope we can find in this messiness of politics and chaotic statement of the world, it is this. There is a Kingdom growing among us. There are seeds being planted for harvest in Conservatives and Progressives alike. And it’s beautiful. The Gatekeeper cares not about political affiliations, they mean nothing to God. The Shepherd is calling out to His sheep far and wide to come into the Kingdom. People of all walks of life who seek to repent or who the Spirit seeks to work on over time.
Who are we to stand in the way?
We need to acknowledge that healing takes time. That changing hearts and minds isn’t something that is immediate. That pursuing sanctification is a lifelong process full of slips, sins we unwillingly commit (or sometimes willingly), and tough work. As people who are leaders in our church, it is high time we steward the Good News of Christ and allow our “all” to mean ALL.
We are not called to an easy task, but we have Hope found in the arrival of Christ. We have a chance to pursue the newness of true unity as we stand on our mountains of divisiveness. We have a chance to welcome refuges of all categories into our congregations and extend to them the Kingdom where politics cease, political affiliations fade away, and world leaders bow at the feet of the King.