“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17: 20-23
Here we are, a week after one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history. The election truly broke my heart and really challenged me to the core of my spirit. After several days of feeling completely crushed by the weight of the burden I felt, I finally feel released from the grips of anguish through the peace of God.
This peace washed over me after God showed me that He prepared me for the elections for more than a year through my relationship with my boyfriend Joshua.
This lesson was specially tailored for me, but I hope it encourages you, as members of the Body of Christ, as we transition into new political leadership.
As many of you know through my Instagram page, I’ve been courting/dating a wonderful man named Joshua for over a year. Joshua and I are opposites in almost every way imaginable, aside from our Christian beliefs concerning God. Joshua is slow, steady, calculated. I move quick, passionately, no holds barred. Joshua was born and raised in the same town in northern Louisiana. I have lived all over the country, west coast to east coast. Joshua was raised in a Christian home in a close-knit Christian community, and thus came to Christ at a young age. I came to Christ at eighteen years old while away at college. Joshua loves the tried and true. I love adventure and newness.
Believe it or not, pride was a great source of conflict for us for much of our relationship.
We are both headstrong in our own way, and very much accustomed to doing things our own way.
Thus, we allowed our differences to guide our interactions, which created a lot of unnecessary strife between us.
One (silly) conflict concerned time management. I could not understand why he wanted to sit and plan a whole day, every day, start to finish–we spent half our day planning our day instead of just going out and living it. He could not understand why I did not appreciate how intentional he was with his time and how he desired to maximize the little time we had together.
Another (major) conflict for us concerned teachings: I am more of a “surrender all to God, seeking His will above all” kind of woman, while Joshua is more of “power, sign, wonders, prosperous in all things” kind of man. We both knew God embodied both perspectives, but in our actions we held tightly to specific teachers and pastors we favored, viewing each other with suspicion and accusations of being “watered down.” Obviously I am simplifying both of our stances for the sake of this post, but it was tearing us apart.We were literally living out these verses:
“My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
1 Corinthians 1:11-13
For some reason, the truth in these verses were lost on us. We held tight to our favorite preachers and differing perspectives. At one point we came to a stalemate–we both contemplated ending our relationship because we did not think we could work out our theological differences.
We had no respect for each other’s differences. We saw difference as a sign that we just were not meant to be together.
In the last few months, God dealt with our prideful attitudes and our views of Him.
You see, we were so focused on our lack of uniformity that we missed the value that came with differing perspectives.
God really showed us that he was not just a God of justice, authority, and judgment. He was not just a God of love, power, signs, and wonders. He brings both. He is both just and graceful. To hold tight to these unilateral perspectives meant that we ignored other facets of God’s character–we each understood God from a different perspective, but neither of us was wrong.
God revealed to us that there is power in our different perspectives. Each view was needed, and even our different personality types balanced each other. We needed difference. We needed that diversity in personality and perspective to help bring about a more complete understanding of God and personal growth for one another.
I need to be more calm, steady, and intentional. Joshua needs to relax and live less controlled. Our differences ended up being the very thing each other needed, spiritually and personaltiy-wise.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (emphasis added)
So, how did this prepare me for Election Night 2016?
Election Night was a call for unity for all believers. My heart is broken because of the divisive spirit invading our Church.
In the months leading up to the election, I saw leaders of the Church say Christians “should not get involved in worldly affairs.” I’ve seen social media posts about praying and not getting entangled in social justice initiatives.
As Election Night progressed, I personally saw leaders point to one candidate/group as “more representative” of Christian beliefs. I saw posts on social media about “voting for the platform.” I saw posts about how “God is very clear about the sanctity of marriage and life, so vote accordingly.” I saw posts that said “I will vote according to righteous principles becoming law of the land.” In the end, 80% of voting evangelical Christians voted for Trump, with many pointing to pro-life and marriage as the reason for doing so.
My heart was burdened in learning this, and it really showed me just how much we need to be unified by the sound Gospel of Jesus Christ. We became divided over different issues, with calls to cling tighter to one perspective over another.
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
My Bible’s commentary puts this beautifully: “Differences of opinion are inevitable among human personalities and can actually be helpful, if handled well. But spiritual unity is essential–loyalty, commitment, and love for God and his Word. Without spiritual unity, the church could not survive.” Differences can add value.
Yes, the Gospel is very clear about life from the very start of it. It is also clear about caring for that life if they are poor or widowed or sick. The Gospel is very clear about marriage beginning with the man and woman becoming one flesh. The Gospel is also very clear about infidelity, divorce, serving one another in marriage, and the marriage being a representation of Christ’s relationship with the Church. By sticking with these two issues as the end-all, be-all, we send a message to the world that God, and thus his Church, is only concerned about those issues. But…
God is not a partisan God.
He does not just address marriage and life in His Word. He also deals with greed, lust, jealousy, rage, discord, paying taxes, faithfulness, truth, and the list goes on. One specific platform, or party, does not adequately represent the Gospel. Just so we’re clear: both Democrats and Republicans miss the Biblical mark. To vote based on marriage and life alone sent a message that those two issues were “more important” and that all other sinful traits were “not as important.” We sent a message that we could deal with everything else–all other sins were negotiable.
The Gospel, and likewise Christians, should not be treated in a piecemeal manner.
God cares about all of the above issues, and then some. God does not rank sins from worst to least. Whether we lie or kill, cheat or lust, sinful behavior separates us from God. Thus, we thank God that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and made a way for us to draw near to our Father.
We must represent His message in its entirety to the best of our human ability. We cannot be divided over “abortion/marriage” versus “racism/classism/sexism.” Our God surely cares about it all, and one group is not necessarily wrong or right.
Thus, we need both perspectives and understandings of the Gospel. We cannot send a divided message about our God to this world. Just as Joshua and I only had an incomplete understanding of Christ by ourselves, and thus needed each other, we as Christians need each other’s perspectives to have a more informed understanding of God’s complex character.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
1 Corinthians 12:21-30
The above verses illustrate my point: we as Christians cannot cling so tightly to some teachings of the Bible and ignore others. Our differing perspectives are needed, and we should have equal concern for each other.
I do not write this to condemn Trump or Clinton voters. I do not write this to say that 80% of voting evangelical Christians should have voted for Clinton. Rather, I desire that we have the same attitude of that of the early Church in the Book of Acts:
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”
Acts 4: 32
God taught me, through my relationship with Joshua, that both perspectives were needed for a more informed understanding of the character of God.
We can do this, by the grace of God.