Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crossing the Political Bridge to Nowhere

Photo by Katie Martinez
Did you and/or your Christian friends or family vote for Obama and support his policies? Or perhaps you and/or your relatives and colleagues are ardent Christians who support the tea party.

Most Christians probably know believers on either side, and we ourselves likely have strong political views informed by our faith. Yet to keep from arguing, we avoid discussing our differences. That's why I've been wrestling with how believers in Jesus Christ can be so far apart on how to best help the poor, support the family, take care of orphans and so forth. Both sides can't be biblical or can they?

This past month, I've been reading a book by a well-known Christian leader. It's taking me awhile to finish because I disagree with much of what he has to say. In my opinion, he's offensive and judgmental with a lack of respect for Christians who don't agree with his politics. In my opinion, he makes overgeneralizations about people and oversimplifies the issues. However, I don't doubt his transformative journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. And his willingness to sacrifice for his beliefs. If he heard my story, I hope he'd feel the same about me. Yet from the ways his views were communicated, I suspect we hold very different positions on many justice issues.

So I'm pondering the question--is the political divide between Christians too great to cross. Is the idea of unity simply a bridge to nowhere? In 1 Corinthians 13:25 Paul writes "that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another." I'm fairly certain that means, we need unity to function properly. Going way beyond polite small talk, God expects His children to be a living temple honoring and glorifying to Him. How can we be that temple when we are at such odds we can't even discuss important issues?

Maybe we should start with conversations that revolve around the common ground that trumps our divisions--Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Reading the Christian leader's story has been softening my heart and helping me appreciate the good things he has to say on justice matters. That's why I'm determined to finish his book. This man's heart for compassion surely exceeds mine, and I'm learning some things I didn't know. If we interacted, perhaps he could learn some things from me, too. But before that can happen, we'd have to start communicating.

God's view on biblical justice should bring His children together. To achieve unity, we'll certainly have to work harder to understand the biblical position and the lessons God's been teaching each of us. With His ways so much higher than man's, our human view is far too small..

King Solomon got it right when he asked for the wisdom to understand justice. 1 Kings 3:10-12 elaborates: "It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself [discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you" (emphasis mine).

There will never be another Solomon. He alone had the wisdom to understand justice. Now I wonder if believers might gain increasing comprehension by pooling our biblical insights. What if God gave some of us certain components (such as compassion and empathy) and others different aspects (such as practical applications). Could combining a variety of biblical views produce a fuller understanding of God's "righteousness," which Scripture often mentions in the same breath as justice? What if by learning from each other, we began cultivating the discernment of Solomon?

This king resolved complex justice issues in ways that have spanned the globe and the ages of time. Who would threaten to cut a baby in half so its rightful mother would protect its life by rescinding her claim?  His approach went beyond the ordinary. So did Hannah More's.

Photo by Katie Martinez
Rather than focus on the infighting Hannah More built "bridges with others vastly different from herself. Many of the longstanding institutions, structures, and hierarchies of More's world were—like many today—crumbling. Rather than quail in the face of such challenges, More strengthened herself through faith and friendship. She provides a timely example for Christian women [and men] today, who likewise find ourselves in a culture marked by shifting roles and assumptions."

In the process More was instrumental in fighting alongside William Wilberforce against slavery. She
worked to increase literacy among the poor--one of today's most effective weapons to keep men, women, and children from becoming the targets of traffickers. Much was accomplished as More worked alongside "co-belligerents of divergent political and religious affiliation, including Quakers, liberals, freethinkers, and unbelievers."

Shouldn't believers view unity as the means toward the ends of justice? By working together in unity we, too, could overcome mountainous obstacles turning a political bridge to nowhere into a biblical bridge to a far better place for those in need of justice.

What do you think? What should be the focus for Christians when it comes to a biblical view of justice?

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