Tonight I made a delicious dinner of Five-Spice Ribs in my Instant Pot. I ate alone because I had homework to do and my family was out of the house for a couple of hours. As I ate, I had to pick through the typical stuff you encounter when eating ribs: bone, fat, etc. (Sorry vegans. But I do have a point here.) At the end of the meal I had a small pile of the undigestibles on my plate and I immediately scraped them into the trash.
But, despite the effort, I thoroughly enjoyed the tender, juicy, flavorful meat I pulled off those bones. Later, when my family came home and dug in to their meals, I was able to trust that they were able to do the same, for they learned how to “chew and spit” a long time ago.
Recently, as our country has devolved into unkindness and Pharasaical name-calling, I have been disheartened over and over by the polarization of the people who should be reflecting unity in Christ. The narrative says, if you vote Democrat, you want to kill babies and are effectively ushering in the Great Tribulation. If you vote Republican, you support injustice and hate minorities. If you vote third-party, not only did you waste your vote, but by doing so you also want to kill babies and are ushering in the Great Tribulation because you took a vote away from the guy who should have won.
Then there are the comments and discussions following various social media posts. One I can recall was a video by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer. Actually, he only introduced the actual speaker but his picture is on the YouTube thumbnail so, by default, he is “guilty.” I am not going to get into my personal opinion of the video because it doesn’t really matter. But I am addressing the response of the people of God to things like this and, friends, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
I couldn’t believe the number of calls to “boycott Veggie Tales” and the statements of “I’m throwing out all my Veggie Tales videos and never letting my kids watch them again.” (Veggie Tales videos are not even produced any more. But what does him hosting this video have to do with Bob and Larry?) Most ridiculous were the comments that questioned his salvation. Yes, the perception that Phil thinks who becomes president won’t actually affect the abortion numbers caused people to question his salvation. He has never said he supported abortion, not one time that I have ever heard, and I listen to his podcast regularly. He just differs in how he thinks we can best fight it. Whether you agree or not, he has the right to his opinion.
Then my daughter and I were scrolling through old music videos on Apple TV. We laughed and laughed as we watched terrible, poorly produced, but highly memorable throwbacks from my childhood. We then found a new album by one of the ’90’s artists, Avril Lavigne. She had apparently released a “Christian” song a few years ago that was moderately successful. Later, I believe on the same album, she had a song entitled, “I Fell in Love with the Devil.” News articles abounded regarding the song, with the comments BY CHRISTIANS accusing her of everything from “needing Jesus” to devil worship.
Here’s the thing: The song was about a bad relationship. A toxic boyfriend. (I experienced that when I was young and am pretty sure I would have used the word, “Devil,” to describe him, too.)
Christians, what is wrong with us? Who among us has a 100% correct opinion on everything all the time? Where is our humility? Our teachability? Our love? Have we lost all ability to be discerning?
To “chew and spit?”
When I ate those ribs, that’s exactly what I had to do. I also have to do it when I read, listen or watch any sort of media. I have to filter everything through the lens of the gospel. There will not be one author/speaker/teacher that I agree with all the time. To throw out the book, to turn off the video or refuse to ever watch or listen to anything with their name on it again because I disagreed with an opinion is perpetuating a false binary within which none of us can truthfully exist. When I listen to someone’s opinion, I can value their intellect, pull out the truth within what I hear, and chew on it. I can also recognize the bones and spit them out without discarding the entire meal and starving to death as a result.
Christians, we are spiritually starving. We are allowing social media and cancel culture to create a customized version of the world on a 3×6 inch screen that fools us into believing everyone agrees with us. They don’t. If we are only injesting what we agree with, we are not really thinking intelligently but blindly following the leader right off a cliff. We are coming across as cold, unloving jerks and the gospel of Jesus Christ is suffering greatly because of it.
Speaking of suffering…
Why, exactly, are we here? I mean, as Christians in this generation. What is our purpose within the Kingdom agenda of God?
Where does the gospel thrive? To be honest. It’s not in Sunday school or in Women’s Bible study small groups. Friends, the gospel thrives under persecution. And we are terrified of persecution. In fact, we are willing to let the world around us go to Hell to avoid it.
Don’t get me wrong…I understand not wanting to suffer. I fear pain and the process of dying, especially at the hands of a violent and evil killer. But do we believe what the Bible says is coming down the pike for us? Y’all, things are not going to get better. The end of days is coming, is closer than it has ever been, and if we are alive when it does it is going to be ugly, hard, and painful.
Are we so caught up in trying to preserve our Christian freedoms that we have forgotten God’s #1 agenda is to grow the Church, to save the lost? In the United States, the church is dying. But, in parts of the world where identifying with the name of Christ is a death sentence? It is thriving.
Maybe God is setting things up for the American church to find out what China has known for years…persecution exponentially grows the Church. Not church buildings or programs. Not conference attendance, Christian music, or book sales, but the CHURCH…the Bride of Jesus Christ. Did you know that Chinese Christians actually pray for us to experience persecution? Because they know. And they are spiritually rich.
Friends, sinners are going to sin. Do you remember your life before you met Christ? I do. I was miserable, in sin, and afraid. It was the kind love of women who understood my struggles and loved me despite my failures that opened my heart to finally receive the love of God. We are spending so much time decrying the evils of our culture (and, yes, there is rampant evil all around us) that we forget the PEOPLE behind the behaviors. Sin has terrible consequences. It trickles down, wounding and crippling generations. People live in bondage and hopelessness, but God tells us that He is a God of justice. How does that play out in real life?
Maybe one thing we can do is stop making ourselves judge and jury. What if we love the lost and wrap the arms of Jesus around them, trusting God to address their “issues” just like he has addressed ours? (Remember your issues? I sure do remember mine. Still wrestling through some of them, in fact.) What if, when we vote, we are no longer wielding our freedom as a weapon to ensure we get what we deserve, (or placing our hope in a man or system that is broken) but instead consider the great needs around us and vote to better the life (as much as possible) of the people God loves? Because, hello? The lost? He loves them. Passionately. Jealously. Sacrifically. We are supposed to embody the love of Christ in how we love one another and love the lost. If we stopped the infighting then maybe, just maybe, His love flowing through us will get the right kind of attention and bring the lost to a place where they realize the extravagant, ridiculous, undeserved love of a God who, while we were still sinners, died for them.
And for us.
Because without Christ we are all depraved.
But with Christ? Well, we should be treating all people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us, a whole lot better than we do.
With love, respect, and kindness.
No matter their stance on…anything.
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. ButRomans 12:9-21 (HCSB)
If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.