I believe Jesus wants our churches to be a jumbled mix of both Democrats and Republicans, and everything in between and beyond. A family who welcomes all camps, where all can feel equally at home in the love of Jesus, and equally challenged by the teachings of Jesus. I believe Jesus wants full-throated MAGA hat wearing Trump supporters worshiping side by side with Black Lives Matter activists who kneel during the national anthem at sporting events.
Jesus wants Pro-Choice demonstrators in small groups with Pro-Life Planned Parenthood picketers.
LGBTQ+ rights advocates rolling up their sleeves and serving their neighborhood alongside staunch opponents of marriage equality.
Card-carrying NRA members linking arms with proponents of common sense gun laws as they work together to guide their elder boards.
Parents of children who rely on Obamacare interpreting the Bible with business owners frustrated by the rising cost of their employees’ health care plans.
Jesus wants DACA Dreamers and wall builders forging a bond deeper than nationality.
Now… Jesus may want this, but I struggle to even imagine a world where this could be a reality. Our politics are so much more than casually held views. Our politics flow from our values, they anchor our worldview–they reveal our hermeneutic. What’s more, they draw the boundary lines of allegiance; tightly tethering us when we agree, tearing us apart from all who differ. And, more than any of this, there are real-life consequences when our opponents gain power. They threaten our way of life, our future, and for some of us, our very right to exist.
Our political opponents are our enemies. I can’t imagine leading a church with my enemy.
Even so, I believe Jesus wants our churches to be a jumbled political mix. I believe this because that’s what Jesus did when he inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven–he launched his Kingdom out of a jumbled mess. Think about the implications of this–when given the choice, he chose a blended family.
As pastor and author Dan White Jr. points out, “In the selection of his disciples, Jesus gathered three Zealots that were militant nationalists, a tax collector who favored the Sadducee party, six fisherman that were exploited by Roman taxation, one member of the Sicarii party, and a wealthy nobleman whose father was a Pharisee…To say these folks would have loathed being in the same room with each other is an understatement.”
We aren’t the only ones who struggle to imagine a unity that runs deeper than identity. I think Paul could barely imagine it as well. In a world that chained destiny to identity–you were either rich or poor, male or female, slave or free, and of course Jew or Gentile–the early churches became a radical social experiment where love melted competing identities into shared identity.
Even so, it was unbelievably messy. Can you imagine what it was like for a slave to worship alongside his or her master, then both return home to their grievously unjust roles? What was it like for a woman to have equal access to the Lord’s table, but zero equality with those same men at any other table? When the gathering ended and everyone walked home, what was it like for the Roman soldier to wave goodbye to the nationalist trouble maker, or the nobleman to serf?
I can barely imagine a church family whose bond runs deeper than our national divisions, and I think Paul agonized to imagine it as well. But luckily, he knew someone with a richer imagination than us all. Paul has a famous prayer that says “…now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Now stay with me, because this is so incredibly significant–the tension we’re feeling right now breathed life into one of the church’s most precious prayers.
When this prayer was first uttered, the chief concern in Paul’s mind was the unity of the church.
In the verses preceding his prayer, Paul was talking about the mystery that Gentiles are heirs together with Israel–breaking centuries of social convention and religious teaching. Then, immediately after his prayer, Paul declared that all competing allegiances are to be brought together under Christ–“There is one body and one Spirit…one hope.. one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.”
Paul’s desperation was overcome by God’s imagination.
And today is the same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow. Jesus wants us to build His church with our political enemies.
Can you picture it–your political opponents wielding influence, authority, and moral weight in your church. Can you see our unity in Christ trumping our diversity of perspective? Are you having trouble imagining it?
It’s a good thing we worship a God with a far greater imagination than we could ever have.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.