Being a gospel-shaped citizen
Does God’s Word have anything to say to us in the midst of the current upheaval in our country? What I find amazing is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ - -that Jesus by his life, death and resurrection has gained victory for His people over sin, death, and Satan - -gives us direction in every circumstance. This good news does not just affect us in church or in private; its effects are meant to spill over into every area of our lives.
Listen as the apostle Paul tells us how to live as followers of Jesus in our culture today:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:1-2
Christians need this reminder again and again. This is your calling ... today. In verse 1 Paul calls us to be good citizens. So we don’t withdraw as Christians from politics and government. We are salt and light for Jesus as Democrats or Republicans or Independents—seeking to do good works for the glory of God.
But now look at verse 2 and, perhaps, let it soak in for a while: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Right now, there are all kinds of opinions and debate - -yes even rancor and hostility — in our country, and individual believers and churches are being caught up in it. Some of it has to do with the proper response to COVID-19, but most of it now has to do with the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. It has to do with how much racism is still at work in our country and in our own hearts. It has to do with the looting and lawlessness that has happened in many major cities. It has to do with an upcoming election that is dividing our nation once more.
And God’s Word says, “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
But we turn on the news to listen to what is happening, and we listen to commentators on Fox or MSNBC or CNN, or various places online. I’ll simply state from my own experience, I find that listening extensively to the media on the right or on the left doesn’t help me to live for and love others for Jesus.
What I usually find is the more I listen to these media outlets, the more my heart hardens toward others; the more I start thinking of other people as my opponents; the more I find anger, bitterness, and contempt for those I differ from rising from within me. When God is saying clearly, “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people.”
My advice: listen to the news to get the news, but it is dangerous for us as followers of Jesus to let the media (right or left) tell us what we should be feeling and doing. That is not the place of the media for us as Christians, for we have something better — Jesus and His Word. It is good to ask right now, in the midst of this time of turmoil and division in the country, how much am I listening to the media, and how much am I listening to Jesus and His Word? How much is Christ’s Word informing (and forming) my heart and mind compared to how much MSNBC or Fox is? We need to be reminded again and again.
It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and talking points of the culture . . . and forget to abide in Christ and display the faith, hope, and love that He won on the cross for us to receive and share with our broken and hurting world.
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at email@example.com.