The current political climate has led to fear, vitriol and contention. For some it feels like the world has been turned upside down with conflict and opposing viewpoints, while for others it feels like the world has always been this way and we are all just waking up to it. Still others wonder what all the fuss is about. I want to address through a series of three posts over the coming weeks how we might respond to the current situation as a community.
Some would say churches (and pastors especially!) should not venture into political discussions – it’s just too divisive. While I agree we should be very careful in how we go about it, silence on these issues is not possible for us as a church. If we remain silent, we cease to be the church. As followers of Jesus together, we are called to be a prophetic community. The call to be prophetic means we speak out and act for justice. It’s a defining, distinguishing characteristic of what it means to the church and I will share more about that in the next post.
We are not just prophetic; we are a community. Jesus called us to love one another and defines this love as another distinguishing feature of the church (John 13:35). If we stop loving one another, we stop being the church.
I have had many conversations with people at Cedar Ridge recently who are weighed down under a burden of anxiety, fear, confusion and distress about things political leaders have said and done that could have serious detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable. As a community we need to care for one another and support one another lovingly. We must be a safe community where it’s possible to be our true selves, share our deepest angst, and voice our greatest concerns. We need to listen to each other, bear one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
I have also had conversations with some who do not feel safe at Cedar Ridge because they have a different political opinion to the majority. They are afraid of being judged for how they voted or for taking a different stance on certain issues. We have to be a safe community for everyone. As followers of Jesus, we just don’t have other options when it comes to loving and not judging (Matthew 5:43-45; Matthew 7:1-5). This does not mean we can’t disagree, or challenge, or speak out. But it does mean we have to do so with a radical commitment to love one another.
To love like this, to be the church, we have to engage with one another. Silence is not an option; hoping all this will blow over and go away is not an option. For those who are struggling let’s share our burdens and support one another. If we are not struggling, let’s look out for and listen to those who are. Let’s seek to understand, support, and encourage. For those who are afraid of being a political minority here, let’s not withdraw. Let’s be courageous and share how our commitment to Jesus has informed the way we think about politics, how we vote, and how we put the interests of others before our own. Whatever our opinions, let’s be willing to lovingly challenge and be challenged, and let’s be open to changing our minds.
I’d like to offer three things we can all do to add more “good” to the discourse going on in society and in our church currently:
- Pray: We are called to pray for our political leaders whether we agree with them or not. Let’s pray that our political leaders would “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). Let’s pray for all those who are vulnerable and feel afraid. Let’s pray for peace and reconciliation in our country and the world. And let’s open our hearts to be transformed by God and be the Good News in the world.
- Look after one another: Let’s engage with one another in our groups and friendship circles, and let’s be open to “the other.” As the community of Christ, we owe this to one another. Let’s share our stories and be willing to believe the best and trust one another.
- Look after ourselves: We are all being challenged and pushed out of our comfort zones so let’s pay attention to our own inward state. Let’s feel the reality of anger without letting it turn to hate. Let’s lay down fear and embrace love. Let’s find peace within, so we can be bearers of peace and love in the world.
Above all else let’s not give up, or lose hope. We are following One who is Hope itself. Jesus believed another way and another world is possible. Even when they put him to death, this hope was resurrected. Nothing can stop the love of God, because love never fails.
Matthew Dyer, Lead Pastor