A few posts back I mused about one of the church’s great purposes: to be a place where God’s people use their gifts to serve one another, to love their neighbors as themselves.
There’s an even greater purpose, to which that one contributes. The church is to be, as the theologians say, doxological; it is to bring glory to God, to incite praise.
How does it do this? Well, when the church gathers, we praise God in worship, and that’s certainly part of it. And as we use our gifts to nurture growth in others and help them become more like Christ, that’s part of it too. But there’s another way; it’s described in Ephesians 3.
The church is God’s creation, not ours. He is the one who envisioned and then brought into being an organization—an organism—that is not limited by bloodline or geographical boundary, like OT Israel. It consists of Jews and Gentiles (Eph 3.6), from all over the globe, who are brought together in unified worship of God.
And what is his purpose in doing that? Take a look at verse 10:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
That is, that the heavenly beings (“principalities and powers”) might look at what God has done in the church and recognize the rich wisdom of the God who did it.
What does it take to impress someone who goes to work in heaven every day?
And why would the unity of God’s diverse peoples be so impressive? Because Jews and Gentiles are supposed to be enemies, not friends. If natural enemies are gathered together, united in worship to God and in loving care for one another, there’s no earthly reason for it. Only God could do that.
And now to explain this post’s title.
Since the days of Jerry Falwell Sr.’s Moral Majority—and long before that—some Christians have listened to the siren song of political influence. They have chosen to position themselves publicly as the political enemies of the very people God has called them to reach, to draw into this inexplicably unified body. And for any number of reasons—fear of loss of earthly freedom or comforts, discomfort with or even disdain for people who are radically different from them, even perhaps the desire for power—they have devoted their energies to increasing the divide rather than tapping into the divine power that brings people together in one body, in Christ, despite those differences.
But those other people are so different! They’re so wrong about so many things!
Yes. Precisely. Only God could bring us together, by changing us—all of us—from the inside out. But he can and will do that. So why add to the momentum in the other direction? Why oppose his cause?
Why tweak the political opposition for the lapses in logic of their political positions, when the cause—the real cause, the eternal one—is so much greater and so much more worthy of your limited effort? Do you really think that if you zing that leftist, he’ll be inclined to come to you for guidance to the grace that is truly greater than all his sin? Or do you not care whether he does at all?
To whom have you shown such grace today? You know, the kind of grace God has shown you?
There is a woman in my church who recommitted herself to Christ late in life. She comes whenever she can, despite significant physical obstacles. She asks me questions if something I’ve taught hasn’t been clear. And when she gets home, she downloads the Sunday school and sermon notes from the church website and pores over them, line by line, with her Bible open on her lap, filling her mind and her heart with the promises and commands of God.
And she voted for Obama.
And though I didn’t (even once!), I’m OK with that. Because she’s a reminder that the grace of God that has brought us together is greater than the forces that appear to be great enough to drive us apart—even to drive this great country to the brink of civil war.
May her tribe increase. May our churches be filled with people who disagree with me and you about really important things—politics, lifestyles, culture, food and drink, medical approaches, whatever—and who are drawn together as one body by the far more powerful grace of the God we are all determined to love more than anyone or anything else.
May people in our community who are angry, embittered, frustrated, frightened, hopeless see in our church clear evidence that there is a power that unites us that is infinitely greater than the nonsense around us—that our hope for today and tomorrow, as well as for eternity, is not in a president or a Congress or a Supreme Court, or even in violent confrontation in the streets, but in the one in whom we live and move and have our being—in the one whose will is done just as certainly on earth as it is in heaven.
When we mock political opponents, when we add to the national polarization, when we speak passionately about this world more than the next, we make the mighty grace of God look weak and even inconsequential. And then we wonder why our countrymen mock him.
God reigns. Why do so many of his people behave as though he doesn’t?