While sharing coffee with a friend, our conversation turned to current events and political differences. Though raised in similar backgrounds, we are worlds apart in our worldviews. Yet we remain good friends.
Later that day, I pondered how we people of faith can believe in the same basic values yet support conflicting causes, certain of our beliefs. We may even attend the same church, yet we vote for different sides of the aisle. Donate to differing organizations.
What does that say about our culture standards and about the freedoms we have to choose?
This is nothing new. Even during the time of Christ, various groups constantly confronted each other. The Zealots, Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees all worshipped the same Jewish God. Yet their value systems differed, and they often clashed.
Our beliefs come from experience, how we were raised, what values were grandfathered into us, the culture we live in, how we think and make decisions.
For example: in my birth culture within the legalism of the church, I was taught to always obey authority, particularly the leadership of our denomination. So I did not question the ruling hammered into us: “Going to movies is a sin.”
The pastors were ordained, seminary trained, encouraged by the elders with years of ministry experience. They must, therefore, be right.
But my dad asked me to accompany him to a Billy Graham training for an evangelistic movie. Would I like to become one of the counselors for this city-wide event?
I said, “Yes,” hoping God would not strike me dead, yet inwardly believing this was a good thing. After all, my dad was supporting it.
The training was intensive and cohesive, pointers I have carried throughout life in various ministries. The movie created a community revival with hundreds of people deciding to follow Jesus. I had the privilege of leading a teenager to her salvation experience.
Yet kids in my youth group branded me as a heretic and sinner. “If Jesus comes when you’re in the theater, you’ll go to hell.”
My dad’s love and protection kept me from being blackballed, and his gentle reputation soothed the elders’ fears for our radical actions.
That experience began a questioning in me. What if the leaders of the church were wrong? What if their definition of sin was merely based on tradition, a conservative culture, and their need for control. Throughout the years as I experienced more spiritual abuse, I realized authority figures are fallible, prone to sin like everyone else, and not always to be believed.
The freedom in making my own choices via my faith, my own study of God’s word, and the counsel of those I trust has changed me spiritually, emotionally, and at the ballot box.
So what do we do in these troubling times, when so many questions swirl around us? How do we handle the anger within our churches?
Do we blindly follow what we are told by our favorite news channel or by the authority figures behind pulpits? Do we vote based on culture, tradition, and rules or by careful thought and reflective prayer about all the surrounding issues?
How does what Jesus said affect our everyday beliefs? Love God, love yourself, and love others. Period.
As we approach the mid-term elections, perhaps we can be more careful how we post on social media. How we proclaim what we believe to be true. How we take at face value what we are told.
Maybe we can take to heart Ephesians 4:29 and live it out, “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it” (AMPC).
Perhaps we can spend more time searching for the truth and find it within the heart of the Truth teller and Truth liver — Jesus himself.
And above all, perhaps we can strive more intentionally to love even those with whom we disagree.
©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
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