Everyday Christian: we don't get to choose who God will choose

Being “united with Christ” – which is how St Paul describes being saved in Romans 6 – comes with some pretty awkward baggage. Because we don’t get to choose who Jesus brings into the great assembly of Christians.

And he brings in people that I would not have.

Are you infuriated by the Christians who swarmed into the US Capitol? Or maybe it is the Christians who voted for Joe Biden – despite his liberal attitude on abortion laws – that “get your goat”.

It is quite likely that whoever raises your ire above midpoint is in church somewhere. This is something that has been staring me in the face a lot as I write for Eternity, especially over the last few weeks.

From suburban Australia, Christians around the world appear to do some very strange things. Those Christian flags in the Capitol for starters. The ever-patient broadcaster Sheridan Voysey speaks for many Christians expostulating on Facebook: “I might just scream. Facebook is serving me video after video of self-proclaimed prophets declaring the apocalypse is near, and others that Covid-19 vaccines are an evil plot by a global elite to rob us of freedom and usher in a One World Government.”

Even the most conservative among us has to concede there were at least some dinky die Christians in the Capitol (wait, actually no, I just saw some denials of even that!)

Just as progressives should concede some pretty awful stuff has happened in lefty demonstrations.

And I will have upset some by making it seem that somehow there is a comfortable middle.

But that is the point. Those of you thinking “well, he is sitting there smugly taking potshots at either extreme,” are just as united with Christ as I am.

“We have to talk to people we don’t agree with as well as people we don’t” is how Barack Obama put it the other day in a broadcast before the inauguration of Joe Biden. He was talking about a broader context (with George W. Bush by his side). But what is helpful in the wider world is even more important in Christian Community.

We will be in heaven with people who vote the wrong way, who may have taken part in demonstrations for causes we find unfortunate. Political correctness or incorrectness will not get you to heaven.

C. S. Lewis had his own take on this situation in his classic, The Screwtape Letters (which is a collection of correspondence from a senior devil to a junior). Senior devil, Screwtape, castigates his nephew Wormwood for allowing his “patient’ to become a Christian. But, says Screwtape, Wormwood now has an ally – the church.

Not the church as it really is, but the church – or what I have called above the assembly of Christians – that appears to us humans. Because it is often hard to see the church as the magnificent channel of salvation it is.

Wormwood continued: “When he gets to his pew he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit too and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew…”

My mind has been flitting to and fro between the body of Christ and the opinions on Facebook or news reports out of the great country of the United States. It’s been hard to see many of the Capitol rioters proclaim they did it in the name of Christ. Raised Bibles, Jesus flags, hands lifted in praise.

Turning someone who may simply differ from you off Jesus is a big deal.

Wormwood goes on: “Your patient, thanks to our father below is a fool. Providing any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily think their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.”

When we weld our religion to our politics, and when we adopt quite extreme politics, it might have the same effect. We may not be able to avoid double chins, and someone somewhere will think our clothes are odd … but we need to think very carefully about wrapping Jesus into our political causes.

That’s not to say, “don’t have strong opinions.” Pursue causes, even political ones, please. In a democratic society it is your duty to vote and even to campaign. But be careful when you come close to tying Jesus to your cause.

Turning someone, who may simply differ from you (and okay that means they are wrong!), off Jesus is a big deal. We need to think about Romans 14: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters… Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.  One person considers one day more sacred than another;another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”

We will be in heaven with people who vote the wrong way, who may have taken part in demonstrations for causes we find unfortunate. Political correctness or incorrectness will not get you to heaven.

We have been united in Christ.

On the human level we will disagree with each other.

But the deeper reality is that all Christians are united in Christ even as we disagree.

Let’s live in our heavenly reality at least as much as the earthy one!

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