To our First Baptist Church family and friends, and to those who are watching for how we respond in these times.
Throughout the tumult of this past election year and in its wake, I’ve made a conscious effort to be careful in addressing the political conversations of our time. Not that I don’t have personal convictions, but because they pale in importance to what it means for me as a pastor and for us as a church community to remain focused on the deeper call in living out our identity as followers of Jesus.
It is that calling – to not just believe in Jesus, but to live lives shaped by Jesus’ example, which challenges us beyond our partisan identities. In one sense, this is an inherently political calling, for it calls us to follow Jesus into the world to be salt and light. In another, it reminds us that while First Baptist Church welcomes and includes people of diverse political perspectives, God’s ways and God’s methods are not contained within any political party or platform.
Which brings us to the events we have witnessed today, and which continue to unfold. How are we to respond as followers of Jesus?
Reflexively, we are to pray. Before anything else, we are called to cultivate the response of naming what we see before God and placing it into the hands of the One who is sovereign, and who is able to work and move in the midst of human chaos.
Then, we must live in a way that reflects the image of Christ. Jesus warned the people of Jerusalem that their eagerness to follow political messiahs would leave the city desolate, for they did not recognize the things that made for peace (Luke 19:41ff). To the extent that Christians have gotten caught up in conspiracy theories, identified with a single political party or theory (whether Republican or Democrat or other), it is a distortion and misrepresentation of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. When we allow political leaders to define our understanding of power, success or greatness, or allow our culture to redefine Jesus away from the Son of God who reveals God’s greatest victory through sacrificial, cross-shaped love, we reflect a ‘gospel’ that is neither of God nor is it good news to the world.
When Christians use violent methods or join with others who are doing so, we are not reflecting the way of Jesus in the world, and we damage the credibility of our witness.
As Paul notes, freedom does not mean the freedom to do whatever we want regardless of its impact on others (Galatians 5:13). And claims to be led by the Spirit must be discerned against the example of Jesus (1 John 4:1).
We who claim to be followers of Jesus, must call one another continually to live that out. In these times, we have an opportunity to point to a better way, to be part of the healing of our nation’s wounds, and to rebuild the bonds of community. It begins with prayer. It must result in action, together, that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and reflecting the way of the cruciform Jesus. (that is – sacrificial love that lifts up the other and makes known God’s truth) It’s not something that one person can do by themselves, it will take us as a community, in all our political and cultural diversity, working together.
What can we do today? Pray. And commit ourselves to the way of Jesus and the love of our neighbor.