by Pastor Bob Myers
When it comes to the Culture War, I’m a decidedly conscientious objector. The polarization and demonization of others is not only Un-Christ-like, it will be ultimately be counterproductive. It will also compromise our ultimate witness.
If you, like me, want help in healing some of that division and unity, I recommend the book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides by Pastor Scott Sauls. This book is for those who have culture war fatigue and are distressed about the polarization in our world. This book calls Christians to be healers of division and learn how to hold to truth without creating greater polarization.
The world of politics is a world where the tactics are driven by define, defeat, and destroy your enemies. Please do not allow yourself to get sucked in. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for our enemies. “When we are reviled, we answer kindly”.
As I talk with other pastors, we all agree our jobs have been made even more impossible than they were a few years ago. People are straining to find hidden agendas, political agendas, and if a topic is being talked about by politicians, it becomes a landmine in the pulpit. But scripture won’t allow us to pick and choose what portions or implications of scripture to speak about. In fact, if we allow this to silence what scripture is saying, we will abdicate these things to the world’s way of thinking.
Scott Sauls has also provided a book titled, Befriend, about how to pro-actively befriend diverse people. I recommend both books for reading and discussing. I rarely read books that so capture Biblical truth that I find myself praying that they shape our church, but these two books can help us protect and deepen a gospel culture in our church. I wish I had access to books like this when I became a Christian.
My growth in Christianity made me worse in a number of areas. I learned how to be a fault finder, even of people I loved and admired! I was deceived into participating by what I viewed at the time as “taking a stand”, and practicing discernment. I came to realize that it often takes more Christ-likeness to not draw lines and not take a stand then to be sucked into battle. Around 1997 the Lord exposed this to me through some deeply painful circumstances that nearly led me to walk away from the pastorate. But instead of walking away, these circumstances were used by the Holy Spirit, who scoured out of my soul the things I hated in others that in reality had roots in my own heart. It led to me write letters of apology for things, that at the time I did them, I thought I was doing out of faithfulness. I needed a leader like Scott Sauls in my life then to confront, expose and show me a better way.
I don’t believe tearing down without redemptively building up is a Biblical calling. There are two supreme categories that can help us examine ourselves. First, the Imageo Dei, which tells me that every single person has been ineradicably stamped with the image of INFINITE WORTH. Second, my calling is to love my neighbor as I love myself. No exceptions. These are Biblical truths with far-reaching implications that will be carried out in diverse ways by us.
Instead of a review of Jesus Outside the Lines, I’m going to give you a sampling of quotes to whet your appetite for reading further.
“Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”
“We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith.”
“As far as Jesus is concerned, everyone will ultimately “take a side in terms of who their LORD is” Yet Jesus gave so much of his time, attention, and love to people who did not side with him. A journey through the Gospels shows that he was especially tender toward people who did not believe in him or follow him.”
“Are we less concerned about defending our rights—for Jesus laid down his rights—and more concerned about joining Jesus in his mission of loving people, places, and things to life?”
“It’s naïve to give yourself credit for hitting a triple if you were born on third base. He also said that it is equally naïve to expect a person who was born in the parking lot to get to third base without your help.”
“I grow perplexed when Christian men and women willingly participate in spin—ready, willing and armed to follow the world in telling half-truths to promote their candidates, while telling more half-truths to demonize their opponents.”
“If you are devastated or irate over the outcome of a presidential election, relax. Things will be okay. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not lose this election. If you are ecstatic about an election outcome, relax. Take inventory. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not win this election.”
“Christians should be the most affirming people in the world. Rather than rushing to find fault, we should proactively seek opportunities to catch others doing good.”
Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls. Consider reading it, and also discussing it and digesting it. If you haven’t taken the Bridgebuilding seminar I teach, consider signing up for it this fall.
Let’s commit ourselves to labor and make every effort to heal the schism and division in our world by extraordinary grace, kindness, joined with bold and faithful Biblical clarity.