October 27, 2021
Other than a few local issues, we are spared the normal political onslaught that the end of October and beginning of November generally brings. In recent years it has felt as if the political season, unlike the hunting season, never ends. But, since we are not voting on a president, governor, or senator right now, this seems as safe a time as any to address this issue and to keep things before you. Seriously, there is a slight pause in me to even write this article because we are so suspicious of one another that we are consistently analyzing what is said, looking for a secret message, or hidden agenda. You may be wondering, what I am really getting at. That is a problem. Where did that come from and why? Therefore, before I talk to you about how we should swim in these waters, I need to talk about the water.
Your world is discipling you (at least it is trying). Beloved, take this to heart. Your world is trying to squeeze you into its mold for its own purposes. Technology is a big part of that disciple-making process. Every ding, buzz, notification, and update is designed to be a promise of information that leads to power, pleasure, or other things. The fact that some of you cannot live without your phone, without checking your social media throughout the day is evidence of how effective the discipling efforts have been. Your world is not just trying to tell you how to think, it is trying to manipulate you emotionally and train your reactions, actions, associations, buying habits, etc. There are hidden agendas at work; we often unwittingly participate in them. For example, in recent weeks, the operations of Facebook have been exposed more and more. The stories that pop up in your news feed are not only in response to your interests, but are stories designed, in many cases to light you up. They are also designed to reinforce what you already have a tendency to believe. This adds to the idea that my views are not only the right views, but that there are a lot of people who agree with me. Over time, this reinforces the tendency of our hearts to believe as if life is all about me anyway. If you are engaged emotionally, you will likely spend more time on the site, more time looking at ads, and of course providing more revenue to the host. This is repeated by talk shows (radio and TV), cable news stations, and other political media outlets. I am convinced that one of the major reasons why even Christians have been harsh with one another is because they have allowed the world to shape their responses. The world is trying to disciple us. It is trying to train us to be unforgiving, belligerent, hyper-opinionated, and divisive. Sadly, very, very sadly, it is working.
Last week a local pastor told me that a family left his church because other people were still wearing masks in the church and this family thought that was ridiculous, so they left. Now, stop the story, right there. How did you respond to that? What is the primary issue here? I will ask this again, what is the primary issue here? I will go ahead and say it. The primary issue is not whether or not people wear masks; but we tend to react as if it is. Do you find yourself agreeing with the guy who thinks that still wearing masks in church is stupid? That those who do are being duped by the CDC and you are sympathetic to his frustrations? Or, do you find yourself thinking that he is being an ignorant clod who will likely get Covid and pass it on to others? Do you see what has taken place? We tend to think that if someone doesn’t agree with me on masks (or vaccines, etc.) then I am justified in cutting them out of my life. When we think and react like that, we are evidence that the world has been effectively discipling us.
The issue of masks has faded to some degree. The issue of vaccines may fade. My point is this. There will always be issues that are not essential gospel issues. Your world wants to train you to divide yourself up based on non-essential issues and then lob hand grenades at everyone else, including fellow believers. Be very mindful of that. Be on guard against that. There is nothing supernatural about limiting your friendship to people who look exactly like you, and believe exactly like you on non-essential matters. There is something supernatural about being committed to one another in the gospel.
Now, there are some dear brothers and sisters in our church family with whom I have and continue to have wonderful conversations about masks, vaccines, and all things political. People send me articles, YouTube videos, etc. I enjoy the conversations and information they bring to the table, though I don’t have time to read and view everything that comes my way. In some cases, they agree with me, in some cases they believe stronger about something than I do, in some cases they have some information that they think is helpful for me and I welcome that. I think they know that our friendship is only strengthened and never threatened by it. As a pastor, I am trusted by some. I am a voice that, in preaching from the Bible, speaks the Word of God. But, the fact that I am right about the gospel, does not mean that I am right about everything else. Therefore, I have to be very careful and, as a pastor, I seek to stay in my lane. Confession here: I really don’t know if masks make that much difference and I really don’t know what the long-term ramifications of the Covid vaccines will be. But I know the gospel and am certain of that.
The walls of this house (church family) are gospel walls. That means that only through Christ are we members of this family and belong in the house. As members together, we are called to help one another not let the world squeeze us into its mold and resist its efforts to divide us up over non-essential matters. That is my agenda.
Grace and peace,
Sunday’s text: 1 Samuel 2:1-11