Living as Light in a Divided Nation

December 9, 2019

Americans are united on one thing, USA Today says -- they're sick and tired of being so divided. Despite the fact that most people are personally happy and satisfied, they don't feel the same way about the condition of our country. "People don't even know how to have a discussion without getting offended first," Kaveeta Haywood, 35, a Democrat from the newspaper's focus group pointed out. Like 83 percent of the country, she thinks divisiveness is one of the biggest problems we face. But agreeing on what to do about it? Well, that's another challenge.

"The hardest thing," Lynn Andino, a nurse and independent said, "you turn on the news, [and] they can't even sit down and have a discussion. They can't work out anything... [It's] I'm going to throw mud at you -- you're going to throw mud back. It's like they can't even work on anything." And the 2020 campaign is only making things worse. Only six percent of Americans thinks it's bringing out the best in the country. Things are so combative that four in 10 Republicans and almost half of Democrats would be "tempted" to vote for the opposing party's nominee if they had the "best show at unifying the country."

A lot of the problem, most people agreed, is driven by Washington. Seventy-six percent of Americans said leaders were setting a bad example -- "promoting a mostly destructive discussion and debate." So what can we possibly do about it? Fortunately, FRC's Jared Bridges pointed out on "Washington Watch," God didn't leave Christians "stranded here in the 21st century with nothing to guide us." "All we have to do is look back. Ecclesiastes 1 says, 'What has been will be, and what has been done will be done.' ...You look at political division or just intense conflict between people, it goes all the way back to the garden. Even the nation of Israel was divided at one time. Here in America, we've had a revolutionary war. We've had a civil war. We've had all kinds of intense political divisions. So we've been here before."

Thinking about Jeremiah, who was someone speaking out in the midst of division as a prophet, Jared pointed back to his words: "Thus says the Lord, 'Stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and walk in and find rest for your souls.' And so, we have to look back at Scripture to guide us right now where we are."

One of the things we hear today is that Christians shouldn't be part of any kind of conflict. Christians should be like Jesus and make everything about love and unity. But Jesus also said, "I came to send fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished. Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." He goes on to talk about how a father would be divided against a son, a son against the father, or mother against the daughter, and daughter against a mother-in-law, and so on. That's just the reality of a fallen world. There is division and friction that come with the truth.

"I think some of the mistakes we often make as Christians is saying, 'Oh, if I speak out on this or if I take this stand, then I'm going to be creating conflict or I'm going to be creating division.' Well, the truth is, division is already there if you're following Jesus." Jared's right. People often tell me, "Well, you know, that's your opinion." No, it's not my opinion. It's the word of God. A good example is Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me." That's not my opinion. That's what Jesus said. And if I'm going to follow him, I have to believe what He says and live by it. The same is true whether we're talking about the sanctity of life, human sexuality, marriage, gender, who has the authority to raise your children, and so on. The Bible speaks to that. And when you interject that into a culture that has rejected transcendent truths, it's naturally going to create conflict.

But even in the midst of that conflict, Jared warns, what we shouldn't be doing as Christians is "disengaging from people because they're not going to treat us the right way all the time. We can't reflect the world and in how we treat them. We have got to come back to them with love, because there's going to be a time... when your neighbor needs help that that we can be there for them no matter how they treat us." The first thing we need to be doing is loving our family and neighbors.

And that's not the world's definition of love. In today's culture love and affirmation have been conflated where if you "love" like Jesus you affirm everyone in the choices they make. That's absolutely false. Thank God that Jesus didn't come to this earth to affirm us in our sin. But rather, He loved us enough that he died for us on the cross, that those who believe in him and confess him as savior and Lord will be saved. That's love. Love is sacrificial. It's generous. And it is, at times, willing to be rejected for the eternal benefit of the one you're speaking to.

That doesn't mean we yell the truth. It doesn't mean scream it. We speak it. And we do so in a way that is not intended to inflame or to hurt. But even in tumultuous times -- especially in tumultuous times -- it's our calling.