My wife and I were talking recently about America’s divisive socio-political landscape. COVID and protests have exacerbated division but did not create it. Division exists in each of us because human nature is prone to sin.
Strident exchanges are everywhere. As usual, social media is the great bullhorn, amplifying every discourtesy and difference. Even between Christians, strong stands are taken about COVID, masking mandates, racism, supporting police or not…on and on.
Strong stands are biblical and needed sometimes. Free speech in America owes its existence, in some measure, to the Judeo-Christian tradition of prophets. Prophets need no pedigree or government position. God can speak to and through whomever He chooses. God is no respecter of persons. If He needs to confront someone, it doesn’t matter if they are king or peasant.
The Bible does not support me, however, in the unbridled use of my tongue (James 3:1-12). When I speak for myself, I’m on my own. Jesus said on the day of judgment we’ll be accountable for every idle word we’ve spoken (Matt. 12:36). I am confident most public discourse—whether between individuals on social media or leaders on the news—will not pass muster on that day.
Thankfully, we are only human, and forgiveness is inexhaustible in Christ. Even so, followers of Jesus are called to something higher than wagging our tongues.
Jesus’s original 12 disciples—the apostles—were quite a group. Some were uneducated fishermen, like Peter. Matthew had some education and worked as a tax collector for the Roman empire. Simon was part of a Jewish activist group called Zealots that wanted to overthrow Rome. Some disciples had more economic means than others.
From a socio-political standpoint, the disciples were anything but homogenous. We know they argued about who would be the greatest disciple (Luke 9:46). One wonders what else they debated. Did Matthew and Simon get into it over Rome’s occupation of Israel? Was there disdain for the fishermen who were less educated, less well-off? Did the poorer disciples resent Matthew for taking their money for Rome? No such conversations were recorded so we can only guess. But it’s not a stretch to think such discussions happened.
Regardless of who they were, Jesus leveled them with the same call: “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). (Incidentally, this is just 20 verses before the disciples argued about who was the greatest. Clearly, this didn’t sink in right away).
Jesus must hold more sway over me than my opinions about masks, racism, politics, economics, or anything else. Jesus doesn’t require me to abandon all my thoughts and perspectives when I become His disciple. But I must be prepared to leave anything when following Him demands it; I must be prepared to walk away from any viewpoint, group, cause, person, job, or ________ (fill in the blank).
Only such single-minded devotion to Jesus could mold the disciples into a cohesive group. Nothing has changed for disciples today. What vies with Jesus for my devotion? Politics? Family? Career path? In the church, we need each other to keep our priorities and loyalties focused. Only one is King, God, and Christ; only one is all in all.