Community in a Political Season

Right now is a challenging time to relate to other people, in my opinion. I’ll be talking to someone at church or work or school, and the conversation will turn in the slightest direction where it may head toward politics, and I’ll feel it. Not every time or every person, but you know it when it is coming. There is a shift in the air. A tension and what feels like an underlying anger. Suddenly where our conversation was light and full of life, it becomes something different. And it will happen. The person will lean in, speak quietly, and state some joke, position or assumption about politics, confident that I share their fears and frustrations.

And the truth is, I don’t. I’ll say something noncommittal, change the subject. Try to return the conversation to the million things we agree upon. But the tension remains. The person I am talking to may have expected me to join in or pile on, but I didn’t, and it has thrown them. My attempt to change the conversation has surprised them. And they’ll soon walk away.

And there it is – disunity.


I feel outside. Other. Less than. Because I don’t share a political leaning – I am no longer in community like I would be if I did.

And that’s been a hard feeling to live with this political season. I’m not sure why my friends walk away, maybe they feel exposed or embarrassed? Maybe they are questioning me? I’m not sure. But it happens on both sides of the aisle.

So I don’t speak up about politics even though I have a point of view. Because over and over this election, I have heard friends throw down the gauntlet and say something like “In this election, you can’t be a Christian and vote ________________” or, “In this election, you can’t be a woman and vote _______________.”

And I disagree.

I am a Christian, and a woman, and I do approach the world with a Biblical worldview, and I am very engaged with politics, but I still contend that this election isn’t as simple as some people make it. This election is hard and complicated and I don’t see a savior anywhere in our political arena worthy of saying, “If you don’t vote for this person – you aren’t a true follower of Christ or a real woman.”

I don’t feel that either party represents me as a Christian or as a woman perfectly, so I can understand the rationalization for compromising to vote for either one of our less-than-ideal choices this election. Because of this, you are my brother and my sister if you are the bluest of blues or the reddest of reds. No candidate and no party platform fully encapsulates my views just as no political division overcomes our commands to love one another and live in unity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:2-6

I don’t think a political stance is worthy of disunity. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the disunity is an indicator that our political views trump our Kingdom view. Because our commands to love each other and respect the authority under which we are governed were given by men living in an actual police state. We think we have it bad – our environment is a carnival compared to the Roman occupation under which Jesus was crucified. And yet Jesus said to be known by our love and to render unto Caesar and Paul said to live in unity. A presidential race in the US in 2012 is not a worthy reason for Christians to walk away from one another or grow cold toward each other. After the election of President Obama in 2008, someone wrote on Facebook “To give him the power to destroy us is just as dangerous as to give him the power to save us” and I wholeheartedly agreed with that and add Romney’s name to it as well. There is no perfect candidate in this election, and there is no perfectly evil candidate – neither can save or condemn.

Jesus saves. Jesus brings peace. Jesus heals. Jesus provides. Because of Jesus, we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28).

So can we please quit walking away from each other and growing cold toward each other for something so temporal? Who cares if others don’t share our view? Walking away and growing cold makes us small – and we are not small. We are children of Jesus, brothers and sisters who will live together forever in the land of our King, and the things which unify us are a million times stronger than the things which divide us. The enemy divides – Jesus unifies. Let’s join him in that.

Jesus, help us. We deeply desire to live righteous lives, and your command to live in the world but not of it is such a hard command to follow. This world seems all-encompassing and confusing. Please help us. We want to be light – please show us how to do that. It is hard when our self-interest and opinions and “rights” crowd into our perspective. Please help us, convict us and lead us. Please unleash your Holy Spirit to speak truth to us and use us for Your great glory to share truth with others. Please forgive us where we get it wrong. Please help us remove the barriers and cross the divide in relationships grown cold. Please unify your church. Please help us to love. We know you are in control – that you place kings in places of authority and remove them when their time is up. We trust you. Please protect, guide and lead those who lead us. We are in great need of you individually, in our churches and communities, and nationally. You are the source of all that is good in our world, and we need more of you everyday.

*By the way – I’m not equating passion with disunity. I have a friend who is DEEPLY passionate about one political leaning – but I have seen her do this well as she maintains friendships despite deep fundamental disagreements on policy. So the “I’m just passionate” argument doesn’t really hold water with me, because I promise you there are passionate people who are fighting to remain unified despite their passions. It may not be easy, but it is right and worth struggling for.

Family Talk

I have an amazing friend named Jan, and she truly is one of the women I want to emulate in my life. She brilliantly shines Jesus and grace and beauty and love. Many of you reading this have been impacted by her and love her dearly.

She has this expression she uses often, and I love it. She’ll be sharing something, and right before she shares, she’ll say, “This is family talk.” When I hear it, I feel treasured. I know she considers me family. She trusts me. Also when I hear it, my spirit agrees with her. We are family. We share a purpose and a Father. We can rejoice together in the good and pray together in the hard because we give each other grace.

Family talk.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31

I was talking with Justin and another friend this week about the family of God. We certainly have our moments of frustration and division. We certainly have been through struggles together and sometimes there are hurts that need to be healed. But still we are family. We rejoice when God uses a member of our family to bring Him glory, wherever that may be. We pray when a member of our family is hurting. When someone from the outside of our family criticizes someone inside of our family, we can get a little defensive.

When I joined the family of God, it was at a large precious church that I still adore. Many many people became my family members at that place. I had father-figures and mother-figures and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters all over the place. We saw God move there. We were used by God to do big things there. It was an amazing time.

Image courtesy of

A few years later, that place went through some struggles. There was hurt. Many of us scattered all over the place during that time of transition. We were like baby birds pushed out of the safe warm nest. For a while there was some division and confusion and hurt. There were things we all needed to confess and forgive. We needed to let go of the former things (Isaiah 43:18). But if you look around that family, whether people left or stayed, wherever people landed, God continues to use us. He took us from ministering at one church to ministering at that church plus a dozen more. He was faithful. He did not give up on us. We healed. We grew. We were forgiven for our part in the struggle. We forgave others.

We are family – even across the miles and across the hurts. We don’t have to agree on everything because we agree on the important things. We can still rejoice in the good, we can still ache and pray in the difficulty, because we are family.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:9-10

We serve in an area with many churches. And it’s easy and human to compare and compete a little. It’s easy to focus on our differences and not on what unites us. But we are not called to live easy and human. We are called to be set apart. We are commanded to rejoice with each other and pray for each other. God is moving in many ways across the world, and every move He makes deserves to be celebrated by us all whether we have a part in it or not. Because we aren’t just an organization, we are parts of an organism. We are family, parts of the same body. We are joined together with Christ, and there is no room for division in this body.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

I am just filled with gratitude today for my family. I want each of you to know I love you and thank my God for you – truly. You have welcomed me into your family, and you have welcomed my brave wonderful husband and my beautiful little girls. You have treated us with grace. You love us, and I am so grateful for you. I love the Lord more because I know you and because you have treated me with love. I am grateful.

It is not that simple

I am pretty fired up about something, and when I’m fired up, sometimes I come across as harsh. I pray that I would not come across as harsh today, but I do have something I’d love to lay out there for thought and discussion.

I have gotten, in my life, to hate oversimplification. When I do it, it is a pretty good indicator that I am judging based on pride and self-righteousness, instead of truth. It will drive me away from a politician, a preacher, a commentator, a professor, and even a friend. I think oversimplification is a tool to divide and destroy other people, and I am over it.

On the other hand, I have grown to LOVE people who have walked through deep pain and get the complexity of life, and are filled with grace because of their experience. There is a woman named Becky at my church and I’m drawn to her every time I am around her because she doesn’t try to figure out the Lord and His ways. She trusts. She prays. She loves her Bible, despite the confusing parts. She radiates peace and grace because she has come to accept the idea that the things that are important, and the things that are true, are incredibly and deeply complicated.

Like spaghetti tangled in and around our lives.

Instead of striving to untangle it, she takes that spaghetti to the foot of the cross and she lays it before the One who made her, and she leaves it there for HIM to untangle. She walks away in peace.

I love it. That is who I want to be. I want to be like Becky – calm and at rest with a God bigger than our understanding.

Because when we pretend that there is one truth or one idea that we can grasp onto that captures all of that spaghetti and straightens it out, we insult the person going through the challenge, and the complicated God who made us. We are not smart enough to figure out most of the ways of God and the trials people around us are going through, so why do we hurt each other when we try?

Pain isn’t simple. It is incredibly complex. When you talk to someone going through a dark difficult trial and you oversimplify it with cliché words and “memory verse” ideas – you can hurt them. When you give the trial a black-and-white reason or a purpose and don’t acknowledge the incredible pain of their circumstance, you alienate them. Why can’t we as people just say we are sorry, just pray, just draw near to God on their behalf, acknowledging we don’t know what they are going through, don’t know their pain, don’t have any words of wisdom, but are waiting on God to speak through us peace and blessings? Pain is complicated! Look at Job, look at Paul, look at Jesus – the reasons for their pain, and the delayed answers to their prayers, weren’t simple. Would we tell Jesus “God won’t give you more than you can handle” (which by the way – isn’t a Bible verse) as he cried and sweated blood in His pain? As the flesh was torn off His body? No! Because that isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right. So why do we tell each other that?

Conflict isn’t simple. You give me any conflict between brothers or friends or church members, and there will, every time, be people on both sides insisting on their righteousness and insisting on the other person’s guilt. But it’s not that simple. Conflict is spaghetti in itself – full of hurts and gossip and misunderstandings and reactions and ripple effects and there is rarely just one person in the wrong. But then the “advocates” get on the scene, and they take sides and oversimplify and point fingers and blame and suddenly this complicated reality of two sinful people in disagreement becomes this oversimplified and false “cause” one side against another. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

Forgiveness isn’t simple. You can come across a friend processing the hurt and betrayal of conflict, and you see them at different points of their process, and you can judge that they aren’t forgiving, but you’d be wrong. Forgiveness takes time, and you daily fight off the replays that play and the emotion that overwhelms. Some days you fight those replays and emotions off all day long. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like forgiveness, but in the Christian life there is no condemnation and Jesus just wants us to take these hurts to Him, every time, as slowly He stops the replay and gives peace in place of the emotion. But for us to walk in the middle of that process and judge it as unforgiveness is insulting to your friend living out their holiness with fear and trembling and an insult to the God who doesn’t wave a magic wand over our hearts to change us, but instead works often in the quiet as we surrender our hurts and pains and needs to Him each day. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

This is a small one – but politics isn’t simple. And to oversimplify and vilify one side, while pretending the other side is full of virtue, isn’t helpful. No party is full of demons or of angels, free of selfish influences or filled with them. Each party has great people who want to make the world a better place, just as each party is filled with entities only out for selfish gain. And when we vilify each other, acting like people are the enemy, we ignore the real enemy of our souls, seeking to destroy. It isn’t helpful, and in my opinion it is why an entire generation is over it. God did not send a party to save our country – and no party will do it. And to give a party, or a politician, the power to destroy us is just as harmful as giving them the power to save us. There is no Savior or Antichrist that will show up in American politics (in fact, there is great reason to doubt America will play any role in the end days). So to oversimplify one party as righteous, while vilifying the other, is a meaningless endeavor. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t holy. It isn’t right.

Here’s the deal. God is complex. The Bible is complex. I doubt in history there has ever been a more confusing and sometimes contradictory thing as the revelation of the God who created everything to a people who aren’t even built to understand Him. And I would rather people be in love with a God we cannot understand, forcing our minds to rest in that lack of knowledge, begging Him for moments of understanding when things are so incredibly complicated, than to oversimplify things to bite-sized nuggets perfect for crocheting on our Bible covers while we miss His heart altogether.

God can not be simplified.

We cannot understand Him.

Why do we even try? Outside of His grace, we miss Him altogether. I am studying the human body in school. Do you know that for every heartbeat, there is a series of about 100 chemical and electrical events that have to happen in perfect harmony? For.every.heart.beat. In our mouths, there are over 100 kinds of bacteria, most of which have not been named or identified, each with a purpose and function (gross, right?). Our bodies are astonishingly complex. We are made in His image, and any scientist worth his salt will tell you that the human body, and in fact the entire universe, is full of mysteries and every time we discover something, we uncover more questions than answers.

We are complicated. We are made in His image. God is complicated. Times about a billion.

Can we all just stop with the prideful oversimplification? Can we all just get to a point where we are at peace with the fact that God is hard to figure out, and His ways are confusing? Can we acknowledge that the things we call simple (the Bible’s condemnation of certain sins, for example) are not simple. That in fact, the Bible talks more harshly in places about my lying and gossip than about the sins we put on t-shirts and bumper stickers as unforgivable.

We are all, but for His grace and His revelation, doomed.

But in His mercy, He swoops down. He made Himself small (infant small) and even today, He reveals Himself in small moments and revelations to our tiny little minds, because He is kind. But it is all Him revealing and not me figuring Him out, and at any point He can do anything to me or allow me to go through any struggle He wants for His glory and my good (not my comfort or profit).

So what do we do with the complexity? Do we chuck it all because we can’t wrap our minds around it? I don’t think so – I think we ask Him for more faith, for eyes to see and ears to hear, we grasp at concepts when they float near and give ourselves grace when they float away. We hug people in pain and we pray because we know that it isn’t simple. We give people (and ourselves) grace in conflict. We take our unforgiveness back to the cross over and over  and over again and allow the Lord to work in our weakness. We acknowledge that we just don’t know much about what is going on around us most of the time. We fight the prideful urge to oversimplify and try instead to be full of grace for all people.

God is complex, and by His grace, we are able to still believe.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, 
   or who has been his counselor?” 
“Or who has given a gift to him 
   that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36