I look at the current news and wonder what part we Christians have played in allowing the destruction and violence that has permeated our society. There’s the climate change activists who burn down car dealerships. Antifa groups who want to destroy basic societal norms. Abortion rights, LGBTQ, and BLM protestors who scream in other people’s faces. And on and on. The amount of hate that exudes from our tvs and cell phones is almost unbearable. But how do Christians play a part in any of this?
James reminds us of Jesus’ second most important commandment He gave to the disciples before His death.
You notice it doesn’t say that whatever your neighbor does is ok and we should agree that it is good and right? And yet so many of us think we either need to agree or deny the truths of our faith in order to love our neighbors. Our fear of man, rather than God can lead us to stand on the wrong side of the room. Just as Peter did when the disciples all were called back to Jerusalem to discuss the issue of circumcision and whether Gentiles must first become Jews before accepting Christ. After having lived as a Gentile and bringing Gentiles to Christ without the requirement of circumcision, Peter took one look at the disapproving traditional Jews at the meeting and caved. He separated himself from the Gentiles. Paul had to admonish him for his hypocrisy.
When I saw that they (Peter and Barnabas) were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said, to Cephas (Peter) in front of them all, “You are a Jew yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?Galatians 2:14
Peter is many of us. We fear discord. We fear disagreement. We fear being judged. And at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion Peter feared physical harm. So instead of standing firm knowing God is by our side when interacting with our neighbors, loved ones or strangers, we sometimes, if not frequently, cave.
It’s almost as though our church leaders have failed to teach us one of the most important lessons that Jesus lived out — how to sit and dine with sinners while remaining faithful to God. In a recent Bible study session, we asked the question, “What does it mean to allow Christ to live through you and is there anything specific that you should be doing?” One person said we should guard our hearts and avoid situations where there is temptation to sin. I had to laugh and say that would mean I would never go to the grocery store. They knew what I meant – I struggle with being annoyed by all manner of behavior by other people. If I could just not be around other people I don’t think I would sin at all! I’ve come to realize that God puts these tests in front of me each day, waiting for me to finally “get it” – love my neighbors, show grace and give mercy. And yes, even when I disagree with them.
Jesus himself sat among the sinners as the Ambassador to Heaven. Instead of the dread of facing people who disagreed with him he seemed to enter those situations with hopeful anticipation. So, when my Bible study group discussed the idea of avoiding people or places that give us open avenues to sin we looked at each and pointed out the areas we individually would need to always avoid. In other words, raise the white flag and retreat from the full life for which we are called. But we are called to be Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20.)
How does this relate to strife in our society? As Christians, so many of us have flown the white flag high in hopes we won’t be hated. In hopes we wouldn’t have to face disagreement. We accept the sin of “almost right” laws and the non-Christian definition of what loving our neighbors mean. Loving and accepting others is not the same as agreeing and going along with them. Satan is always looking for ways to drip like water on a stone onto our commitment to the Almighty God. Phrases such as “Love is Love,” “All Science is Real,” and “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” hide the true meaning behind each. We get lost in arguments about “why shouldn’t everyone be allowed to marry whom they want” or “well, if you don’t adopt a baby yourself then you shouldn’t decide about abortion.” So, we vote for laws that go directly against our core Christian beliefs. We agree that there shouldn’t be time for prayer in school, much less allow a student to read the Bible as their reading assignment. We agree that marriage doesn’t need a man and a woman and children can do without a parent. And we watch our moral society slowly chip away. We miss opportunities to share God’s messages of love, grace and forgiveness by being afraid of the disagreement. But Jesus’ behavior throughout His time on Earth was not one of retreat or agreement with sinners.
It’s interesting to realize that Jesus didn’t preach to “fellow” Christians. They didn’t exist. He preached to people who didn’t know what being saved by grace meant. He preached to people who may have been living as Jews but in name only. He preached to High Priests who broke Mosaic Law on a regular basis. He spoke to us — sinners. And when He commissioned the disciples, He sent them knowing full well the people they encountered may not even believe in a monotheistic God. So, the argument made that we, as Christians, shouldn’t “impose” our ways on non-Christians falls flat. If what we believe and the life we are called to live out is so amazing, so marvelous, then why wouldn’t we want to see everyone live in that same grace? God didn’t give us the gift of justification to hoard it. He gave it to share with the rest of His people.
I recently found an article by a pastor who was raised by two lesbian women. He defines them as activists in the LGBTQ community. He came to Christ one night when he attended a Christian meeting, fully loaded to disagree and fight against everything being preached. Instead he walked away saved.
“I lived in the tension of accepting my parents that I dearly loved, but not theologically agreeing with their choice to be in same-sex relationships.”Caleb Kaltenbach, Pastor, City on A Hill Church
He calls this “living in the tension” when we find ourselves in disagreement with our non-Christian neighbors and loved ones. His family kicked him out for a short while. But his work as a Christian brought them back into a loving relationship. One that requires work to maintain. He goes on to say,
“Don’t settle for cheap love based merely on agreement. Pursue priceless love that accepts the person (no matter who or where they are) with the understanding that while you can’t “fix” them— God can.”
He acknowledges this is a two-way street for a successful relationship. But when the other party doesn’t do their part it doesn’t give us license to then act non-Christian. We are always called to love and accept people for who they are at that moment. Love of others that is based on acceptance instead of agreement can reunite relationships, heal families, save lives, and even change eternal destinations. And that’s the message we so infrequently hear at church. There’s a fear of discussing the big issues facing us as we live in the new Babylon. But we need to practice and be reminded how to show love and while “living in the tension.” And remembering our job as Ambassadors is to ACT like Christians, as defined by Jesus, not Pharisees.
The next time you hear condemnation coming from a group or a person of which you disagree with their morals and values stop for a moment and pray. Listen to God’s voice. Rest in the fact that as Christians we don’t need to fear man. Jesus saw everyone as a potential person to bring to eternal life and so should we. And the life God wants for all His people is good. It’s time to stop retreating, stop waving the white flag. It’s time to step up in confidence with the love from God leading the way. Our neighbors, our communities, our children, need us to spread His message. We are his soldiers in His Army of Love.
Is there someone that lives a life against Christian morals that you need to give up to God? Let Him solve that problem. Your job is to just love them.