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“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 the United States elected Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. His election was immediately followed by the tanking of the stock market, which quickly stabilized and even reached record highs. However, what still remains is a deeply divided country where each side is asking, “How did we get here?”
The political elites are evaluating this new reality; conservatives and “the establishment” are stunned; and Democrats are viewing the autopsy of a failed election cycle. I wonder though if we, the church, will be introspective in light of the election results. With 80 percent of white evangelicals voting for Donald Trump, while most ethnic Christians voted against him (as opposed to for Hillary Clinton), it is clear that the church is deeply divided in its political convictions if not its fellowship in Christ. Furthermore, as this election bore us very little policy discussion by either major party candidate, the questions of character and identity were thrust to the forefront. Yes, the country is divided, but equally as true are the age-old schisms that characterize aspects of the church.
Who are we as the church? What are our expectations of our world leaders? What do we want? I would strongly assert that most Christians want a world that acknowledges God, a place where everyone from all walks of life can experience redemption, freedom, and their best life here on earth. These are true, notable, and God-given desires. However, the church has been guilty of placing the onus on governments and world leaders to show us the way. The truth is that WE, the body of Christ, were meant to lead the reforming and redemption efforts of the world…and we were called to lead by example instead of solely relying on rhetoric. How can we be a model of freedom and equality to the world when sexism, racism, and classism infect the church as well as the culture? How can we place blame on corrupt worldly systems, when there is an absence of a unified church that compels systematic change by our success instead of our diverse (and in some cases perverse) motives?
This election cycle has provided us with an opportunity to evaluate the questions of church identity and church functionality in this world. Will we remain divided because we would rather embrace silence instead of engaging in the hard work of unity? Is our political power and acceptance more important than the complete works of salvation, redemption, and restoration? Is silence the price of church membership and genuine acceptance for the marginalized, diverse, and discouraged?
I know that I have asked a bunch of tough questions…and I don’t intend to provide the answers. The facts upon which our answers must be based are as follows: (1) The body of Christ was built to lead the world in salvation, deliverance, freedom, and restoration. (2) The church does its most effective work when we are unified; and (3) Unity is a hard task that requires commitment and authentic conversation geared towards eventual reconciliation. It requires a commitment to empathy and understanding, as well as speaking the truth in love. Yes, the church is deeply divided and as a result our effectiveness has been limited. However, we do not have to remain in this state. We have been built to do better and will be afforded the grace to work towards better. The question is, Will we “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace?”
God, we collectively stand as your representative in the earth. Everything you make is holy and powerful, including the church. Thank you for the awesome privilege to be part of your church that includes all nations, tribes, and tongues. We desperately need your grace to preserve the unity that you require of us. Teach us how to love. Teach us how to forgive. Teach us how to listen. Teach us how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Give us strength to walk daily toward the reconciling and restoring work of Christ Jesus, until we become the fullness of what you envisioned when you established the church. Thine is still the Kingdom, the power, and glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: God’s Grand Plan: A Practical Guide (Ephesians 4:1–6:24)
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