For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3: 27-29

 

There is one and only one point of convergence for all that truly matters in this world. No one and nothing other than Jesus Christ brings us together in ways that are valid and lasting. Yet people who claim Christ are not unified. We argue and disagree, and sadly, we too frequently do so over trivia, minutiae, and about third-rate issues of our understanding of Scripture and faith practice. Yet, there are other issues that are not unimportant and that should work to bring those of us who know Christ closer together rather than drive a wedge into our unity. Paul is identifying a major set of division creators from his days, and these would appear to be rather universal in that even after these two thousand years they and related issues continue to break apart people who claim faith in Christ.

 

Too many of these divisions are based upon worldly issues such as nationalism, protection of human institutions, the acquisition of wealth and power, care for the powerless, inclusion of the oppressed, and gender or racial equality and right treatment. The resolution of these long-standing issues should be found in our Lord’s presence and through the safety of spirit that comes in knowing Him to the degree that God is trusted to provide all. In the light of this eternal truth, we can all be people who give up our sense of protection and self-defense, and we can become people and therefore nations of people who operate out of a first-fruits giving state of heart that fears for nothing and that embraces all others without regard to their differences from us. Unfortunately for many of us this is not a quiet and passive sort of sit back and watch for the Lord to work form of commission from Christ.

 

When we move toward Christ, we also step ever more fully toward His cross. We step into the painful encounters and the hard decisions that He was forced to make in order to right the effects of the world’s sinful brokenness. Christ’s church has always been gathered together on that hill of suffering and pain where the cross is planted; yet, as we so gather we are also entering into our Lord’s victory over every power and all of the evil that operates in this world. In our days with their violence, oppression, and divisive currents of arrogant speech and legislation, we need to stand as the church of Christ in open and fearless opposition to all that is ungodly in our midst. Even the thought or the suggestion that racial superiority exists is wrong, the concept of protecting one’s nation at the cost of the lives of the oppressed is anti-God, failing to care for the poor and the weak regardless of the cost fails to recognize the Lord as our true provider, and the list goes on. We can choose to step out of our fears and our selfish concerns and journey together through our days as the church of Jesus Christ united in His Spirit and pouring out His grace, love, and mercy upon this desperate world. Or we can remain separated and apart.

 

This is a choice that we get to make. I believe that Christ does call upon His people to make it. These are defining days for each of us who know Christ as we make decisions about the way that we will conduct our lives. If we remain silent on the issues that are confronting our world today, we are saying that we accept the rhetoric, the actions, and the course that those in power at this moment dictate. This is not an acceptable course for Christ’s people or for His church. We should not fear the outcome of our actions when they are dictated by the truth of God’s Word, and we cannot continue to hold onto thoughts and concepts that stand in opposition to that same Word. We, Christ’s people and His church, must repent of our sinful acceptance of the world’s standards and views, turn to the Holy Scriptures and the Spirit for guidance, and step onto the common ground of the cross from which we will work under Christ’s direction and in His power to bring redemption and healing to this world.

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Whoever says he is in light but hates his brother is still in darkness.

James 2: 9

 

James is calling to everyone who knows Christ to examine our hearts and to listen to our own words in the process. This is serious business, for Jesus did not take the way that we treat each other lightly. He cared about and for all people without regard to the culturally determined divisions and without applying the usual tests of orthodoxy, safety, or comfortability. Jesus came into the world to love people in a manner that was exactly the same as that with which the Father loves us. This love is absolute, unconditional, and universal. It is poured out for all to accept and receive. It flows down from Christ’s cross of torture to cover the sinfulness of anyone who surrenders this life to Christ.

 

Yet, even as we exist in that state of forgiveness that brings about an unbreakable relationship with God, we are still imperfect with hearts and minds that are works in progress. Unfortunately we can do a great deal of harm to others while we are proclaiming that we know Christ while still living as if His life and its light of righteous truth were not in us. One of the places where this is most apparent is in the way that we engage with people who are different from us or who disagree with us. In simple terms, there is no room in God’s Kingdom for hate. We are not granted the right to judge others, and we do not hold the authority to determine who we should care about and for or where they should be allowed to dwell. Instead, Christ desires for His people to be open and to embrace the widely diverse appearances, cultures, and understandings of god that the people of this world bring to the dialogue of life.

 

To be clear, embracing and loving others does not mean compromise of faith; rather, it requires that we listen and seek to understand the story that our neighbor has to tell. It requires us to set aside fear and prejudice and to turn these natural responses over to Christ and submit them to Him in surrender to His cross. Although the act of faith that is expressed in loving others is undertaken in order to bring them into a relationship with Christ, it is also an important part of our own growth and transformation into Christ-like people. When we love people who make us uncomfortable or even ones who elicit fear within our hearts, we are trusting Christ to fulfill His promises to never leave us and to provide us with all that we need to follow Him in this world. When we speak fear and hatred, we deny Christ, and when we live out love, we proclaim Christ and His Kingdom of peace to our world.