Today’s environment is incredibly disparate, with lines being drawn and divides manifesting themselves everywhere we look. From churches to jobs to family conversations, we are acutely aware of the positions and oppositions of others, particularly their politics and beliefs.
Tim Keller once said our world is polarizing around religion. And what he was getting at was the political divide of conservatism vs. liberalism was actually a battleground of values, a battleground that has spilled into the public square and the pulpit and now the personal lives of others. This has produced a lot of hurt, which, in turn, has led to anger and fear and even hatred.
And here we stand at the edge of 2020, with ingrained disunity in every domain we live in and little hope of it ending. Our future is mistrust and our hope is perhaps winning the day in regards to the current culture war. In short, 2020 doesn’t seem to be a New Year but an extension of the years before it.
While some might feel at home here, most us want something different. We want a measure of peace and to feel that this world is as it is supposed to be. And what has been the source of the current divide (faith and values) is perhaps the only hope in closing the rift.
We have all (conservatives and liberals) fought a war that perhaps should not have been started. I don’t mean we should not have stood up for rights or life or against injustices we see in our country, but we have reached too quickly to impose rather than influence. We have not kept an eye on the goal of peace with each other and God, but have often devolved to focusing on secondary priorities and outcomes that he may want for this world.
Jesus, as he walked this earth, was acutely aware of the divides human nature manifests. He is arguably the most divisive figure in history, and that began with his life and the controversy his divinity created while walking among humanity. And rather than ignore or incite the gaps, he instead called his disciples to mend them.
Jesus began his greatest recorded sermon (the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7) with beatitudes, or proclamations, identifying the values of the kingdom of God. And in Matthew 5:9, he proclaims, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” And what Jesus is communicating is those who make peace with others and between others is a child (or representative) of God himself, and that peacemaking is the greatest kingdom work we are called to.
In other words, the umbrella of our conduct as Christians is first reconciliation before reformation. Jesus was calling his disciples to preach good news of the kingdom that manifests a way back to God for those far from him, which, in turn, brings peace to each another. And what is implied is those who make war and needlessly exasperate divides are unqualified, and more importantly unable, to protect the very kingdom of God they claim to propagate.
The gospel message brings peace because in it many people are made one through one man dying for many people. In the gospel message, we don’t have one liberal and one conservative savior but the only son of God dying on a cross to bring reconciliation to a divided world. He died for the very divides we have created between God and amongst ourselves and, in turn, calls us to bring this peace to others in 2020.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Fred Kingman is the pastor of Prodigal Church.