The state of social media is a mess. News reports of COVID-19 numbers, peaceful or violent protests, or anything political triggers the launch of emotion into action.
Perhaps the most discouraging element of the current plight is the Church seems to be in the center of this enraged entanglement. Holders of one opinion heartily hurl epithets of suspicion and anger toward holders of differing opinions, believing themselves to be defenders of the “true faith.”
There is hope, however! This is not the first era of political protest in US history. Those who are 60+ may remember the events of 1968 and violence spilling into the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. There was also strident division in the early years of the church. Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia provides a glimpse into the fiery division that had overtaken followers of the way. What Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia can help us climb out of this pit of darkness and division today.
The surface issues of 2020 may be different than those of 40 AD, but the source of division is the same. Today, people argue about the definition of, and perhaps the biblical application of, the concept of justice. Christians fiercely argue that “true believers” can only vote for or against certain political candidates. The visible issue Paul addressed in Galatia may have been circumcision, but the root of their division was personal pride! It was their pride that motivated a demand that their opinion was correct.
So, it is our pride in 2020 that demands fealty to our opinions. “Counting on circumcision to make you right with God (Galatians 5:2),” in 40 AD is akin to counting upon the 2020 opinion of a Presidential candidate being exactly God’s opinion. The grace of God, embodied in the death and resurrection of His son Jesus, was the only source of righteousness in 40 AD, and so it is today!
Our 21st century work in social justice (regardless of how right we believe it to be) will be of no more benefit to us as we stand before God than a first century Christian’s reliance upon circumcision. Our effort as a pro-life activist (regardless of how right we believe it to be) will be of no more benefit to us as we stand before God than a first century Christian’s reliance upon circumcision. To use the apostle’s phrasing, if we believe being a Never-Trumper is God’s favored position, we have been cut off from Christ (Gal 5:4). Likewise, if we believe God’s favor comes by holding onto traditional Christian positions, we have been cut off from Christ. Those are tough words, but we need to heed them.
Why have we surrendered living in the freedom of eager expectation that comes through God’s righteousness in His grace? Why have we embraced the misery that attends enraged entanglements? Who cut in on us as we were running the race? Who has fooled us into relying upon our rightness rather than upon His grace? Who has bound us into the role of angrily denouncing others?
Listen to the apostle, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Gal 5:13-15)
May we choose to live in the freedom of eager expectation over the bondage that attends enraged entanglement!