How To Disagree Well

Our aim is to be a united body of Christ. One body on one mission, to build the Kingdom of God. Of course, the problem is that life will never be without conflict and we will never be free of disagreements. Even in the book of Acts we see several disagreements. So the question is how do we keep disagreements from turning into disunity? We have to disagree well.

This seems a lost art in todays politically charged climate. We do NOT disagree well or even really discuss issues well. More often than not I see immediate angry responses to things that don’t even properly reflect the others belief. The media hypes up and distorts the beliefs of the opposing side so that when we interact with people who have those beliefs we don’t understand what they really believe, but we think we do.

The church should not be a reflection of the world. We have to do better. We have to learn how to have propper discourse, to understand each others perspectives and be okay with disagreement from time to time. There are areas where it is okay to haver differing opinions.

Today, I have a couple of tips to help navigate these conversations.

First, take an interest in what they have to say and really listen. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that involves nodding politely while caluculating your next argument. I’m talking about genuinly listening with the intent to learn and understand their point of view. Start with a question like, “Why do you believe what you believe?” Then be quiet and listen, ask follow up questions until you can really understand what they believe and why.

This accomplishes two things. One, likely you will come to see that their perspective is legitimate, even though you may not come to agree. Two, as you patiently listen to them they will almost always take the time to listen to you in return.

Next we need to evaluate the disagreement. Is what they believe against scripture or harmful in some way? If it is not then perhaps the best thing to do is to let it go. If it is, then we need to let them know, in love. Yes, this is where we should attempt loving correction. They may still be unwilling to change their perspective, in which case you may need to take it to a higher authority to determine what should be done. It may still be wise to let it go, but that wildly depends on how harmful or unscriptural we’re talking here.

I do know this: Every person is worthy of kindness. Even if you don’t know them personally, hello social media, they are still valuable and worthy to be listened to. Now if you’re trying to engage in civil discourse and they simply refuse, you’ve done your part and can move on from the conversation knowing you tried. 

Disagreement does not have to disrupt unity. We need to make allowances for each others faults, even perceived faults and trust that others will do the same for us. We need to see a unified body of Christ more than we need to win arguments. Let’s put each other above our pride. Let’s put the Kingdom above our own interests. Let’s learn to disagree well.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

An Undivided Church

1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT) I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

As I read those words, Paul’s plead with the church to live in harmony, to have no divisions. I found myself grieved. His heart was for the church to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. When we look at the church today and compare it to those words I can’t help but cry out, “Oh God, what have we done?” We are far from united.

A quick google search indicates that there are over 1200 Christian denominations worldwide and I don’t find it too difficult to believe that. Even if that is false and there were only 30 denominations, would that make it better? It depends. Differing denominations don’t necessarily mean division, but many times it does. Certainly, the origin of many denominations was a disagreement so sharp that it was decided we can’t be associated with you anymore and thus disagreement turned to division.

Another verse that grieves me is 1 Corinthians 4:20.

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT) For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

I suppose this verse should be exciting. Yes! The Kingdom God is living by God’s power, except that when I look at the average church I don’t see power. In fact, I see a lot of talk which indicates to me that we are not effectively building the Kingdom of God so much as, well, buildings.

I believe that the reason is, in part, a lack of unity across the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT) God has united you with Christ Jesus…

1 Corinthians 3:6-8 (NLT) I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work

We are meant to united with God and each other. Working together to be the body of Christ and accomplish the purpose of Christ. We work TOGETHER to accomplish the purpose of God. Yes, only God can produce the fruit, but if we fail to do our part and instead engage in arguments and divisions we effectively halt the mission of God.

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you.

We together are the temple and His Spirit lives in us. This is another scripture that I have often heard individualized. While I do believe Christ lives in me, it’s important to recognize that I alone am not the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and cannot function effectively to fulfill God’s purpose by myself. When we come together in unity His Spirit takes up residence. When we come together in unity God’s power is unleashed in our very lives.

It’s time for some self evaluation. Where do you see disunity and division in your local community? Start with yourself, your circle, and move outward. How can you help bring wholeness to divisions? God’s purposes and Spirit are more important than our disagreements. We must come together and disagree well.

More on that in Thursday’s post.

Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 03 Pray & Act

We’ve talked about a couple of aspects so far that I believe are imporetant if we’re preparing for a move of the Spirit. Examining our motives and removing obstacles. Today we’re going to look at two more. These may seem a little contradictory. They’re not. Let’s take them one at a time.

PRAY

Prayer is vitally important to a move of God because when we pray we are yieleding our preferred path, our preferences and asking for the Lord to come and do what only He can do. Nothing is so important. We could never conjure, manifiest or manipulate a genuine move of His Spirit. So we must come together and pray. There is still value in waiting before the Lord. We tend to be in a hurry. We live in a busy world, when we have prayer time, perhaps it’s IF we have prayer time, it is often fit into our schedule at our conveinence rather than prayer being a priority and defining our schedule. Often our “Jesus time” is fit into tight structures and timeframes. We’ll read the scripture quickly, and pray for a few needs and then move on with our day. I do believe any time is better than no time, but quality time is better than measured time. Quality time is not determined, by length but by substance. When you spend time with the Lord are you really present? Is your focus completely on Him? Are you fully surrendered to His purpose? From time to time there is value in simply lingering in His presence, waiting with no agenda other than to be with Him. When must prioritize His presence over our agenda. There is power when people who are surrendered and yielded to His purposes begin to pray for a move of His Spirit.

ACT

I believe the final step in our preparatino process is to act. I know I just said we should wait, linger and pray for Him to move. No action we take can cause God to do something. We should wait in His presence, but let’s be active in our waiting. Let us do what Jesus taught us to do as we engage with the world around us. Let’s love the people that cross our path. Let’s meet needs in the lives of those we can. Be about the Father’s business. Give Him the opportunity to move through you in your world. I truly believe that God wants to move through your life more than in your church service. Sometimes I wonder if we want God to move in our services more than we want Him move in our community. God gives power for His purposes. If we are not a people about the purposes of God then what do we need His power for? When we partner with His Spirit, follow His leading and have the confidence to engage our world, we give Him and opportunity to demonstrate His power. When we ask people if we can pray with them, we give God the opportunity to respond.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We should often examine ourselves. Are our motivations genuinely aligned with the Lords? Are we are fully surrendered to His purposes rather than our own? Have we removed any and all obstacles that could disrupt the flow of His Spirit? If so then we must begin to pray, really pray for God to move. Finally we must step out in faith and give Him the opportunity to do just that. When we seek for His power to accomplish His purposes, we will not be disappointed. God is wanting to pour out His Spirit in this world, but I don’t belive He is looking to repeat Himself. As our culture is so rapidly and radically changing, we must stop expecting the next great move of His Spirit to take place in our church buildings. We must get out into our world and truly be about building the Kingdom of God rather than the Kingdom of the American church. My final challenge to all of us is simply to lay down expectations and allow God to do what only He can do.

Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 02 Remove the Obstacles

Desiring a move of the Spirit is not enough. God is looking for a heart fully surrendered to Him. Once we’ve examined our motives and sought to align our hearts and expectations with Him we need to further examine ourselves for any and all obstacles that could prevent us from receiving from the Lord.

Remove the obstacles

I’ve often heard the Spirit’s move compared to the rushing water of a river. Well, God is looking for a vessel through which He can freely flow, unobstructed. There are many things that could obstruct the flow.  Removing the obstacles speaks to purity.
Matthew 5:8 (NLT) God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NLT) In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.
Joshua 3:5 (NLT) Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
To be pure is to be unmingled with the world, set apart for God’s use and God’s use alone. This requires a preparation process in our hearts. Where have we allowed obstructions? If we are expecting God to move then now is the time to honestly take a look and remove anything and everything that could obstruct the flow of God’s Spirit. There are many things that could cause an obstruction, I’ve narrowed it down to a few of the most common categories; sin, offense/disunity, distraction, focus on self, critical sprit/cynicism.

1. Sin

This is obvious, but sin can be sneaky. If we aren’t vigilant we can allow small things into our hearts without even realizing it. We know that sin separates us from God, so it isn’t a surprise to say that if we are allowing sin to take root in our lives that it will be a hindrance to what God is wanting to accomplish. At its simplest definition, I would define sin as anything that would hurt someone or yourself. That can take many forms. There are addictive sins, the ones we turn to over and over again that usually are harmful to ourselves and eventually very harmful to those closest to us. There are actions we can take against someone else, either by being unkind or even intentionally malicious. Then there are the things we should be doing, but choose not to do, like when we disobey God by ignoring the prompting to go and pray with someone. Some sins are big and obvious, some are small and seemingly insignificant. All sin needs to be removed. I think the smaller sins are the most dangerous because they don’t require a lot of intentionality, they are usually are natural inclination. This is why we must be vigilant to daily surrender our lives in pursuit of Jesus. 2. Offense/disunity This one is possibly the most dangerous on this list and incredibly relevant in todays world. People are more divided than ever and in the church, it’s incredibly easy to let offense take root in our lives. Sometimes one wrong comment or look, which may have been completely meaningless, is enough to raise the ugly monster of offense. The enemy wants us to be a hot mess of disunity. People who are divided cannot accomplish the work of God’s Kingdom effectively. We must put aside our offenses, be quick to forgive, and come together for God’s purposes. It is truly loving to overlook offenses.

3. Distraction

Our attention span is shrinking. The latest studies suggest that we now have an average attention span of 7 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish, people! It is certainly easy to allow other interests to take our minds and focus away from pursuing God’s purposes. We live in an ADD world of entertainment, there’s tons of it! I love it too. I don’t think it’s wrong to be entertained, but if our quest to quelch boredom prevents us from pursuing all God has for us then it becomes sin. There’s plenty of other things that could distract us as well, politics, drama, celebrity gossip– anything that fills our mind and consumes our talk could become a distraction and an obstacle to God pouring out His Spirit. There are times when we need to stay focused and allow God to work in our lives. There will be mornings when we need to hold off starting our day and just sit in God’s presence. There will be services where we need to put off our rush to leave and be patient, focusing on the Lord and prioritizing His presence.

4. Focus on the Self

We’ve already talked about our motivation, is it to have a powerful service, or is it to fulfill the purposes of God? Revival isn’t about you. If my primary focus is what I will get out of it, what I will experience, what I want, then I am missing something very important. God promises to pour out His Spirit on His people, on nations. I don’t see anywhere that tells me it’s for me individually. I believe our focus should be on how a move of His Spirit would benefit not only our church but our city, our nation, our neighbor. Will I benefit individually? Yes, but if that is my motivation and I give no thought to those around me then the focus on myself becomes an obstacle to the move of His Spirit.

5. Critical spirit/cynicism

Let’s be honest, when God moves sometimes weird things happen. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t like weird. I do believe that we can serve Jesus and not be weird. Sometimes we over-spiritualize things like prophecy to the point that I have to wonder if they can have any real impact to those who don’t know Jesus. It’s easy to be critical of things that we don’t understand. It’s easy to become cynical about many many things. If God showed up in a way that seemed foreign, or you didn’t know what was happening, or if things seemed a little weird, would you criticize it? If we’re not careful we can critique what God does to the point that He can’t do anything in our lives. I don’t like to admit it, but God can use weird to transform lives. Of course, sometimes weird is just weird. We must discern the difference if we hope to see God move. I believe if we examine our motivations and begin to remove these obstacles we are positioning ourselves to be receptors when God pours out His Spirit. Of course, ultimately only God can pour out His Spirit. We can, however, pray and be ready when He does. We’ll talk more about that Thursday, in the third and final part of this series.

Preparing for a Move of the Spirit | 01 Motives & Expectations

The power of God is difficult to explain. How do you describe something that is so completely beyond you? I grew up in an atmosphere that was full of His power. You could sense it in the air, but also see it in the fruit that was produced. Lives were transformed, people came to Jesus. Since then no matter what church I’ve been at, people talk about revival, longing for a move of the Spirit.

Of course, not everyone means exactly the same thing when they use those words. Our definitions are colored through the lens of our experience. Some have grown up hearing the words without ever experiencing it. At times there are certain services where it’s like God is breathing into them and those who long for His moving lean in and whisper, “this is it.”

It wasn’t. 

What will it take? When will we experience a move of the Spirit? There isn’t exactly a magic formula we can concoct. We can’t force God’s hand. God will move, in His timing and in His way. Still, I want to share four key steps I believe we must take if we want to experience a move of the Spirit. Examine your motives, remove obstacles, pray, and act.

Examine your motives

Our WHY is such an important factor in everything we do in life. Why do we want a “move of the spirit”. The way some people talk makes me feel like they are mostly concerned with having a powerful church service. I’m not against a powerful church service, but is that why I want the spirit to move? Am I more interested in an electrically charged environment than building His Kingdom?

I believe that God will not send the Spirit among a people who are not about the purposes of the Spirit. That is to say God sends His power for His purposes. If our goal is to experience great power, but never do anything to impact our community for His Kingdom then our desires are misaligned. 

I think another area where our motivations occasionally miss the mark is in our expectations. Sometimes when we say we want to experience a move of God what we are really saying is we want to recapture something from our past. What if what God is wanting to accomplish today looks differently, feels differently, functions differently? Are we willing to lay down our expectations and follow where He leads?

Personally, I have long believed that what is coming, will be very different than what has been done. I don’t believe the next great move of God will be central to one location, but take place in the common areas, unexpected areas. I think we need to move away from trying to cultivate an atmosphere that draws people to us and take the power of God to where the people already are.

I often wonder, what is it we are really hoping for? When we pray for revival what is it you want to see? I hope that our heart’s desire is to see God accomplish His purpose in whatever manner He desires. I pray we will be a people who will follow wherever He leads and put His Kingdom over our own comfort. (Luke 9:57-58)

I believe if our motives and expectations line up with His then we are so much less likely to be disappointed when it doesn’t “happen.” 

We will continue our preparation for a move of the Spirit with “remove the obstacles” in the next post.

A Different Way of Thinking

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

I have a bad habit of declaring “this is one of my favorte scriptures,” but this really is one of my favorite scriptures. One I hope to live out daily. It is so important to recognize what Jesus has done for me, the incredible sacrifice He made in literally laying down His life for the salvation of the entire world. What should I offer Him in return? Church attendance and 10% of my pay check? That doens’t quite feel enough. He is derserving of nothing less than my entire life. Yes, I will give my life to Him. My actions, my words, my thoughts. May everything that I am be useful for glorifying the King of Kings, the Creator, the Savior.

Everything I just wrote is the natural byproduct of dwelling upon Jesus and His work on the cross, but we as humans have this habit of filling our time and minds with MANY other things. There’s so much to consume our attention today, everything from entertainment, news cycles, political rants, not to mention the everyday important life things like our families, jobs, and self care. As a result we end up imitating the world’s way of thinking and living instead of giving everything to Jesus.

None of the above is bad in and of itself, but if we don’t prioritize our relationship with Jesus and our daily pursuit of His purposes then they become secondary and eventually forgotten. We must consistently immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Let His ways become our ways and follow His path for our lives.

It really comes down to our thinking. Our lives always follow our thinking so we must ask the question, “Where do I invest my thinking?” What is it that consumes your thoughts? Is it the craziness in our world? Is it something in your personal life? Are you trying to not think and focusing on entertainment instead?

It’s easy with so much going on in our world to find ourselves thinking more about political preferences than our Kingdom purpose. I’m not throwing stones here, I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve struggled a lot over the last few months with cynicism, offense and a general frustration over things I feel powerless to do anything about. Ultimately I have to come before God and let go of my worldly thinking and embrace Kingdom thinking.

This is why I believe that repentance and confession should be a regular part of our lives. We naturally shift back into worldly thinking so it only makes sense that a part of our daily devotions should be to surrender our thinking and refresh as we turn our thoughts back to God. As we continue to let God transform our thinking we can think less about “what is God’s will for my life.” God will naturally lead us toward the path He has created for us, if we will just purpose in our hearts and mind to follow Him, one step at a time.

I’ve Got Good News!

When I tell you that I have some good news what is your first thought? Are you excited to find out what it is? Perhaps, your first thought is, “good news for who?” I doubt very seriously that your response was an eye roll and a feeling of, “not again.” Andy Stanley recently preached a series about good news and his premise was fairly simple. People love to hear good news.

Romans 10:13-15 (NLT) For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

As Christians, we have more than just good news. We have the greatest news of all time. The message of reconciliation to God through the sacrifice of Jesus. When we die we won’t be separated from God, but enter into eternity where His presence dwells. Take a look at the message Jesus brought. It wasn’t just a message of love, but to love even your enemies. Truly, the message of Jesus is good news.

My question today is one of self-evaluation. Is it still good news to you? Do you still get excited about the Kingdom of God? Think about how the message of Jesus has been good news in your life. What has God done in your life? What is He currently doing in your life? If you had to answer these questions right now what would you say?

If someone who has yet to enter into a relationship with God were to hear your answers or observe your life and conversations for the last week would they walk away thinking they’ve heard good news?

It’s no secret that for many of those on the outside, the name of Christianity does not bring to mind good news. Perhaps images of angry, hateful, or hypocritical would be more accurate. While I think it’s worth looking at the institution as a whole and evaluating why the world has such or wrong understaning of who we are, or even asking if we’re not as peaceful, loving and holy as we think, that might be a bit lofty for one blog post. However, I certainly will examine my life and I hope you will do the same.

How will you spread good news today? We may not be able to change our entire public image, but I absolutely believe we can change one. By consistently representing the good news of Jesus around those we come in contact with we are taking a step, sowing a seed, that they might come to see the real Jesus. For those of us who bear the name of Christ, we must remember that everything we do is a representation of Jesus to those who don’t know Him.

May we represent Him well today. May we live in such a way that people would look at us and truly see some good news.

Misunderstood

I’ve had a pretty much conflict-free life. I’d never really felt misunderstood before. I definitely didn’t know how to respond, I actually didn’t even recognize it, at first. My response was, oh I didn’t know that about myself and I went on a journey to try to fix everything wrong with myself. Now, when someone brings criticism your way, you should always take time to weigh it and ask if it’s legitimate. If it is, then acknowledge it and work to fix it. If it’s not, then dismiss it and be grateful you have someone in your life willing to challenge you.

It turns out I lacked the ability in that season to discern what was legitimate and what was not. So I tried to fix all of it and I found myself in a bit of a talespin. It wasn’t until God literally shouted into my soul, “Stop seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes” that I stopped and said, “huh?” It turns out several lies had taken root in my soul and I had to step back and remember the truth.

I now know what feel what it’s like to be misunderstood in several different ways and I’m oddly ok with that- most days anyway. We all feel misunderstood from time to time. So why are we misunderstood and what should we do?

When we feel misunderstood it is because we are being treated in a way that is inconsistent with how we view oursleves. This means one of two things.

1.) Your self-view is wrong

2.) They don’t see the real you.

Listen, the reality is even the most self aware people still have blindspots. When someone brings something to your attention it is usually worth considering. Pause a moment and ask if there is part of what they’re saying that is correct. Talk to the people who know you best and ask if there is any validity to the claim. If there is then you now have the opportunity to grow, and it’s not easy, but it’s a gift they gave to you, rather they meant it to be positive or not. If you determine what they claim is not valid you then you can dismiss the claim outright and move on, or try to correct their perspective.

The reality is at times some people will just not see the real you. They will misread your intentions and misunderstand your motivations. You have to determine if it is necessary to try and show them who you really are or to just have confidence in who you are. Most of the time, the latter is the best course of action. I truly believe that over time, your true character will be revealed and win out. However, there may be moments when you need to stand up and clarify your position. Ultimately you have to comfortable with who you are and where you stand with God.

Romans 2:29 (NLT) …a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

No one can truly know your motives but you. If your heart is pure, you’re intentions are honest and you’re right with God then you can’t let what other people think weigh you down. I know the opinions of some carry more weight than others. I know it’s hard to not let offense take hold in your life. So if you feel misjudged, or misunderstood today then I challenge you to pray. First, remind yourself of who you are in Christ and how He sees you. Second, pray for the one who misunderstands you, really pray for them. Pray for them as you would pray for yourself. Pray for God’s blessing, provision, joy, to fill their lives. Over time this kind of prayer enables you to release offense and treat them with the love of Jesus.

After all, that is our ultimate goal as Christians. To love people as Jesus loves us.

Nothing Can Separate Us | See the US?

I caught myself. I was doing exactly what I talked about in my last post. I was making it all about me. And honestly, as I re-read that scripture I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it or heard it taught in any other context than “me.’

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I read that my automatic response is overwhelming gratitude that God loves me, that nothing can separate me from His love. I’m not suggesting that it’s completely wrong, because obviously, I am a part of the US. God does in fact, love me and has chosen me, called me and made me right with Himself like it says in Romans 8:29-30, but even that is written in a plurality and if I make it all about me I am missing part of the richness of the text.

So let’s talk about why I love this scripture and what stood out to me today as I read it with a different perspective. We can clearly see that having Christ’s love does not give us exemption from difficult times. In fact, it may even guarantee some of them. However, we remember God’s love isn’t just for ME, but it’s for US. This means that when those things come I am not alone. I am surrounded by a community that is experiencing the same difficulty and we have the opportunity, responsibility to support each other. If the world will know us by our love (John 13:35) perhaps this is the kind of love is what Jesus meant. His love displayed among the community of believers. Standing united, caring, and supporting each other through all of life’s difficulties.

Truly God’s love for us cannot be conquered. God’s love for us is stronger than death and nothing can destroy it. His love is an enduring, patient, and everlasting love. Should our love for each other be any less? Why do we allow the love within our communities to be so easily diminished by our differences? We are one people with many different experiences, ways of seeing the world, thought patterns and it isn’t surprising that we will have different theological or political perspectives. We must stop confusing unity of beliefs with unity in the Spirit. Agreement is not a prerequisite of love. If it were Christ would not have died for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

It is my sincere prayer that we would be one people, unified in the love that Jesus has given to us. If we cannot love each other, how can we share that love with the world? Because again, Jesus’ sacrifice is about so much more than me. I’m grateful that He died for me, but I’m even more grateful that it wasn’t just for me. Jesus died for the whole world so that all might come to know Him. Church, let’s live like it. Let’s love like it.

Individualism | American Christianity

There’s a line in the song “Long Live the Champion” by rap artist KB that says, “Yes, I love the Kingdom more than I love my nation.” Of course, I do love my nation and I’m grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but there have certainly been moments over the last few years where my political beliefs have been at war with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t even think that’s always a bad thing, but it’s important for me to acknowledge and wrestle with.

I have seen a lot of confusion. I’ve seen people say you’re not a Christian if you support _______. I ‘ve also seen people suggest you’re not a Christian if you DON’T support ______ (THE SAME EXACT ISSUE). Fill in the blank with whatever you’d like, President Trump, immigration reform, racial reconciliation, and a million more things. I absolutely believe that our religion SHOULD INFORM our political beliefs, but for many, it seems like our political beliefs have BECOME our religion.

We as Americans do have a way of making ourselves the main character, the hero and the victor. We confuse losing political power with losing our religious liberties. We claim persecution when the reality is for most of us, we’ve never really been persecuted. We confuse American freedom and Biblical freedom. I think there is certainly a brand of American Christianity that historically and in other parts of the world doesn’t ring true with scripture.

So where does it come from? I can’t say I’m the right person to answer that. I only know what I am beginning to see and attempting to make sense of it myself. I do believe at its root is our strong lean to individualism.

We as a nation are very much about ME and not so concerned with the WE. Individualism is essentially putting my rights as an individual before my responsibility to the community. It’s a part of our culture and who we are. We can see it in how we interpret the Bible. We put a lot of emphasis on our individual personal relationship, purpose, call to action. It’s easy to take passages that are about US and make them about ME. I’m not even suggesting all of that is wrong, but if we don’t realize we are doing it then we are missing something.

Simply put the culture and community within which the scriptures were written were much more community-centric. That’s why we read in Acts 2:44 that the believers shared everything they had, we don’t relate to that idea. I’m not about to literally share all my possessions with you. In fact, if you just show up and knock on my door my first question will be, “Why are you here?” Rather than just welcoming you in.

Romans 12:13 (NLT) When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Listen, I’m not versed, intelligent, or informed enough to delve too deep into this topic right now, but I truly believe it is something we need to look at. Just because it’s all we’ve known, doesn’t mean that it’s correct. It is my sincere desire to build God’s Kingdom, not to build a Christian Nation. I don’t think they’re the same thing. We have had the luxury to live in a Christian Nation, and that’s wonderful. However, if our life’s purpose is only about keeping what we had I fear we may waste our lives fighting for something we were never promised.

I guess I’ll wrap this up by suggestion we make every effort to read scripture, not with our American eyes, but in a historical and cultural context. Someone asked me recently to share a simple easy way to begin to read it in the correct context, and I simply responded, “I’m not sure there is a simple, easy way.” This means, in part, changing the way we’ve read scripture our whole lives. It’s so ingrained that it will take time to shift our thinking, and that’s never easy.

Let’s just remember that the scripture was not written to an American audience, but to people living in a historical and cultural world very different than our own. We can’t read the Bible as if it was written directly to us. It was most assuredly written for us. It is most assuredly divinely inspired by God and is perfect, useful to teach us, correct us and equip us. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) However, for it to do so we need to read what was intended, not just was sounds good to us.

So let’s lean in. Study, grow, and listen. If we can learn to live out the scripture as it was written, not just an American interpretation then perhaps we can reclaim the good news. We can reclaim unity in the Spirit. We can truly be a people who display and live the love of Jesus and we can truly be about the business of building God’s Kingdom.