Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
We certainly live in turbulent and conflicting times. I don’t believe I have ever seen such tempestuous times in our nation. Even the turbulent 1960s were not as polarized or as confrontational. I would not be surprised to learn that the percentage of our population that is now polarized far exceeds any other time in my lifetime.
There is a great divide between the various groups of people today. It is often difficult to have a civil conversation about social or political issues in this climate. This is true not only in the United States, but throughout many parts of the world. Along with this great divide there is an increased unwillingness to talk with each other about the issues that bother us. And if those issues enter into our discussions with those we might disagree with then it often leads to an inability to continue to communicate, even about other unrelated issues.
There are groups popping up all over the country that strive toward political healing. They are trying to help people to develop the ability to talk with one another in spite of our political differences. Marriages are being affected due to a spouse’s unwillingness to accept that the other spouse supports a particular person or viewpoint.
As I have pondered this, I do not think it is happenstance or simple coincidence. As we move through history toward the inevitable return of Christ, there is an ever increasing desire on the part of the forces of darkness to keep people from engaging in serious conversation about the gospel.
As we see in chapter six of Ephesians, and elsewhere in the Bible, Satan and his minions have various strategies to keep people in bondage to darkness. Inciting and encouraging an attitude of unwillingness to openly talk to each other is one of those strategies. What better way to accomplish that than to build tremendous communication barriers that most people can’t or won’t cross?
Therefore Christians must be wise in the execution of their God-appointed tasks, especially our main task of being a witness for Jesus. We are sent with the gospel to make disciples of all nations.
We can’t do that if we are bogged down in political discussions in which people are so at variance with each other on a particular issue that further discussions about anything else is virtually impossible. I understand that we may want to talk with others about these things, but as Ambassadors for Christ we must ask ourselves, “What is the point of those social or political viewpoints beyond this life?”
The answer often is — none! Yet, we often unwisely allow these issues to stand in the way of communicating the way of eternal life with Christ with those who do not have that life. How shortsighted of us.
As we see in John 20:21, Jesus has sent us into the world to be witnesses for Him, to speak on His behalf. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul refers to this function as being an ambassador. We must consider this role as an ambassador for Christ carefully.
An ambassador may have opinions on many issues from the mundane of household etiquette to issues of global importance. But his or her opinion is not the issue in dealing with those he has been sent to as an ambassador. In that setting the opinion of the sovereign who sent him is critical. His duty is to speak with one voice with the one who sent him.
As a Christian you have been sent by Christ to be an ambassador of peace to those who are still in the bondage of sin and death. You have been sent to tell the lost that the Lord of Life, the Prince of Peace, desires to have a relationship with them, and you are to tell them how they can have that relationship. But you can’t do that if you are crosswise with them and unable to truly communicate.
We have an obligation and responsibility to set aside our preferences and reach across the great divide for the sake of Christ. We must be willing to set aside our views of the day, views that may well set fire to polarizing topics that are primed and ready to burst into a wall of fire that would shut us off from further communication of far greater importance.
It is not that your perspective is unimportant; in fact, your argument may well win the day with many people. But winning the day is not the agenda; the agenda is winning the lost for Christ. So be discerning and wise regarding serious discussions. Be alert to the volatile times in which we live. Constantly seek God’s leading in matters of discussion.
It will not hurt you at all to leave them to their opinions about the social and political ills of the day, but it may hurt them eternally to fail to hear about Christ’s love for them, and the provision He has made for them to receive the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.