Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:2-3
If your man or woman wins the presidential election, celebrate but don’t gloat. And if yours loses, grieve but don’t pout! Let’s go to our corners on November 9th and when the bell rings, let’s come out loving!
We’ve expressed our opinions about the candidates and that’s all fine. We’re entitled to our viewpoints and since we’re not all cookies shaped by the same cutter, it’s inevitable that we’ll disagree about some things. No problem with that, though some of us might have some repenting to do about the tone and language we used during the campaign.
But a week from now, we’re going to have a new President. And regardless of who that is, let’s all take a deep breath, quit our scrapping and choose to love each other as brothers and sisters. After all, and I speak to Christians, our allegiance is to Jesus and to the advance of his just rule. Let’s put our parties and political squabbles aside and get to loving him and one another.
After an entire night of prayer Jesus held an election of his own––for apostles. Of the twelve, two particular disciples stand out as ones on the diametrically opposite sides of the socio-political spectrum, Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. No one in their right mind would’ve predicted this.
Clearly the Father set this up as an example of how his followers have to meet in the middle from opposite sides of the aisle, of the world, of the socio-economic scale, and of any other dividing walls you can think of. This wasn’t random selection. Jesus didn’t pull this list of apostles out of a hat. He’d spent all night getting orders from heaven before he made the final cut. Maybe it took all night because he kept asking the Father, “Are you sure?!”
Without divine intervention these two would never have sat in the same room together, let alone sat at the same Passover table and eat off the same loaf and drink out of the same cup! That same night Jesus told those two––along with the rest––to wash each other’s feet! Hyperbole? Simon was more accustomed to swinging his sword at heads than wiping feet with a towel. And Matthew was better at picking pockets than rinsing feet!
Generally speaking it seems that the disciples were pretty unified. We do know of a time or two when there was tension in their ranks about who among them was the best. Maybe they argued about how much faith they had, or how much Bible they had memorized, but it’s possible that someone’s claim of superiority among them had to do with politics!
The natural animosity between zealots and tax collectors had to have come to the surface a time or two at least. They were natural enemies after all. Matthew worked for the occupying Roman forces to collect taxes from his own people, and extorted from them much more for himself. Simon was a vigilante insurgent that likely employed violence against those same unwelcome occupiers. The same people that Matthew got his paycheck from, Simon and his crowd murdered in back alleys.
So, how did those two disciples in particular make it work? How did they keep from arguing at every meal and instead partnering up in prayer times and at outreaches?
To begin with, both of those men had to repent of their former acts and attitudes. One collaborated with Rome for financial gain and the other violently combatted Rome. In order to become a follower of Jesus and be promoted to the rank of Apostle they would have to undergo radical transformation, which begins and continues with a repentant heart.
Then they would have to work on their “humility and patience.” (See the verse above.) There’s no way they could play on the same team without finding a way to “make allowance for the other’s faults” and make “every effort to keep themselves united in the Spirit and bind themselves together in peace.”
Right-leaning Christians and left-leaning ones, I urge you to do the same. In the same way that we expect our elected officials from opposite sides of the aisle to find a way to work together, our God expects us, who come from different perspectives (politically, theologically, and culturally), to work in unison. He doesn’t suggest it; he commands it!
There was a moment in time when all the men of Israel were “knit together as one man.” (Judges 20:11) That must’ve been something to behold––an entire nation functioning as though they were one human being! We can’t expect the un-christian left and right to sign any such peace treaties, but we should expect it of ourselves, God’s family. Though doesn’t require us to agree with each other about how to run a nation, he does require us to love each other past our disagreements and find a way to work together for the betterment of the Church and the nation!
When the Father made Jesus pick both Simon and Matthew for his team he was making a point. Opposites, though they may not always attract, can actually get along. And they can not only get along, but compliment each other, not necessarily in the sense of saying nice things about each other, but in the sense of filling out the other’s weaknesses. Since we all have blind spots (all except me of course), coming from opposite perspectives can be a positive. We can help one another see what we can’t see on our own.
How can the Body of Christ see the big picture without both a right eye and a left? How can we propel God’s kingdom forward unless we have both a left leg and a right? And do we have any hope of bringing justice to this broken world if our right or our left hand refuses to cooperate with the other?
From the outside we may look a motley mess, but there’s a divine plan here if we’re willing to submit to it and subordinate our preferences, and yes, even some of our opinions, for the greater good. We can’t allow ourselves to be duped by devilish divisiveness. Let’s be humble, gentle, and patient enough to work with one another for a better Church, which will inevitably make a better world. Let’s “make every effort” to be united with one another from our opposite points of view.
The part about “binding ourselves together” sounds uncomfortable and difficult. That’s because it is! But we didn’t sign up for the comfortable or the easy. We enlisted to do what’s hard but what is eternally valuable and glorifying to God.
So, put down your fists, both you Simons and Matthews. You need those hands to hold each other up and raise together the one bloodstained banner! Let’s show the world that we, of all people, know how to love past our differences.
I want to thank all of you who have read and commented on my book, The Other End of the Dark. In it I speak about the cauldron wherein I learned some of these inconvenient truths about forgiveness and tenacity to move past our hurts. The profits from the project all go to a safe house for formerly trafficked females called, Freedom House.