Many people have observed that we are in a season of unity as a church community and that it is delightful. What is even more delightful, and remarkable, is that within that unity there is a growing diversity. We are seeing an increasing ethnic and language and cultural diversity. Generational diversity is more evident. While it has always been true to some extent here, there is also a wider range of religious background than in the past. We love the diversity and want more of it. And it has been exciting for me to observe that this growing diversity has strengthened our unity rather than diminished it.
We also have a diversity of political positions and persuasions. Our brothers and sisters in Jesus here at Greater Portland are scattered across the whole of the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative, from Republican to Democrat, and everywhere in between. But I am concerned that in the present climate of our national politics, in the wake of President Trump’s election and his first weeks in office, the political diversity of our church may create division rather than unity.
Someone commented a while ago that politics in our nation over the last many years has become a team sport. The goal is to score points against the opposing team rather than to make principled decisions for the good of the country. Often it is the intentional strategy of both teams to inflame the public’s emotions against the other team by distorting, exaggerating, or catastrophizing their statements, decisions, or actions, and thereby to score some points. We must not let ourselves fall prey to this kind of emotional manipulation. We must not become inflamed against a brother or sister in Jesus because he or she has a different political opinion than our own.
The way to avoid being sucked into the emotional and political turmoil is to remember Who’s really in charge here. True Christians have the distinction of dual citizenship. We are citizens of an earthly nation and as such have the freedom and responsibility to participate fully in the political process. We are free to publicly state our political opinions with conviction but, as Christians, also with respect and dignity and without attacking the character or demeaning those who hold a different opinion.
However, our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of Jesus. We recognize that He is not only King over His own kingdom but He is also sovereign over all the nations of the world. He is orchestrating all events including the raising up and bringing down presidents and kings in order to accomplish His redemptive plan to restore the earth and bring His peace, His shalom to humanity. As citizens of His kingdom, we must strive to see each other and national politics through the grid of Jesus’ values and priorities. And, as with all things, when we make Him the center of our attention, everything else seems to fall into place.
As a church, we have been able to, and gladly so, welcome, accept, and embrace people from opposite ends of the world and our unity has grown stronger. My prayer and my expectation is that we will be able to do the same - welcome, accept, and embrace people from opposite ends of the political spectrum with the same result of stronger unity.