As if there hadn’t already been enough divisiveness within the country, the now forgotten pandemic ushered in yet another reason to pick a side, hunker down, and lob verbal assaults. Mask – no mask; vaccine – no vaccine; closures – no closures; lockdowns – no lockdowns.
Perhaps somewhat of an anomaly, I feared neither the virus nor the vaccine. My angst was economic in nature and the impact the disease would have on the job market. Though that concern no longer carries any weight, it has now been supplanted by a new, more significant matter. It’s one of mistaken identity.
The pandemic accelerated what was already a growing confusion amongst some evangelicals as to who they truly are. Rather than seeing themselves as resident aliens, temporarily navigating a world not their own, too many have mistakenly taken up citizenship on this side of Glory. They see themselves first and foremost as Americans—the country’s conservative stalwarts to be exact—not disciples of Christ. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not one in the same.
Jesus didn’t humble Himself at Calvary to save us from those who threaten our Constitutional freedoms. No, He humbled Himself to save us from ourselves. Jesus didn’t die a vicious death so that we could have our way in the courts and at the ballot box. No, He died so He could have His way in our hearts and minds. Jesus didn’t forfeit His life to secure our right to worship Him. No, He forfeited His life to secure our desire to worship Him despite the persecution faced. Jesus wasn’t pierced so we could fill our affections with idols, however noble some might be. No, He was pierced to kill those idols and fill our affections with His glory.
If you are a blood-bought believer, this is why the Lord did what He did. He came to rescue our souls and prepare us for our true, eternal home. Be reminded that this required He take His enemies’ hostilities and level them with His irresistible grace. That enemy was you and me. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22, ESV).
With the same tenacity Jesus used in pursuing us in our darkness, He commands you and I to pursue others in theirs. In other words, we must spread the gospel but with special focus on those who are antagonistic toward it. It will require that we become reacquainted with Ephesians 2. It’s an important reminder that we too were once sons (daughters) of disobedience and in desperate need of mercy.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (1-5, ESV)
Because America is not our lord, defending the principles from which it was formed cannot be our chief aim. As precious as those rights are, they pale in comparison to the greater joy set before us. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t press for policy that seeks to protect long enjoyed liberties and Christ-honoring truths. But, as we have our political debates, we must remember that the person with whom we are interacting was also made in the image of God and has a soul in need of saving. We must recognize that our core identity is not ultimately tied to judicial decisions and legislative outcomes. It’s tied to Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. It’s tied to the glories of not this life but the next.
May we take the unmerited favor the Savior bestowed upon us and extend it to others, particularly our adversaries. May we humbly articulate how precious Jesus truly is, making clear the greater joy that awaits those who abide in Him.