Last week’s blog topic was understanding What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Today I want to talk about one of the most critical topics related to the Kingdom. Unity in the Kingdom.
As a reminder here’s what we learned from Jesus’ words about the Kingdom as recounted by Matthew and a couple of other Gospel authors. The Kingdom:
- Is mixed together with unbelievers like good seed or yeast. We are not separated from the world, but remain in the world to influence it.
- Its worth may not be immediately apparent, like the mustard seed that grows
- Is childlike in its innocence, faith, and subtlety
- Is characterized by the greatest being the least, and the least, the greatest.
- It rejects self-serving power and earthly kingdoms
- Is not of this world, it’s of another place
In summary, the Kingdom is the complete opposite of human power structures, upside down from earthly values, and works from the inside out in its influence. It is not of this world. It’s from another place. The Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus in you.
With that description, it is no wonder that The Kingdom of Heaven is of enormous value in God’s eyes, and that He would urge us to maintain unity at all costs.
As a man who has spent time living in 8 different decades in the U.S. (the first time I’ve ever typed those words), this is probably the most divisive time I’ve ever seen. Not only in the country, but also in the Church, the Bride of Christ. In other words, we see unusual disunity in The Kingdom of Heaven.
Several years ago, we learned a lesson in our weekly Journey men’s group. There is one topic that will cause dissension in a group, hurt feelings between members, or men leaving and groups disbanding. It’s not when a man shares he’s struggling with porn…or that his marriage is caving in… or that he is doubting God’s goodness…nor when a man says he’s no longer attending church.
Nothing will create divisiveness, offense or break community faster than disagreements over political partisanship. We learned that years ago the hard way. We lost good men when we allowed undisciplined men to make biased political statements.
As a result, our policy is there will be no political proselytizing; no politically charged statements in favor of, or opposed to, a candidate or party. Those are not just unwelcome. They are outlawed. We have no patience with them. Ever.
So, we avoid political divisiveness, but we don’t ignore the fact that we should be engaged as citizens. Today I will cautiously walk to the edge of the political precipice because as men of the Kingdom living in an extremely charged political season, we profoundly need wisdom. Not silence. And we need guidance in standing for unity.
We should feel free to express our opinion outside the Journey, with friends, on the street and in the voting booth or mail-in ballot. But we must not let our political persuasion harm our fellowship with another Christian, and certainly not with family.
As members of the Kingdom, we are ambassadors of a much greater cause. Our allegiance should be first and foremost to the Kingdom. Secondarily, most of us are members of some kind of nuclear family that we love. Following those, we are citizens of the US, or Canada or the UK, for you reading from there. Somewhere after those should come a priority of aligning ourselves with a political party or candidate.
The top of the allegiance list as a member of the Kingdom of Heaven is you are an ambassador of God, and a brother to every other person in the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, we Christians have elevated political candidates to a level of allegiance and fervent support as if they are the hope of the world. In doing so, we have elevated political partisanship above Christian unity.
Scripture is clear about this kind of human hero worship:
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
And I Cor. 3:1-4
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
Allow me to transliterate: Men, if you are arguing with each other you are being worldly! For when one says, “I follow Trump,” and another, “I follow Biden,” are you not mere human beings? We’re bigger than this. Or at least we should be.
Holding this kind of human allegiance and political partisanship in higher esteem than the Kingdom of Heaven, is typically human. It’s human, but it is not godly. Paul says, “You’re still worldly when you think this way. You’re still children.”
I had a personal experience with this kind of divisiveness this past week. I’ve been part of a group of Christian men meeting for over a year to share opinions on a wide range of political issues, with a view toward respectful dialogue and understanding those who differ from us. I know, it sounds crazy. But, what’s the worst that could happen?
Last week was the culmination of everything that group built with one another over many months. A Zoom room of us each shared who we are leaning toward voting for and why. We agreed on respect, no trying to change others’ opinions, no attacking, confidentiality. You can share with your wife, but no one else.
It was exceptionally unusual. We experienced genuinely civil discourse marked by godly respect.
Three days later I got an email from the wife of one of the men, making it clear in no uncertain terms that she was upset at my leaning. What followed was several paragraphs attacking the candidate I had shared. I felt relationally let down, intellectually disrespected and morally condemned.
So there we were. Brothers and sisters, members of the Kingdom of Heaven. Hurt, aggrieved, separated.
Of all weeks for this to happen, it’s when the topic at Journey is Unity in the Kingdom! Seriously? This week? Couldn’t this have happened next week?! This was either enormously coincidental or annoyingly ordained.
What ensued was two hours of us couples coming together, face to face in a safe place to do what the Bible says you do when you’re a Christ-follower:
- You speak the truth in love,
- You admit hurt in humility,
- You listen respectfully,
- You cry when it hurts,
- You apologize for what was intentional or unintentional, and they did,
- You forgive, and we did,
- You commit to loving better,
and in COVID-world you give ridiculously unsatisfying air hugs as you part.
The world, and its opposing candidates and platforms, knows very little about this kind of Kingdom behavior. We do! But far too often we follow the world’s lead. We not only disagree with each other, we accuse each other’s candidate of being the enemy. What are we thinking? We don’t need to think the same way, but we do need to learn how to disagree better.
Clearly, each candidate will guide us more in one positive direction than another. Each will also bring with him our great concern for the destruction that may follow. Each is sinful, limited and broken.
Men, your candidate, it doesn’t matter which he is, is not ultimately the hope of the world, and he’s truly not the hope of the United States. Our candidates are just flawed men, in a very dysfunctional system, in a nation that is convulsed in exceptional chaos. This election is a hot mess, in a dumpster fire, in the middle of a train wreck. (To borrow one commentator’s description of the first debate). The Kingdom of Heaven is the hope of the world.
So we vote as best we can. But we remember neither one is our ultimate hope. And neither one is your enemy.
Do you know who your enemy actually is? I John 5:19 tells us: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
Do you have any question as to whether the evil one is in control? Romans 8 makes it very clear.
Romans 8:22, 23– “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.“
8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.“
We may think we are in the political battle of our lives. The much bigger story is we are in the spiritual battle of, not just the century or millennium, but of the history of mankind. And we have been since the Garden.
We all suffer from the control of the evil one. The Enemy is in control. Is there ever a year in our lives when that was more evident?
- All Creation is groaning! With disease, firestorms and hurricanes.
- We first fruits are groaning, under civil divisiveness and bitter splits from friends and family.
- Even the Spirit himself groans on our behalf.
But let me be very clear. Yes, the Bible says the evil one is in control, but God is in charge.
- He sovereign. He is almighty.
- He writes the last sentence in the last chapter.
- Whenever he chooses to, He yanks the rug, pulls the plug, stops the horror story, and brings it to the end.
Not just AN end. THE end. The Enemy may be in control, but God is in charge.
Until then, we who are members and ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven remember Eph. 6:10-18:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The armor that protects us is not of the world. It is:
- the belt of truth
- the breastplate of righteousness
- the gospel of peace
- the shield of faith
- the helmet of salvation
- the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The world smirks at those ideas as weapons of war. The Enemy shudders. He knows their power. In the end, these are the attributes that will win the war of all wars.
We represent another Kingdom. One that is not of this world. Elevating any mayor, governor, senator, representative or presidential candidate to a position where we view him as the sole representative of the Kingdom defiles the integrity of the Kingdom.
Doing so reminds me of Jesus’ response when he found money lenders, cheats and frauds in the temple. He tossed them out. He said in effect, Don’t you dare defile my father’s house with these cheats!
I think Jesus would say the same about elevating political candidates to the level of spiritual authority or our source of all hope. Wait a minute, men, isn’t God actually in charge? Isn’t He our source of hope? We defile the honor of the Kingdom by dragging it through human politics.
So how do we respond in the middle of as intense an election season of our lives? I’ve never given any voting advice to any group of men in any public setting. And I won’t start here. I simply urge that we members of the Kingdom of Heaven keep a few things in mind:
- Vote. You’re a citizen, you have the right to express your opinion. Do it.
- As best you can, be informed. Read, watch, listen to more than one source of perspective on each candidate to hear a full story, not just the one you already agree with. Intellectual integrity requires this.
I also suggest we keep in mind that history shows us that the most significant event, accomplishment or error the next president will make is not even on the horizon:
- No one voted Trump in because he would be the best guide through a global pandemic.
- No one voted Obama into office because he would be the most experienced economic guide in the chaos of a Great Recession.
- No one elected Bush 2 because he clearly was the best one to respond to 9/11.
- No one voted Clinton in because he was obviously the one to bring moral integrity to the Oval Office.
- No one elected Bush 1 because he was, of course, the best to lead a world-wide coalition in the Gulf War.
Don’t limit your choice solely based on the obvious current polarized controversies. Consider, who is the one whose judgment, experience and team you would trust for the completely unknown challenge that’s just over the horizon.
We have a higher authority and allegiance than worldly, political or even American values. Ours are for the Kingdom. Galatians 5 describes worldly values vs. values of the Kingdom. We might ask ourselves, as ambassadors of the Kingdom, what spirit describes me?
- “Impurity, hatred, discord, rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. “
Galatians says, “Those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Lord, would you please guide me, and us, more toward Kingdom values of:
- “Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.”
Those qualities reveal the Kingdom to those who are watching.
In this super-charged political season our spirit, our voice, and our choice can have an impact. Neither candidate is everything we wish he was. But he is one of two men we need to choose from for an enormous task. So, we do. And then we commit to pray for him once he is in office, that it might go well with him. So that it might go well for our nation.
When we do, we do so believing God is actually in charge and He is our hope. And we do so respectfully toward those brothers and sisters who think differently than we do.
We will elevate the Kingdom over the party. We will elevate Christian unity over political partisanship.
As we move through this election season and its aftermath, let’s take to heart Paul’s words in Philippians 2 to the church in Philippi, and apply them to our mindset:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!“
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.