Frustration can be difficult to quantify, but it certainly feels like these are the most frustrating times of my life. So many people are angry, cynical, and biting. Nowhere is it more evident than within the faith. We are divided along the same lines as the larger culture; race, politics, gun control, whether black or blue lives matter, reopening the country. We are not only divided about it, we’re fighting about it.
It seems we can’t agree on much. Each tribe unreasonably recites the same unoriginal tribal rhetoric, as if we are so convinced we are right that we need simply to say it again, only louder. We cannot possibly be wrong. We refuse to consider the possibility and social media gives us many platforms to display our disunity.
I can’t remember feeling this discouraged and helpless; just one more voice adding to the chaos. I’d begun to doubt if my thoughts about right are indeed right. My thoughts are not exclusive to any one tribe, but they would be recognizable in many. We are so splintered you would think we had no king.
Judges 21:25 (NAS): 25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The despair was really getting to me when I remembered that we do have a King; remembered in whose eyes right is found. So I retreated to the safety of scripture. And here’s what the King reminded me. I hope it helps.
Citizenship Determines Loyalty
In Jesus, we are already citizens of the Kingdom, with full citizenship rights. We are in the world, but not of the world, and thus not of this nation. That sounds as odd to my ears as it may to yours. Our loyalties belong to another.
I will vote and do everything to be a responsible American, but only because my King has asked me, and knowing that this is not my home. There may be somethings in my community that I feel strongly about, but I must be careful about becoming evangelistic about them. I may not vote the same as a fellow citizen of the Kingdom, but my love for them is greater than my love for the land. The love of Christ compels me.
In the kingdom of God lives matter, so we grieve and demand justice unequivocally when a black life is needlessly taken. It’s not the time to minimize that life by pointing out the value of a blue life; not in the kingdom. And as citizens of the kingdom, we don’t murder blue lives with our righteous indignation either. We don’t let our grief turn to hatred and hateful words, as if we grieve as the rest who have no hope. Our grief and our response must be the same. We must find the common ground of life. Life created in the image of God, because to Him are we ultimately loyal.
This Started In A Manger
The will of God to begin the life of the King in a manger is so profound and other worldly that we must be reminded often. We forget easily and begin to look, in great frustrations, to the White House and the Halls of Congress for our Shalom. The delusion of the land is that our peace and prosperity comes from the lofty, but God has ordained that it comes from the lowly.
The kingdom of God is not from sea to shining sea, or from purple mountain’s majesty. The Kingdom is from the smallest of seed. It’s from a manger, and herald by shepherds; it’s from a mustard seed. It does not trickle down. It grows from strong roots anchored in the rich soil of God’s sovereign purposes. It can only lead to frustration, division, and exhaustion if we are looking for security in any place other than the Kingdom.
He Always Keeps A Remnant
I was reminded of Elijah’s complaints to the Lord. His loneliness, his exhaustion, and his frustration with the shear number of the people of God, whose behavior defy reason, is sadly familiar. In the story, the Lord fed him, chided him gently, then told him of the 7000 He had kept for Himself. A remnant who had not bowed their knees to the god of the greater culture. A remnant who remained loyal to the Lord. Loyal because He had kept them. How wonderful is that? If I am loyal, it’s because He has kept me.
The voices who speak for the faith from the biggest platforms, who say the things everyone expects, but few respects, don’t often speak for the kingdom. They represent their tribe and not the King. Many have bowed the knee to the gods of the greater culture, trying fruitlessly to worship God and Money; God and Country.
In His Eyes
At the end of the age, Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead. The thought brings me great consolation. That’s precisely what we need right now. We need a judge. Someone who can settle our disputes. Someone to tell us who’s right; a voice of authority. Someone who silences all other voices when He delivers righteousness judgment. He has not chosen to judge the world yet, but He has not been silent. He speaks in His word, and He reminds us that we need not do what’s right in our own eyes, we have a King.
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[h] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
The verse is not the complete sentence, I know, but it’s okay to pause right there…
This is the same letter as the citizenship in heaven passage. In fact that idea of “manner of life” here looks toward our word citizen as well. Look at this carefully. It says “…one spirit… one mind…”
One spirit, I think is really easy to breeze by for us Christians. We automatically think of the Holy Spirit and there is only one, and so easy peesy… But one mind???
Wait… one spirit and one mind?
Every preacher I know, every last one of them, who has ever, in my hearing, examined this passage has paused right there to give us the cliché sermonette that. “This, OF COURSE, does not mean we have to agree perfectly about EVERYTHING…OF COURSE”
You get that from the Greek or something?
Hmmm… So it doesn’t mean what it says???
I am sure St Paul is not telling us that green needs to be the favorite color of all the third graders. So what does ONE MIND mean here? One spirit, one mind.
What if we change the little sermonette.
What if instead of saying “OF COURSE… EVERYTHING” we say LET’s ALL BE ON THE SAME PAGE ABOUT ONE THING…” ONE THING that is EVERYTHING. BE OF ONE MIND about it, of ONE SPIRIT about it. What if we said something like THAT?
I don’t know. Maybe I got this all wrong, but I am dead sure of this much… the moment we say “OF COURSE” we write off whatever this passage does actually say.
Paul writes this to a small church ina big bad Roman colony that will kille everyone there if the Romans realize that these people claim another LORD besides Caesar! But he goes on a few verses later to say that their uity means salvation to them, and dextruction to their oppontents.
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Hmmm… I got cut off mid comment, but look IT POSTED!
Anyway, I thought I lost it. Glad to see it was still going through.
Anyway, to round out my thought, WHICH I submit for further examination, that little church in Philippi thrives under a cloud of EMPIRE like few of us ever will. They are like what we think church of being in the 10-40 window or in the bowels of China or something. Where if you are discovered by the governing authorities, there could, or almost certainly will be, an inquest, names will be given up. The church will be hunted down and possibly killed. The culture outside this church is HOSTiLE to Jesus. But St Paul WHILE IN CHAINS writes this church and straightens out a feud between the women WE HOPE and tells them that their citizenship is from heaven. They belong to heaven. To get their spirit and mind all of one accord and it is a sign of their salvation and of the destruction of their opponents.
What does that say to US?
I take it seriously.
I hope I have the faith to laydown my life like Jesus as I strain to say what is right and live by it. And at root that is a message of LOVE, of God’s LOVE for his world.
Love God, love others. Get THIS right (and thus be of one mind/spirit?) and you get it all right. Get this wrong and it doesn’t matter what else you get right, you already blew it, and you are just a noisy gong.
Bless you brother.
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