The Relational Divide, 25 October 2020

The Relational Divide (We Need One Another)
Series—The Great Divide

Series Big Idea: Our world is filled with division, yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

Big Idea: The Kingdom of God is diverse, multi-generational, and beautiful

Today we conclude our series “The Great Divide.” We began with the political divide and said our focus must be on the Lion and the Lamb, not the elephant or donkey. We are a politically diverse family and we need to offer respect, grace, and love to one another. Period.

Last Sunday we talked about the racial divide. We noted how there is only one race, the human race, and although we are all created with equal value, we are not all treated with equal value.

[I hope you took some time this past week to educate yourself through the Phil Vischer videos]

Today we’re going to talk about the relational divide…those other things which come between us as spiritual siblings…and how we can overcome them by building bridges.

The mission of First Alliance Church is to be a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

It’s important to note the church doesn’t actually have a mission, but rather God’s mission has a Church! We are here for God’s glory. That’s the bottom line. We’re not a social club for the benefit of its members. We are not to be consumers of religious goods and services. We are a family on mission. We are here to glorify God. What does it look like to bring glory to God? Jesus said to the Father,

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

I often reference this essential scripture, but why does Jesus pray this? Is it to give us more work to do? Is it about making peace in the family? The bottom line is God’s glory, that the world will know Jesus and God’s love.

I know I’ve said this many times before, but if we did our job, I believe the world would be in much better shape. The world is going to sin, create division, hate, judge, lie, condemn, …but while we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. We are to be Kingdom people, citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Eleven times we’re commanded to “love one another.” That’s more than a suggestion!

Unity does not mean uniformity. We are all different…by design. Like musicians in a trio or quartet, we must learn to play our notes in harmony with one another, complementing one another, adding to the beauty, not causing conflict or division.

What is the root of all division? I believe it is pride, arguably the root of all sin. Think for a moment about any tension, any conflict, any disagreement. Imagine if one of the persons put this into practice:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)


Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Imagine if both people put that into practice! I said last week…

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all treated with equal value.

Even inside the Church, inside the family, it’s tempting to show favoritism, to look down on some people, to judge or condemn or simply avoid a brother or sister. But we can’t let the enemy win! We are spiritual siblings. We must love well, not only for our sake, not only for the sake of others in the family, but for the sake of the gospel, the good news, Jesus! Loving well brings God glory. In His eyes…

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Besides politics and race, what divides us? What keeps us from experiencing full, agape love with one another? What threatens unity? First, I think it’s our focus.

C.S. Lewis said, “Seek Unity and you will find neither Unity nor Truth. Seek the light of truth, and you will find Unity and Truth.” Indeed, we must focus on Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, guided by the holy scriptures, and seeking the glory of God.

We need to focus on Jesus, not ourselves.
Not our favorite candidate or author. Jesus. The enemy wants us divided. A house divided cannot stand.

So besides losing our focus on Jesus, what problems create divisions in the family? We’re going to briefly look at nine…and some practical solutions.

Problem: gossip
Solution: Matthew 18

It is amazing how gossip can spread…even innocently…even in a prayer meeting…even out of genuine concern. I love Dave Ramsey’s take on gossip. It’s poison. He has a no-gossip policy at his company, and I have one for our church family. Ramsey defines gossip as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem. The solution is simple. It’s found in Matthew 18.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

The next one is closely related.

Problem: lies
Solution: truth

Someone recently asked me a question about some gossip they heard. It was a total lie! Had the original person simply come to me or someone who could answer the question rather than guess and accuse, countless people would’ve be spared of misinformation which was negative and alarming. Get the facts. That goes for social media, too. Don’t believe everything you read online…especially if it’s from the Babylon Bee (which is a satire site!). It seems so obvious to tell the truth, but intentionally or accidentally, so much division is caused by data that is simply not true.

Problem: judging
Solution: help me understand

I think we’re all guilty of judging others, despite the clear commands of scripture. Even non-Christians like Jesus’ words in Matthew 7…

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
Judgement is the forbidden objectivization of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me.
What do we do when we smell something fishy, pastor? Here are three words: help me understand. We are so quick to make assumptions without knowing the full story.

Problem: worship preferences
Solution: submit to one another

This one gets personal. Let’s face it, we all like certain songs, certain styles of music, certain fashion, certain types of sermons, certain expressions of worship, certain volume levels, certain lengths of sermons, …

There’s no perfect church. There’s no perfect pastor…or sermon or worship leader or…

The larger the family, the more we must love well, compromise, and even submit to one another.

We don’t like that word “submit.” It goes against our rugged individualism. Frank Sinatra sang, “I Did It My Way!” But the Bible said something entirely different.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

When is the last time you took a deep breath and shift the focus from your preferences to…Jesus? I remember the “worship wars” of the 90’s…and probably every generation. Hymns, no choruses. Modern, no ancient. Slow, no fast. Worship’s not for you!!! Again, where is your focus? We’re here for Jesus! It shouldn’t matter if we repeat the song fifty times…it’s not for us! OK, actually, I do sometimes tire of endless repetition of song lyrics, but then again, we’re told of each of the four living creatures in Revelation,

Day and night they never stop saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8b)

Problem: cultural differences
Solution: celebrate diversity

This often gets lumped into the race conversation. Is the issue skin color or economic class or cultural differences. Regardless, we can celebrate our diversity. I admit, I’m weird! I’m a variety junkie. My favorite restaurant is the one I’ve never been to before. I’d rather travel to a new place than a frequented one. I love people, and I’m especially drawn to the—uh—unique ones. Birds of a feather…!!!

I’m glad we’re different! It can create conflicts, but it can also create growth, understanding, and friendships. How boring would it be if everyone was just like me?! God created each of us unique and special. Let’s celebrate His masterpieces!

Problem: bitterness
Solution: forgiveness

This one’s a biggie. We obviously can’t unpack this fully today, but so much of the relational divide in our society involves bitterness. Sometimes the offense—or the alleged offense—occurred decades ago, yet the wedge of bitterness remains, penalizing both parties with a missing relationship.

The solution is forgiveness. Nobody deserves to be forgiven. It’s a choice. When the choice is made, beautiful things begin…for both people. Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. It doesn’t mean forget. It means let go of the grudge. It means move on. Often this is a miracle only possible by the Holy Spirit, but we serve the God of the impossible!

Problem: theological differences
Solution: grace and essentials

There’s a great line that says, In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. If, like me, you don’t know Latin, it means, “in necessary things unity; in uncertain things liberty; in all things charity.” It’s often attributed to Augustine, but it was likely first used in 1617 by Archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis. There are open-handed and closed-handed issues when we talk about God. Although we often debate which are open and which are closed, there are some things like the virgin birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible which we would say are essential, non-negotiables, while some matters such as the age of the earth, whether or not there will be pets in heaven, and appropriate alcohol use we might call important but not essential. The point being “in all things charity.” We need to exercise grace with one another and focus on the essentials.

One thing I love about the Christian & Missionary Alliance is its theological diversity. We have a lot of opinions about a lot of things and we are free to respectfully discuss them while maintaining a statement of faith which is biblical and simple.

Problem: busyness
Solution: sabbath

In many relationships, the greatest divide is time. We’re so busy, we simply fail to take the time to get to know one another. We need rest, we need sabbath, we need to slow down, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and be together. Love is often spelled t-i-m-e.

Problem: generation gaps
Solution: mentoring (both benefit)

Finally, generation gaps often create division between people, even Christians. Some of this may be cultural differences or worship preferences, but just like it’s easy to stereotype based upon ethnicity, it’s also common to think or say, “Oh you Millennials” or “You old people” or “You amazing GenXers!” This has even resulted in single-generation churches of twentysomethings or retirees rather than a multi-generational congregation in which mentoring is active, the older teaching the younger. This was commonplace in the early church. Paul told Titus to teach the older women so they can mentor the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Spiritual parenting or even grandparenting can be mutually beneficial and enhance the life of any congregation, bridging generation gaps with love, dignity, respect, and understanding.

So What?

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. (Ephesians 4:2-6)


May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

For Further Reading

The Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Racial Divide, 18 October 2020

The Racial Divide (One Race: Human)
Series—The Great Divide

Series Big Idea: Our world is filled with division, yet Jesus prayed that we would be one.

Big Idea: Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.

Last week we began our series, The Great Divide, with a topic free from any controversy or disagreement…politics! It’s amazing you all came back after that! If you missed it, the bottom line was our focus must not be on a donkey or elephant, but the Lion and the Lamb. There are flaws in every candidate and party. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus. Always. Especially during this crazy election season. I have appreciated individuals and organizations seeking to call out the anti-Christian views of candidates and parties, yet even if the imperfections of our alternatives were completely exposed and fixed, no politician can ever approach the wisdom, the power, the justice, the love of King Jesus!

Today we’re going to tackle a subject that many have connected with politics…race. Our authority, as always, is not me, not even The Christian & Missionary Alliance, but Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. God told Samuel the prophet,

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).

I want to make a few disclaimers up front. First, we’re not going to solve the racial issues in our community—much less our nation or world—in thirty minutes. As I did last week, I’ll offer some resources for you to consider, but the views expressed in them do not necessarily represent me or First Alliance Church. They are offered for your consideration, education, and contemplation. Only the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ is flawless. I’m not perfect. My theology is not perfect. I often quote Dr. Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t know what 20%!”

Second—and this may come as a surprise to you—I’m white! I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country, though I have been in the minority in Africa. I am seeking empathy, and I want to leverage whatever influence I have for the benefit of others. We’re told,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Third, this series is about understanding, about building bridges, about listening and loving well. After all,
there is only one race…the human race.

In Jesus’ day, the tension between Jew and Gentile was arguably far worse than any black and white divisions we’ve experienced in this country. Yet Paul wrote,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

We are one in Christ Jesus! All of us! Black, brown, and white. Men, women, and children. Homeless and homeowner. PhD and GED. We are all part of the human race. We are all sons and daughters of the Most High God. Paul told the church in Corinth,

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Fourth, let me say again this is
not a sermon on politics. One prominent pastor said whenever he preaches on race, people accuse him of being a progressive. This is not about being liberal or conservative. It’s about being human. Black lives do matter—all of them, including the unborn black lives. It frustrates me that such a positive statement has been co-opted by an organization of the same name with anti-Christian values. Once again, the enemy is desperately trying to steal, kill, destroy, and divide.

(OK, are you ready?!)

The issue of race is relevant, not simply because it’s in the news, but because it affects family. Our family.

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all
treated with equal value.

This cannot be overstated, though those in the majority culture are often unaware of the significance of such a statement. We are a family. We are a diverse family. We are all different parts of the body, the body of Christ. Paul said,

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)

If we can’t love one another well—within the family—there’s little hope for us loving our neighbors, much less our enemies as Jesus clearly instructed us to do…through the power of the Holy Spirit (it’s impossible without God).

We have family members who are suffering…every time racism rears its ugly head, which is more than I understand as some who has never been pulled over for DWB (driving while black), stalked in a store, or been called the n-word. I can’t begin to count how many stories I’ve heard from my brothers and sisters regarding discrimination and hatred over their ethnicity. One was followed for 45 minutes by a police officer while jogging in their own neighborhood. This past week I was talking to a friend who said they were asked to sit in a different section of their church sanctuary because of their ethnicity.

We are family! We are all related by blood…the blood of Jesus. We were all created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth. By the way, I seriously doubt Adam and Eve were white! I’m quite sure Jesus didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes! Every life is precious…white, brown, black, …in the womb, refugee, immigrant, orphan, rich, poor,…all masterpieces!

We are all created with equal value, but we are not all treated with equal value.

I was once having lunch with my mom. She was concerned about changes in our culture and I asked her, “Do you wish we could go back to the 1950s?”

(I wasn’t even an idea in the 1950’s!)

She exclaimed, “Oh yes!”

I said, “I don’t have a single African-American friend who wishes we could go back to the 1950’s!”

I believe things have improved through things such as the civil rights movement, but clearly we are far from realizing Dr. King’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Our world—and even the Church—is filled with favoritism, a practice condemned repeatedly in scripture (see 1 Timothy 5:21, James 2:1-8, Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, etc.).

Today I want you to hear three short videos from
Phil Vischer. He’s the creator of Veggie Tales, a life-long Christian & Missionary “Alliancer,” and the co-host of the Holy Post podcast. Again, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but he has done extensive research on what’s behind some of the racial issues in our day. I highly recommend his video Race in America. He had a follow-up video which I’ve been given permission to share clips from today, and he most recently made a fascinating video entitled, “Why do White Christians Vote Republican, and Black Christians Vote Democrat?”

But I said today is not about politics…and it’s not. It’s about people. It’s about family. It’s about us. When I say us, I mean us. This raises what is perhaps the biggest objection I’ve received whenever we talk about racism…

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

We must recognize both individual and
societal sins…and repent.

It’s important to remember,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

We have all pre-judged others for one reason or another (it’s called prejudice). We are all guilty of disrespecting image-bearers. We all fail to live up to the example of Jesus—a Jew—who prayed for the very enemies—Roman soldiers—who were nailing him to a cross. Each of us misses the mark when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. I must admit I often stop at verse 23, but there’s a comma, not a period. It continues,

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)

The New Living Translation says it a little smoother:

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24, NLT)


Jesus died for all of us! “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” I know the lyrics might not be politically correct, but the message is biblically correct.

So What?

I’ve certainly struggled with what I can do about this issue which seems so—uh—black and white. There is no place for hatred or favoritism or injustice in the Kingdom of God.

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, (Romans 10:12)

We’re going to spend eternity together with the LORD. The scene in Revelation is fantastic!

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

We’re not going to have black churches in heaven.
We’re not going to have white churches in heaven.
I don’t think we’re even going to have English or Spanish or Mandarin churches in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is diverse. It’s the beautiful mosaic we mentioned last week.

So what do we do now? Here’s Phil again:

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

Did you find that interesting? Racism is but one of many sins in our world. We can’t fix it overnight. But we can do something. Like the child throwing washed-up starfish from the beach back into the ocean, we can help one person. We can show kindness to someone who looks different than us. We can offer generosity to the “other.” We can smile or share a kind word. In a word, we can love! I am continually challenged by two verses in the book of Philippians:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

How could applying those verses impact our church, our city, our nation, our world? This might be the most radical scripture in the Bible, at least according to our selfish, prideful, narcissistic, consumeristic culture that has influenced each of us. Jesus’ friend John said,

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21)

We must love well, and
loving mean listening.

We said it last week…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

I appreciate you listening to me today, hopefully with an open mind and heart. Listen to understand, not to argue. People of my hue are so defensive about racial issues. Instead of hearing the experiences of others, they’re too busy trying to prove their own innocence, which is an adventure in missing the point.

If your neighbor’s house is on fire and you didn’t do it, do you feel like you should do anything? Get the kids out of the house! Again, we are family, and we need to listen and understand the struggles and sorrows of our spiritual siblings.

My favorite singer as a boy, Andrae Crouch, sang, “Jesus is the answer/for the world today/above Him there’s no other/Jesus is the way.” Jesus is the answer to all of the world’s problems. If we all loved and obeyed Jesus, …I can hardly imagine it!

is the answer. Check this out!

[Video: Phil Vischer, excerpt from "Race in America, Part 2"]

Family, let’s love well. Love is not how you feel, but how you act. Racism is not your fault, but you could be part of the solution. Let’s look out for one another. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s refuse to stereotype, pre-judge, or make assumptions about others. Let’s get to know one another. We’ll be stretched. We’ll be challenged. We’ll grow…and I believe the world will take notice. Remember, Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Phil Vischer videos

Race in America
Race in America, Part 2
Why do White Christians Vote Republican, and Black Christians Vote Democrat?

Recommended Books

- Dream with Me by John Perkins
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
- White Awake by Daniel Hill
- Rediscipling the White Church by David Swanson

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Political Divide, 11 October 2020

The Political Divide (Jesus for President)
Series—The Great Divide

Series Big Idea: Our world is filled with division, yet Jesus prayed that we would be one as we share faith, hope and love.

Big Idea: Every leader has good and bad qualities and our allegiance must never be to a candidate or party, but to Jesus the Messiah.

The Great Divide video by Dan Stevers

You are loved!

In a world of division, controversy, cancel culture, us versus them, perhaps the most important message for our times is “You are loved.”

What did you think of that video? I found parts of it disturbing, others heart-warming. Every person—black, white, blue, citizen, immigrant, conservative, progressive, young, old, gay, straight, rich, and poor is a masterpiece…a broken masterpiece…an imperfect, sinful masterpiece. We exist to proclaim that simple message: you are loved. Period.

Today we begin a series called The Great Divide. 2020 will be remembered for two things: COVID and division. What began as “we’re all in this together” has become a raging war over face masks, political candidates, racism, …and the real battle between Michigan and Ohio State isn’t until December 12!

Our world is filled with division—even in the Church—yet Jesus prayed that we would be one as we share faith, hope and love. In fact, the only time I believe Jesus prayed specifically for us in 2020 was in the seventeenth chapter of John:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

LORD, make us one! That was Jesus’ prayer for us. It’s one of the four prayers I pray for First Alliance Church: direction, protection, passion…and unity. By unity, I don’t mean uniformity. In fact, harmony might be a better word: different notes played together creating a beautiful sound. My favorite metaphor for the Church is a mosaic—broken, diverse pieces assembled together so light can shine through and reveal beauty.

The goal of this series is simple: build bridges. It’s easy to build walls. Staying with your team in the echo chamber of thoughts—and villainizing “those people—is the way of the world. But the way of Jesus is love, grace, invitation, mercy, forgiveness, and hope.

In one of the most popular illustrations of the gospel—or good news—God is on one side of a chasm or canyon that we call sin. God is allergic to sin, we all sin, and therefore this is a space between us and God dating back to the Garden of Eden, the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Religion is the human quest to get to God, to earn God’s favor, to receive His blessing. But nothing we can do can bridge the great divide. It’s as if the best we can do is try to jump across the Grand Canyon. You can practice. You can train. You can get better, but no human could ever jump across safely.

This is called the bridge illustration because Jesus comes along and his death and resurrection create a bridge, a way to God. It’s not forced, though it’s available to everyone. We choose to ignore it or walk across and experience restoration, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a relationship with our Creator. It’s truly amazing!

In a similar—but far less significant—way, we are going to attempt to build bridges throughout this series. These bridges are valuable between the Church and the world, but also within the Church. We may all claim to follow Jesus, but our family of origin, geography, education, ethnicity, culture, and experiences make unity—and harmony—challenging.

We’re going to tackle three softball topics in this series: politics, racism, and generation gaps. Today, we begin with politics.

Once upon a time, God told a man named Abram that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). His grandson, Jacob, was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28) and his offspring became known as the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28). Generations later when they were slaves in Egypt, Moses was called by God to lead the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, what we know today as Israel. God was the faithful leader of the Jewish people, yet as time passed, they wanted a human king like the other nations. Samuel urged them to follow God and God alone, but they said, “No! We want a king over us” (1 Samuel 8:19).

Ever since, virtually every human on earth has been ruled by kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers. All have been imperfect. All have had agendas. All have had mixed motives. Some have sought wisdom from God. None have been able to provide the perfect leadership of the Almighty…which is why we’re in the political mess we’re in!

Let me set some expectations to either ease or heighten your anxiety!

You will not hear me endorse a candidate today. Many of you wish I would. Others just breathed a sigh of relief.

You will not hear me endorse a political party today. Again, that will make some of you happy, others upset.

I will say I think this is a great yet flawed nation. As individuals and as a society, we’ve done good and evil. I’m grateful for our founding fathers and those who have sacrificed for our freedoms. I pray for God to bless the USA…and every nation on earth. Next month we have the privilege of expressing our voice through voting. If you don’t vote, don’t complain. But while voting is an important choice, we make choices every day which are often far more significant.

As an example, I consider myself pro-life. Like most labels, “pro-life” has multiple meanings. To some, it simply means overturning Roe v. Wade. To others, it is a recognition that all life is precious, from the womb to the tomb, including the disabled, the refugee, the minority, the unborn, the mentally ill, the incarcerated, those with dementia,…and yes, even politicians!

It’s easy to vote once every four years for a person who says they are against abortion, but the decision to adopt, be a foster parent, volunteer with Water for Ishmael, serve at the Pregnancy Center helping new parents, participate in Kairos Prison Ministry, tutor students at the After School Club, give to Cherry Street Mission, …those decisions are pro-life!

Psalm 139 says,

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

I believe God is pro-life. He creates life. He should determine when and how it ends. It is our job to love well. Always.

Loving well means respecting those who disagree with you.
Jesus went as far as saying, “Love your enemies.” That sounds absurd. In fact, I dare say it’s impossible…without God.

Family, we will have disagreements about politics—and other things. It’s okay to dialog, but let’s be careful about debates. I don’t even want to think about the first presidential debate, but typically in a debate two people talk at one another, refuse to listen, and try to win at the expense of the other. Dialog begins with, “Help me understand.” It involves listening.

In our day, I believe listening is one of the greatest things we can do to show love and respect. It’s so rare in our culture to actually hear someone. Jesus’ half-brother wrote,

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)

We could spend all morning on these three verses! Most of us are quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to become angry. We’re easily baited by social media posts or angered by cable news. People are making millions out of keeping us in silos, portraying the “other” as the enemy, and creating doom and gloom scenarios if our team doesn’t win.

Every four years we are told this is the most important election ever! Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but the sun will rise on November 4, regardless of who wins. We’ve survived four and even eight years under Republican presidents and Democrat presidents.

My first sermon here five years ago was simply entitled, “Fear not. Fear God.” The most common command in the Bible is “fear not.” The media feeds on fear. It’s their fuel. Go vote, but realize that’s the extent of your control over this election. You have far greater control over how you live your life every day, how you love, how you give, how you serve.

God has created three institutions: family, government, and church. They are all important. Each has the capability of promoting human flourishing…and each can be dysfunction and destructive. Simply put, families, government, and churches are filled with people who have the potential to do great good and great evil. That includes you and me. How are you living your life? How are you using your influence?

A few years ago, I was at a church function talking with an international worker with the Alliance. I mentioned how passionate many at First Alliance are about politics. As if on cue, someone came up to us and asked, “Pastor, how could a Christian ever be a Democrat?” Allow me to take a quick stab at that!

In Larry Hertado’s book Destroyer of the Gods, he writes about the early church social project. In the first century, the Church was a minority. It didn’t have power. It was looked upon with disdain. Hertado describes five traits of the early church:

  • 1. Multi-ethnic (first multi-ethnic religion)
  • 2. Oriented to the poor (economic justice)
  • 3. Conciliatory (forgiveness, bridge-building)
  • 4. Pro-life (against infanticide and abortion)
  • 5. Believed sex was only between a man and woman in marriage

  • 1 and 2 sound Democratic.
    4 and 5 sound Republican.
    3 is found in neither!

    There is no perfect party or politician, not matter what you’ve been told. We simply live in a fallen, broken world with a real enemy who is out to destroy our unity, our joy, our love, our witness, and our peace. He loves to divide and conquer…and we can’t let him win!

    If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:24-25)

    My great concern is not the binary, polarizing, cancel culture in our world. That’s the world. The kingdom of darkness is always filled with wars and conflict. When I see it in the Church, that’s when I become alarmed. There has never been a better time for us to extend grace, to seek to understand the other, the show kindness and gentleness.

    We are not to act like the world! Jesus set forth a different agenda, a different path, a different way.

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

    Unless Jesus returns and runs for president, we will probably have differing opinions on election day…and that’s ok. What’s not ok is attacking, condemning, judging, disrespecting, hating, or arrogantly seeking to overpower one another.

    Fortunately, I haven’t witnessed much of that around here lately…and I hope I don’t! I like a healthy, robust discussion as much as anyone, but it must always be done with love, humility, and a commitment to the relationship. I’ve witnessed this with our staff. I’ve experienced it with our elders. We are different. We think differently, vote differently, and even behave differently, …and that’s a good thing so long as we love well.

    Jesus said,

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    Life. A full, abundant life. No politician can deliver that, but Jesus can.

    A Vision for Kingdom Living

    We live in the United States of America. But we are citizens of heaven. We’ve been sent here on a mission, not to win an election or gain power, but to serve, to restore God’s masterpieces. We’ve been given authority from God almighty to go and make disciples, to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourself.

    It’s fine to have political preferences, but our focus must be on the Lion and the Lamb, not an elephant or donkey.

    The answer to the problems in our world is not a politician, but the only One who is a prophet, priest, and king. His name is Jesus. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, and President of presidents. He will rule and reign for four years? No! For eight year? No! Forever!

    If we spent as much time reading the Bible as they do political news, our world would be a different place.

    If we spent as much time talking about Jesus as we do the presidential candidates, our world would be a different place.

    If we spent as much time listening as we did talking, posting, and arguing, our world would be a different place…and we would be different people!

    Some of you are going to be happy on November 4—or whenever they tally the votes—and others will be disappointed. But we need to come together. We need to love and respect one another. We need to show the world there’s a better way to live than on opposite sides of the great divide of politics.

    After RBG’s death, the stories of her and Judge Scalia were widespread. Two very different human beings with opposing political and ideological views were able to maintain a close friendship. They didn’t tolerate one another, they had genuine love and respect for each other.

    First Alliance, I want us to model that kind of humanity, decency, and dignity. We need to honor one another, serve one another, and get beyond our external differences to see each other as brother and sister, related by blood, the blood of Jesus. We have far more in common than we will ever have different.

    Let’s take the next month or so to pray, to listen, to learn, to love. Let’s remember Romans 13 which begins,

    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

    God will not be surprised on November 4. He’s already been there! He is in control. Not you. Not even the president.
    God is in control!

    I’m glad my eternal destiny is not in the hands of any candidate. Truthfully, I think every president in history has made some good decisions and some bad ones. Whoever gets elected, we need to pray for them. My prayer for past, present, and future leaders is simple: LORD, may they humbly seek Your will, Your Kingdom.

    Family, don’t buy into the lies that the election will save or ruin your life. We’re only here for eighty or so years, but what awaits us is eternity with God.

    A president before I was born said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” You can vote, which is important, but it’s far more important to share faith, hope, and love every day. We can never put our faith in politicians. We can never put our hope in political parties.

    Our faith, our hope, our future, our life is in Jesus Christ, the Lion and the Lamb!

    PRAY for the election
    PRAY for our current leaders
    PRAY for our future leaders

    Remember, you are loved! You are a masterpiece…and so is everyone you encounter this week. Let’s build bridges and love well…in Jesus’ Name.

    Recommended Resources

    NAE For the Health statement
    Not in It to Win It by Andy Stanley
    The Church of Us vs. Them by David Fitch

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library