Christlike Amid Chaos
To my DSBC Church Family,
Over the last year there has been a lot of hurt and offence in our nation, community and church family. Ideologies have passionately been promoted that can feel confusing and frustrating. Most of us have experienced sadness, outrage, anger and fatigue in this current chaotic climate.
Personally, I am confused, frustrated and deeply hurt by the myriad of divisions in our nation and our church family. Over this last year, I have often felt totally lost as I try to minister to you in this season.
But I know Jesus is still on the throne, and He is the Head of the Church and the gates of hell will not prevail.
In John 17 Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one. He gives us the power to live in love and unity with each other now, and so I have included some brief reflections and encouragements that may be helpful as we seek to live out the Gospel in this chaotic season.
Love Your Neighbors
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
We can strive to love our neighbors. This often means seeking the flourishing of those who are intensely different than us. Jesus made this point vividly in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
Love Your Enemies (even the racist / ignorant / powerful / crazy ones)
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44
We can strive to fight injustice while simultaneously loving those who propagate it.
The answer to unjust, violent and hateful actions and words is not MORE unjust, violent and hateful actions and words.
The answer is Jesus.
Because of Jesus, there is hope for EVERYONE, including our enemies. Our disagreements are related to beliefs and perspectives, not the dignity and worth of those with whom we disagree.
Seek to (truly) Understand
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13
We can strive to gain perspective by intentionally conversing with people who are different from us.
In a ‘click bait’ driven culture that often bears false witness to generate revenue, we must strive to truly understand each other. One of the best ways to do this is face-to-face conversation.
Here’s a good diagnostic question we can ask to discern if we truly understand:
“Am I able to accurately state the other position in a way that those who hold it would wholeheartedly agree?”
If we (or they) answer ‘no’, then it is likely we have not truly understood.
The ability to articulate another view does not mean we agree with or endorse it. It does mean we understand where they are coming from. This is the starting place in any meaningful dialogue.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
We can ask the Lord to grant us humility.
In times like this, it is easy to self-righteously elevate ourselves over those whose beliefs we find disgusting.
The absence of humility often breeds pride, which begets a lack of understanding.
If we do not engage with others in humility, we will likely be left arguing with caricatures, becoming further estranged and entrenched into an ever shrinking circle of ‘people like me’.
Assume the Best
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31
We can strive to guard our hearts against prejudging the intentions or motives of others with whom we disagree. If we do not want others to assume the worst in us, we should not assume the worst in them. (see Luke 6:31-36).
It may be true that the other person has evil intent, but this should not be assumed. This is especially important when engaging digitally as we often assume negative intent in words we read online.
Extend Grace (especially to Christians who anger and disappoint you)
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15
We can strive to practice grace to those within the church. With 2.5 billion followers of Jesus today, we mustn’t be surprised to find diversity of opinion within the church.
A church unified in its love for Christ and diverse in background, demographic, class, and leadership glorifies Jesus. However, this diversity presents myriad opportunities for pain, disappointment, confusion and sin.
Much of the New Testament is written to local churches calling them to be longsuffering, forgiving, patient and understanding with each other. These commands only make sense if Christians are likely to sin against each other.
You will be sinned against by other Christians.
You will likely sin against them too.
We must cling to Jesus and live out the gospel by practicing repentance, forgiveness and grace. Remember that “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’ (Proverb 15:1).
Continue to Engage
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
As we engage with Christians over views they hold that we believe to be wrong, ignorant or sinful, we can strive to gently seek correction and restoration.
This process takes time and can often be painful, frustrating and tiresome. Moreover, continued engagement often presents opportunities for sin to take root in our hearts (note that the scripture says ‘watch yourselves or you also may be tempted’).
As we engage in authentic, gracious relationships, we bear the burden of their sin (and they ours).
Reconciliation is NOT easy. It’s a road we walk together… carrying each other’s burdens. We can extend the gifts of grace and forgiveness quickly, but Jesus shows us that the work of reconciliation must be worked out over time.
We can strive to be about the God-honoring business of bringing light into darkness and speaking the truth in love. In doing so, we will bear with those who have, in our minds, wrong beliefs and engage them in truth with love-filled dialogue believing that God’s Spirit will do the work of conviction, healing and reconciliation (See Galatians 2 for a great example).
Guard Against Apathy
This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other. Zechariah 7:9-10
We can be vigilant in guarding our hearts against apathy towards systemic injustice and evil.
Too often we can be lulled to sleep by a culture of comfort and leisure and grow indifferent to the plight of the disenfranchised, the oppressed and the outsider.
It is good for us to pay attention to the injustice in the world, to hear the voice of the marginalized and oppressed, and to cry out, like the Psalter, “O God of Vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1).
A Plea to Persevere In Love
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
To those in our DSBC family that are part of minority cultures,
You are making a huge sacrifice as you seek unity with brothers and sisters in the majority culture. I don’t pretend to know what that looks or feels like, but I want you to know that I respect and laud your desire to love others and honor the Lord in this way.
I know that building authentic relationships within a predominately white church family opens you to unique forms of pain, frustration and disappointment. But I also know this disappointment is founded in love for the church.
As one Georgian minister wrote after being wrongfully imprisoned:
“In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise?” (source)
Your love and perseverance convicts and encourages me.
Moreover, your example compels, and challenges others to look more closely to Jesus to be freed from our blind spots. Brothers and sisters, thank you for helping us, as my good friend says, “set a table that all are welcome to feast at.”
To the DSBC family as a whole,
Cling to Jesus!
I know we will disappoint, frustrate, hurt and sin against each other. I, no-doubt, am the worst offender.
Sin is strong, but Jesus is stronger.
In His sovereignty, Jesus put us together, to live in unity and love and to serve as His ambassadors to our community. We have an opportunity to show the power of the Gospel to unify disparate peoples as we join together, bound by nothing more than Jesus. I believe with all my heart that God’s glory will be magnified in us as we strive for Christ-centered unity.
May we, by His power, persevere in love, grace and unity, living like Christ amid chaos.
For the glory of God,