Originally this article set out to address the refugee crisis we are currently dealing with in the United States, but the more I wrote (and re-wrote) the more I realized the issues I was writing about ran much deeper than the refugee issue.
Before I continue, it needs to be noted that I’ve both written and promoted a tremendous amount of positive-minded content on the church. Overall, I’m optimistic about the Lord’s church. Noting practices, I find troubling today does not change that (because I believe they are habits that can be changed). I write this out of love for the church. Only by examining and shoring up our weaknesses can we begin to be who the Lord intends us to be.
Our Inability to Have Discourse
I wanted to be sure I started out with this because I have a feeling I’m going to be disagreed with a lot today. The good news is, that’s perfectly okay. Disagreements are wonderful things. Exchanging different ideas and points of view help us grow, both as individuals and societies. Unfortunately, this is an exchange that doesn’t often have an opportunity to take place anymore.
Those on the left (beware, generalizations ahead) have killed the exchange of ideas through methods like insulting those who disagree (“bigot,” “homophobe,” etc.), accusing others of cultural appropriation, and forcing politically correct terms into our vocabulary. Those on the right have swung to the other side, dismissing arguments through straw-man Facebook memes and name calling (“snowflake,” “SJW,” etc.). Both sides believe the other is at fault for the breakdown in communication. The truth is, as a nation we’ve lost the ability to have civil disagreements. Everything has become a knock-down, drag-out fight. Every hill has become a hill to die on. Instead of trying to grow, we’re just trying to win arguments.
Where did that ability go? I don’t know, but we need it back. We seem to be more divided now than ever before (except for that time we fought an actual war against each other). We must learn to listen, concede when we’re wrong, disagree with grace, and admit when we’re ignorant. A future where Christians cannot have civil discourse with the world is a scary one for the church.
Let’s face it; sometimes we love our nation more than we love our neighbors. The refugee crisis we’re dealing with right now is a good example of this. Most of the arguments I’m seeing from Christians right now in favor of keeping the refugees out are based on 1) fear (more on that later) and 2) protecting our country. The most common arguments I’ve seen revolve around the supposed well-being of the United States, not the church or Christianity, but America.
We were not put here to fight for this nation. We were put here to live for Jesus and share His gospel, and that goes for every Christian no matter what nation we’re from. I’m scared that we’re putting a lot more into our fight for this nation than in our fight for God. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they can be. I love this nation too, but we must be sure we don’t love this nation more than the people around us who are hurting and in need of a Savior.
Our Trust in Politics
I’m glad a Republican won the election because if he hadn’t it would’ve signaled the end of Christianity as we know it…at least that’s what I was told by the majority of the Christians I associate with. For all the jokes we make about how government doesn’t work, we sure do put a lot of faith in it.
I’m scared that many of us truly believe that it’s those in the White House who protect Christianity. Should we pray that our leaders allow us to live the Christian life? Absolutely (1 Tim. 2:1-4), but that’s not what I’m talking about here. It’s one thing to pray that our leaders would allow us to practice our Christianity; it’s another to believe that the government is the entity that allows Christianity to continue. Church, it’s not the government’s job to carry out Christianity, it’s ours. Christians are not made when laws are crammed down people’s throats. Christians are made when we live out our Christianity and invite others to join. We have to stop trusting that the government will bring Christian change to America and start trusting that God will bring the change through us. Politics will fail us, but God never will.
Fear seems to be the great motivator of our generation. The media tells us that there is terror, gun violence, and rape around every corner. Those that aren’t afraid of gun violence buy loads of guns to protect themselves from the things they are afraid of. Those who liked Sen. Clinton talked about the fear of having Mr. Trump as president, and those who liked Mr. Trump ran on the fear of having Sen. Clinton as president. We are a nation swept by fear, and unfortunately, many Christians have been caught up in the hysteria.
As I noted above, one of the most common arguments against allowing refugees into the country is because of the fear of those terrorists that would sneak through. We fear what will happen to Christianity based on who is elected. Fear of rejection has affected our evangelism, and fear of failure has plagued the leadership in many of our churches.
A lot of the things Jesus have asked us to do are scary. Loving our enemies is scary. Going into all the world is scary. Trusting in God through job loss, and sickness and in opening your home to strangers is scary. Transparency with others about your sinful past is scary. Christians are asked to live and serve in fear but commanded not to respond with it.
To his disciples, Jesus commanded faith over fear (Mt. 10:28) even in the face of death. Christians today are to live in faith knowing that no matter the issue, God will provide and protect (Heb. 13:5-6). A church motivated by fear is a church that cannot carry out its calling. The world can be afraid all it wants to be, but through Jesus, we have faith that things will be better. We must share that, and we cannot unless we abandon our fear.
These actions, if left un-checked, will destroy the church’s ability to reach those in our community. Bright days are ahead of the church, but only if we rid ourselves of our inability to discuss, our love of nation over neighbor, our trust in politics, and our fear.