Elections Part 4: Unity
As we wrap up our series of posts this week centered around the elections that took place this past Tuesday, it’s important to remember the blessing of freedom that we live under. Just about everybody in the country was either thrilled this past Tuesday night and disappointed in 2012, or was disappointed last Tuesday night and thrilled in 2012 (although I’m sure there are many who are apathetic about the whole thing). But that dichotomy is part of why we should feel blessed. Every two years we overthrow our government without firing a single shot, and whatever we think about politics today, in the course of human history, that is rare.
In this last post, I want to talk about unity. This past Sunday, Joey delivered an excellent sermon about our union with Christ. Part of his thesis was that our union with Christ destroys divisions – not only our division from God that was the result of our sinful declaration of independence from God, but also that which divides us as humans from each other. Our union with Christ also unites us as brothers and sisters, and at a fundamental level reminds us of our common humanity, with our common failures and needs and the common availability of grace. Regardless of our political views and affiliations, it is important to remember that before we are Republicans or Democrats, before we are conservative or liberal, or whatever else we may call ourselves, we are all equally sinners in need of a Savior. However much every political cause tries to claim him, Jesus was not a political activist. He did not come to change the current laws of government, but to fulfill a law that needed no changing. If we find ourselves only able to associate with and befriend those whose political views are similar to our own, perhaps we should ask ourselves if our goal is to see individuals be more like Christ or to see society become more like us.
Joey also made the point that our union with Christ means that our value is determined not by our social classifications but by our identity in Christ. To the believer, there is no such thing as classes. If we make distinctions based on race, socioeconomic status, or gender, than we are ignoring Paul’s assertion that there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. That is not to ignore the diversity of God’s creation – God, after all, is a creative artist, and there is beauty in diversity. But that beauty is marred when we value certain people that God has created to be inherently more valuable than others, simply because of skin color, gender, or wealth.
Our goal, then, should be to see distinctions destroyed, and it was beautiful and exciting to see one result of Tuesday’s election was that Tim Scott became the first elected black senator from the South since Reconstruction. Paul declared that there was no longer slave or free 2000 years ago, and yet until 150 years ago, our country made a fundamental distinction based on the color of a person’s skin. They constructed a division and shamefully used the Word of God to justify actions that contradicted Paul’s fundamental point. Even after the North won and slaves were freed, our government instituted laws and public policy that inherently devalued black citizens. Systematic and individual racism continue to plague our society today, but thankfully we continue to make incremental progress towards establishing in society what Paul announced 2000 years ago, and we continue to inch closer to the day where, as a society, we affirm those teachings and no longer make distinctions and create divisions that the Gospel does not allow. The election of Tim Scott, in the region that most strenuously defended slavery, black codes and Jim Crow, and from the party that most often functionally denies of the humanity of some, was a God-glorifying step in the right direction.
This call to unity extends beyond the issues of political affiliation and race, of course. This election was just one of many to come, and over the coming years, society will be faced with (and are facing) many issues that could/can potentially divide us. Immigration, economic policies, responses to terrorism and Ebola, social welfare programs, social justice, judicial policies, pro-life, marriage and many other issues are important issues that deserve our thought and prayerful convictions. The Word of God will inform those convictions, and I certainly don’t find them unimportant. We are called to care for the weak and the helpless, so by all means let’s be advocates for the unborn. We are called to care for the widows and the orphans, so by all means let’s see mercy and generosity extended to the poor. We are called to be just, so by all means let’s fight for a fairer judicial system. We are sojourners in a foreign land, so by all means let’s extend compassion to other sojourners in a foreign land. But my prayer is that we would remember that our response and reaction to these issues and to the debates they inspire would be motivated primarily by our identity in Christ and not which way on the political spectrum we lean. May we develop convictions, but may we also communicate those convictions with compassion. By all means, let’s debate and challenge one another and sharpen our convictions; but let our positions be marked by humility and the acknowledgment of our common humanity.
In the last speech he delivered before he died, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said prophetically and powerfully that he was not concerned with daily trivial matters or with longevity. “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we…will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” That’s our prayer. More than wanting to see our political views reflected in office, and more than wanting to see others come to our political party, we want to see sinners fall on their knees before their Savior. We want to see the beauty of Galatians 3 reflected in society. We too have seen the Promised Land; Lord, help us help others see it too.