When Religion Meets Politics ● Part 1 | "Nothing Divides Like Politics"

Is it possible to disagree with someone politically and yet love them unconditionally?
  1. What do you look forward to most—and dread most—about presidential election years?
  2. Outside of your workplace, think about the people you interact with most. What percentage of those people think pretty much the same way as you politically?
  3. Do you find it difficult to engage in conversations with people who disagree with you politically? How do these conversations typically go?
  4. Do you agree or disagree that Christians must be willing to evaluate their politics through the filter of their faith? Why or why not?
  5. What does unconditional love mean to you? Do you believe it’s possible to love someone unconditionally? Why or why not?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Now, I have found it very difficult to stay away from the topic of religion in church, [laughter] but I found it very easy to stay away from the topic of politics in church. But whenever something Jesus says specifically intersects something that we're wrestling with in culture or wrestling with it specifically at a time like this in the life of our nation, I have to talk about it, or I shouldn't say I have to talk about it, I get to talk about it, I look forward to talking about it because the words of Jesus are so relevant and they are so extraordinarily relevant with everything that's happening in our nation right now.

And the division... That's no news... New news, right? The division in the church created by our current political context and climate intersects directly... Or intersects directly with something that Jesus taught. Because nothing divides like politics, because nothing divides like fear.

And as you know, because you've been a victim of this or maybe you've been a part of this, you can raise a lot of money, peddling fear. You can't raise as much money if you're not peddling fear, right? The Republicans are gonna take away your opportunity to vote, the Democrats are gonna take away your guns, for $25 or $50 or if you check $100. If the president is reelected, the end of the world. If a socialist Democrat is elected, it's the end of the world, for $25 or $50 or $100, right? You peddle enough fear, you could raise a lot of money. I'm not trying to give you any ideas I'm just telling you it works. [laughter] But here's the question, what exactly, just within the context of the United States of America, what exactly do we fear? And I'll tell you, I know the answer because the answer is the same for all of us at the macro level, it's this, it's loss. We fear something is gonna be taken away. We fear loss, we feel the loss of control, the loss of opportunity, the loss of the future of our children, the loss of our culture, the loss of our freedom, the loss of our progress because we made progress in some areas.

White people, we fear what might happen. Brown and black people fear what has already happened. For them, it's not theory, for them, or for you, it's history. And it wasn't that long ago. So there's fear for all of us. And it's the fear of the unknown, and you can't raise very much money if you don't peddle in fear. And so we're in this culture, we're in this season and in the life of our nation where everybody's peddling in fear, and if we're not careful, we we will be victims of that. And not only will we be victims, we will be, this is what we're gonna talk about, we will be divided.

We have an unprecedented opportunity, we have an unprecedented opportunity to model for our community and maybe our nation, what it looks like to disagree politically, because we are going to continue to disagree politically, and love unconditionally.

And the question I wanna ask you is: Do you, don't answer out loud, Do you want to do this? And do you think you can do this? To which, on the surface you're like, Oh yeah, I can do this, I do it all the time, and just hang with me. And I don't mean tolerate, people from other parties and other persuasions even those that kind of ride on the fringes. And are super extreme, not tolerate not just be nice too with an eye roll. Let me ask you in a different way, and this is more pointed, and I think this goes to the heart of it, are you willing to evaluate your politics through the filter of our historical collective Christian faith. Are you willing to evaluate your politics to the filter of your faith rather than create a version of faith, that supports your politics? Which is what most Christians do. As we're gonna talk about next week, everybody wants a piece of Jesus, right? In the United States of America Jesus is part of every political party, he is in lockstep no matter what your thing is if you are a Christian at all or any kind of version of Christianity, it's like, Oh yeah, And again, we're gonna see next week, you can go anywhere in the Bible you can find something Jesus said or somebody in the Bible said to support your political view.

The real issue is Are you willing... And am I willing To put our Political filter behind Instead of in front of our faith filter? Are we willing to evaluate and re-evaluate our politics in light of what specifically Jesus has taught? Or let me say it a different way. Are you willing to follow Jesus when following Jesus creates space between you and your political party, your party's platform and your party's candidate? And I'm just telling you. Most Christians are not able to do that, especially in the climate that we're in now, and in the months that we have ahead because it's so easy to be divided and it is so easy to rush to the corner and it's so easy to just assume that God and Jesus are in lockstep with us. Now Any questions so far? Good. Okay. Now Jesus, this is what's so amazing, this is why I have to talk about it. Apparently Jesus saw this coming, not the election, not that part. What Jesus saw coming, was the division.

In fact, this is extraordinary. After Jesus had his final Passover meal with the disciples, He prays a prayer and John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, actually records this first sometimes it's called the high priestly prayer, and in this prayer, there's two interesting things: Number one, he prays for us. We're gonna look at that in just a minute. But Number Two, Jesus has a prayer request. Now, Imagine sitting in a circle with Jesus, anybody who have a prayer request Jesus says, I have a request. It's like really? Yeah.

Jesus had a prayer request in this passage that John records for us we discover what Jesus asked the father for. Now, wouldn't you like to know what Jesus prayed for when Jesus prayed? We know what we pray for, you know. Thank you for this day. Get us to school, help my kids, all this stuff. What did Jesus pray for? And so here he is, this is cool, he's at the very end, in a few hours He's gonna be arrested, and tried, and crucified, and everything moves really quick after that, So he's praying here at the end And he asks something of his heavenly father. And what he asked of His Heavenly Father has everything in the world to do with any of you, any of us who consider ourselves Jesus followers this is remarkable. Here's what he prayed. "Father, the hour has come. Here we are. Three-and-a-half years of walking around with these guys, trying to explain what you're like, and explain what the kingdom of God is like. But here we are at the end, the hour has come, Glorify your son is about to be arrested and crucified", and again it moves really quick.

Glorify your Son. In other words, light me up in such a way that people recognize who I am, That your son may light you up so that people recognize we're connected. And the interesting thing is the hour when Jesus was crucified, that he's referring to here, the hour in which God was most glorified, we would have been most horrified, we would have looked away, and God Never looked better because he's sent his son to redeem mankind. And Jesus is like, "Okay we're at that hour, but before, all those events kick-off, there's something I've gotta ask you to do over. Heavenly Father", here's what he says, He goes on, verse 11, and he says "I will remain in the world no longer, but they", the disciples, "are still in the world, and I'm coming to you, I'm leaving them" and he's told them "I'm leaving, I'm leaving I'm leaving". And Peter kept saying, "Where are you going, where are you going, where are you going?" Jesus is like, "Well I'm going, but you can't go" Peter's like, "I'm going with you, everywhere" and Jesus is Like "no, you're not, okay?" but what comes next is amazing, and I think this is just my opinion, I think what comes next, most Christians don't know.

Now it's been in the Gospel of John, this whole time, it's like Dorothy, it's like that movie should have lasted, what, 20 minutes? I got the ruby red slippers, I'm back in Kansas, right? So this has been here the whole time. Here is Jesus' prayer request to the Father at the very end. Here's what he says, "Holy Father, protect them... " These 12 guys. "by the power of your name, the name that you gave me, so that... " In other words, here is the purpose of the protection. Here's specifically how I want you to protect them. Now, the interesting thing is, he's already given them some bad news. "Okay guys, here's the future. Here's what your future looks like. You're gonna be arrested, flogged and beaten. Some of you are gonna be killed. That's your future." "Oh, great, I wish you told us that early on." "I know. I kinda held back 'cause I knew you wouldn't follow me. But anyway, that's your future." But now they're in, right? But here he is praying that God would protect them and he's not praying for their physical protection. He's praying for something he thinks is more important than their physical protection, that they may be... Here it is. "Holy Father protect them by the power of Your Name, the Name You gave me, so that they may be... " This is his one prayer request. Here is what he wanted protected more than anything else. "That they may be one as we are one."

At the very end the thing that Jesus was most concerned about was their unity and their oneness. Because here's what he knew, and here's what he's gonna say in the next few verses. He knew that as long as they were in lockstep together and in lockstep with his Heavenly Father, the world would change. But if they ever got divided and splintered, things would stall out. Then in verse 20, skipping down, if you're following along, he prays for you and he prays for me and he prays for us. This is amazing. "My prayer... " He says, "Is not for them alone... " Not just these 12 guys. "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." In other words, that next generation of Christians and the next generation of Christians and the next generation of Christians, leading all the way up to us. And what do you think he prays for us? And the answer is not what we pray for us. In fact, here's something that's really sad. It's convicting to me. My hunch is virtually none of us who consider ourselves Jesus followers, virtually none of us have ever asked God for what Jesus asked God for.

Virtually none of us have ever prayed the prayer that Jesus prayed, even though he modeled it and clearly this was so close to his heart and so important to him in those final hours, which may be the problem, because as we're gonna discover, maybe if the church, maybe if people like me have been begging God for this, leading toward this, pleading toward this, the world would be a different and better place. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them, all of them in the first century, that meant Jew and Gentile, and rich and poor, and slaves and freemen, and military leaders and soldiers, and tax gatherers and those from whom the taxes were gathered, and the educated and the uneducated, everybody... " In the 21st century, it means Republicans and Democrats, the privileged, the not so privileged, the Independent, the indecisive, the Libertarians, the librarians you know, the Black and Brown and White and Beige, privileged, married, single. In other words, all of us.

"That all of the people who call me Lord," no matter where they're from, what they've experienced, or how good life has treated 'em, or how poorly life has treated them, connected, disconnected, "I pray that all of them," in this vast array this extraordinary dispersion of people with different experiences. I pray that somehow all of them... " This is amazing. "May be one." Which sounds impossible. But Jesus was convinced... We're about to see this because he says it. Jesus was convinced, as impossible as that may sound, it was mission critical, which meant even though it seemed impossible, it was absolutely imperative. This was not an add-on. This was not a, "Wouldn't it be nice if they just all got along?" Which means we should become intentional about ensuring that there is unity in local churches and unity in the church, because this is what Jesus prayed for. And it doesn't come naturally does it? And the reason it doesn't come naturally is because well, we only know what we know, and we were raised by who were raised in and we've experienced what we've experienced. And we tend to run to our little corners politically and relationally in every kind of way, right?

And Jesus is like, "My church is gonna be so diverse, and my church is gonna be so international, and my church is gonna have so many different languages and so many different colors and so many different cultures, if there was any way they could remain one," And then he continues his prayer. "Father, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that... " Another purpose clause. Do you know why he prayed for oneness? This is the shocker. The reason he prayed for oneness really doesn't even have anything to do with us. He prayed for oneness because of what he wanted to do through us. Look at what he says. "The reason I want them to be one is so that the world, not the people in the church." So the people outside the church, the people outside the faith...

When they see the unity in spite of the diversity within the church and between churches, they may actually come to the conclusion. They may believe, that is, they might be convinced that you have sent me." Jesus says look, "This isn't an add-on. This is mission critical." The way the world is gonna sit up and take notice of this beautiful diverse thing we call the local church is when the church works together and is unified even though we disagree and agree to disagree, even though we've been raised in such different ways that we will never see the world the same way politically in other ways, and yet at the same time, there's this beautiful magical unusual unity. And Jesus says, "I'm telling ya, this is the way forward. This is what will eventually get the attention of the empire. This is what will eventually get the attention of the Pagan world. There's never been anything like it."

And you can't sacrifice your unity for anything. You know what He was doing? He was actually asking His Heavenly Father to come along later and nudge us, and nudge that generation of Christians and the next generation of Christians, to nudge us toward what He had just commanded us to do a few minutes earlier when He was having Passover meal with His disciples. Because in that conversation with His disciples He said, "Look, I'm about to leave. Peter, shh, you're not going. I'm about to leave, and here's one thing I don't want you to forget, I'm gonna give you a new command, we talk about this all the time. I'm gonna give you a new command, I'm gonna establish a new covenant. And the new command is gonna replace all the other commands and it's very simple, nobody even needs to write this down." He could have said. "Because it's so simple. And my new command is this, you're to love one another. You're to love one another." To which they would have said, "That's not really new." And Jesus would've said, "I'm not through. You're to love one another as I have... " Look at this, "As I have loved you." You don't get to make this up, I've modeled this for you. "As I have loved you, you're to love one another."

And this was a new command, it was not a new suggestion. These were our marching orders. Again, it's not even about us because look what He says, "And the reason I want you to love each other it's not just so you get along. Because by this, by this kind of unique love for one another, even though you're not like one another. Because of this unique kind of love for each other, the world will know that you're my disciples if you love one another as I have loved you." So now, Jesus after He's given them, given us this command, He's going, "Father, please help them to get this right. Please help them. If this thing expands and grows and goes from Judea, to Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the world, please help them to love each other as different as they're gonna be in so many ways." Back to John 17, His prayer, He says, "I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one." There it is again. "And I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to... Look at this, "To complete unity." Not political unity, unity of purpose, unity of a world view that they would see each other the way I see each of them. That they would see me the way I'm to be seen. That suddenly, this world view that includes a God that loves them and a Savior that dies for them, that would be so encapsulating that it would define and redefine everything for them.

And then look what He says, "Then... " Here is again, it's not about you, it's not about me, it's not even about us. "Then the world will know with certainty that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." He was saying, "Heavenly Father, you and I know everything right on their unity, not around their politics, not around their culture, not around their language, not around bits and pieces of their world view, we know there is a core that they must be unified around. If they are, the world's gonna change." And here's the cool thing, after the resurrection of Jesus it happened. After the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles went to the streets of Jerusalem and clearly, they went with one purpose, their purpose was to make disciples of all nations. And they went with one message, the message was that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the King that has come to reverse the order of things, He's come to bring the kingdom of God to earth, and then He laid down His life unlike any other king, He laid down His life for His subjects to create an on-ramp to the Father.

And they went to the streets of Jerusalem with this one single command, to love each other the way they had seen Jesus love them. See here is the thing, you're all very intelligent, smart people so you know this, let me just say it anyway okay. Your candidate, your political candidate for president or for what, everything, your political candidate, your candidates will win or lose based on how American citizens vote on a Tuesday in November. But the church wins or loses, the community wins or loses, in some way our nation wins or loses based on how we treat each other and love each other, and love our world every single day between now and then. That's why, and I say it strong because Jesus was so clear, "We must not... " It's not an add-on, it's not a nice-to-have. "We must not allow anything to divide us, and we must not allow anyone to divide us."

Remember this. We're gonna talk about this in the third week in particular. Remember this, it's so important. It was Christianity, it was Christianity, it was these unique upside down doctrines of Christianity that shaped Western civilization. Almost no one disagrees with that, even staunch atheists will agree that it was the message of Christianity that shaped Western civilization. It wasn't American politics, it wasn't Republicans or Democrats, it was Christianity that shaped Western civilization. It was the teaching of Jesus, not our political parties that laid the ground work for our modern sense of justice and fairness, and the dignity of every single individual. And we've not gotten that right all the time, and we continue to get it wrong in some quarters, but the hope is not the perfect political party, the hope is the message and teaching of Jesus, because it was Jesus, and it was the church that introduced these values in these ways in the beginning.

So why in the world, why in the world would we opt for something less than that? And why in the world would we allow ourselves to be divided over that? Listen, throughout our very short history as a nation, and it is oh so short, both political parties, both of our current political parties have gotten it wrong. During our oh so short history as a nation, both of our current political parties and their leaders have gotten it wrong, they failed us morally, they failed us in terms of their leadership. We've had some great leaders, we've had some not so great leaders. And then there's this, we forget. During our oh so short history as a nation, several parties turned out the lights because their party was over.

Are there any Whigs, are there still any Whigs around? [laughter] Federalist, any Federalists in the room? See here's what we forget. We're so short sighted. Come on, there were entire political parties in our short history as a nation that were so adamant about certain things and they just kinda went away. So here's the question, why would we as followers of an eternal king allow ourselves to be divided by temporary political systems and temporary political leaders and temporary political platforms? Why would we allow ourselves to be divided by lesser kings? And here's the most embarrassing thing to me. Why would we allow ourselves to be divided by fear? Jesus most oft-repeated command was fear not, fear not, fear not. And you know what? So many of us are so afraid of a potential something out there in the future to be afraid of, let's just pause for a moment and think about the context in which Jesus said, "Fear not."

You got the Temple on one side that can't wait to have you arrested, and you have the empire on the other side that's gonna perform the execution. And in the middle of those colossal forces Jesus says to His Apostles and smiles and says, "Guys, ignore them. Fear not." A King has come. And when the King's people rally around the message of the King, we know extraordinary things can happen because something extraordinary did happen in history. Why? Come on, why would we allow any political view, a view that you might outgrow, a view that you might abandon. Isn't it true that every 10 years or so or every 15 years or so, your views, your political views have changed and adjusted in things that you were all adamant about? It's kind of like, "Well, maybe, I don't know." I mean don't your views change? Why would we run the risk? Why would we allow any strongly held or not so strongly held political view divide us from a living, breathing you? Why would we do that? When Jesus single command is, "Look. Believe what you wanna believe, vote for who you wanna vote for, but don't you dare mistreat someone made in my image."

Why would we allow a political view to divide us from an actual living, breathing you that Jesus died for? The you beside you. The you that lives next door to you. The you that works next cube, next office over from you. [chuckle] Or worse of all the you that's related to you. Why? Come on, this is common sense. Why would we not fight for, struggle for and sacrifice for the unity our King prayed for?

So I wanna make two suggestions as we start off this journey together, two things. Would you pray like Jesus prayed? Because most of us have never prayed a prayer like this before. Would you pray for oneness?

This was the prayer of our Savior, who hours later died. This is what he wanted protected even more than the lives of his closest first century followers. Second thing I want you to do, and for some of you this will be like, "Yeah, I do this all the time." Okay, you could do this all the time.

But I just wanna kinda push you a little bit. I want you to look for an opportunity because you're gonna have to look for an opportunity. I want you to look for an opportunity to love unconditionally someone with whom you disagree politically. You're like, "Well, I don't even know anybody I disagree with politically." [laughter] That's a problem, okay. [laughter] That right there should kinda get you started right? Let me just, can I push a little bit? That's why you haven't learned anything in 15 years. [laughter] Whoo! That's why you're so convinced you're right and you just can't understand. I've told you this. "I can't understand how anybody could believe that." Well, you just made a confession. There's something you don't understand. "I don't know anybody could behave that way." You just made a confession. There's something you don't know. "So Heavenly Father, Heavenly Father, I pray for oneness so we can influence many." And then I want you to look for an opportunity to love unconditionally someone with whom you disagree politically, and that may be harder than it normally is because we're more divided than we've ever been. And when you find somebody that you can serve and love unconditionally your light's gonna shine a little bit brighter because we're so divided.

Now let me close with this. I know what some of you are thinking, and I understand this, I really do. This isn't a criticism. I get this, alright. Some of you are thinking, "Andy. Okay. Cool sermon. Great. I appreciate that. But come on Andy. You have to say things like this? You're the preacher. I mean this is your job. You're just doing your job. You know Jesus said this. You're gonna tell us what Jesus said and you wrap it in a political wrapper and that's a good idea. But come on Andy. Aren't you being a little bit naïve?" To which I would say to you, "No." Let me give you an example of something that's really naïve. Let me tell you what naïve is. Naïve is this: A First-Century Rabbi from nowhere, as far away from the epicenter of activity as he could be, way way way up north standing out in that hot Syrian sun surrounded by 12 guys who were younger than him, and they got no political clout, they don't have anything going for them and right out there in the blazing hot sun this First-Century Rabbi says this, "Guys, I'm gonna build my church, my movement, my assembly, my congregation," which by the way was illegal, "I'm gonna build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

Now that is naïve. They look around like, "Us, you're gonna do what?" "I'm gonna start a movement, and guys you're gonna be part of it. And neither Rome, nor the temple, nor any culture, nor any nation will ever stop it." Now that's naïve. But he did and it didn't and we are part of it. And our unique sacrificial oneness is the key to fueling it in our generation. So disagree politically, love unconditionally and pray for oneness. Disagree politically, but love unconditionally and pray for unity.

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