GOSPEL DISTINCTIVES IN A DIVIDED NATION
Last week we learnt that the UK is to leave the European Union. It has divided our nation in two, and created a climate of fear, anger and even hostility. But what should our response be as Christians? How should we respond to those who voted differently? How can we as a church seek to be distinctive, and a witness for the gospel?
Romans chapters 12-14 has immediate relevance for the events of the past week. We would benefit greatly to meditate on them in the coming days. Paul’s main aim is to teach the believers how to worship God in their everyday lives. God calls us to be a “living sacrifice” which means we must die to our former worldly thinking and behaviour. The motivation for this costly living is a thankful response to the mercy of God, shown at the cross.
God calls us to be a “living sacrifice” which means we must die to our former worldly thinking and behaviour. The motivation for this costly living is a thankful response to the mercy of God, shown at the cross.
Here are 4 ways from Romans 12-14 for Christian believers to respond distinctively.
1. Be Transformed
As I have scrolled through the Facebook updates from the last few days, it has greatly saddened me that you cannot tell the Christian believers apart from those who do not love Christ. The responses have been full of boasting, bitterness, complaining, fear, hatred, anger, insults and name calling. There has been a lack of graciousness and love on both sides of the argument, leading to some leaving Facebook altogether.
We all had a democratic vote to express our view, and the result has been decided. The backlash of bullying and insults is unnecessary, and following the pattern of this world. Rather we should be transformed by the word of God, and demonstrate a godly response of prayer, and a humble trust in the sovereignty of God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the Word of God. [Romans 12:2]
If we have been involved in boasting, mud slinging, name calling or insulting other believers, we need to confess this behaviour as worldliness and sin, asking God for his forgiveness.
Let’s pray for each other to not conform to the world’s patterns and behaviour.
2. Love One Another
This is a divisive issue and it is really important, but nothing should threaten the unity we have as Christian brothers and sisters.
Loving those from different camps will be challenging, but gospel love has the power to transcend every barrier that divides humanity. We may not be in agreement, but love will mean we treat each other with dignity and respect.
First and foremost our identity is children of God, citizens of heaven. We must remain united in the Spirit and the gospel, rather than make this issue more important than who we are in Christ. This issue already threatens to split the nation, is it also to split God’s Church in two?
Let love be genuine….love one another with brotherly affection. [Romans 12:9-10]
We must repent of unkind words, dividing into groups, insulting and ignoring those who think differently from us. We may find it extremely hard to love those we differ from, but such a loving attitude will make us distinctive from the world.
Let’s pray for each other to love with the heart of Christ.
3. Trust God
We may feel like our country is spinning out of control, and we need to take charge of our destiny, but God’s Word reminds us that God is in complete control.
Romans 13 teaches us that God is sovereign in appointing all governing authorities. Whether we like it or not, this is the new governing authority that God has appointed. He exercised his sovereignty over our democratic voting system. God does not make mistakes or errors, he has not lost control.
We do not know whether God has appointed this new form of government to make us flourish, or to discipline us as a nation. Either way, we need to humbly trust in his sovereignty, and submit to the authority he has appointed over us.
Submit to the governing authorities because they have been established by God. [Romans 13:1]
Submitting to God’s governing authorities will mean we respect them, seek to support them, and not rebel against them. It will mean a gracious acceptance of the new systems and rules, even though we may not like them or personally benefit from them. It will be extremely hard to do so, but such a submissive attitude will make us distinctive from the world.
Let’s pray for each other to be humble, trusting and submissive.
4. Build Each Other Up
Romans chapter 14 is all about how we treat Christians with differing opinions to us. It is well worth a read in these difficult days.
Paul emphasises that the most important thing is not who is right on the matter, but how we love each other. We may be convinced we are right, and feel it is our job to persuade others passionately. However, Paul says we should not cause others to sin against their conscience, or be a stumbling block to each other. We are to walk alongside each other in love.
Do not pass judgement on one another. [Romans 14:13]
The people of God have been united from every walk of life through the mercy of God, let’s not destroy the work of the Spirit by dividing into different political camps.
Let’s pray for each other that we can build each other up in Christ, rather than cause each other to stumble.