It’s been an interesting year to say the least. I’m glad the election is over, it seems that with every four years the choosing of a new president all but literally rips the country in two. The last couple months have been filled with commentary, news, bias on all sides, lies, truth, division, name calling, posturing, you name it, we’ve seen it. What I saw during the election is really more important to me than the outcome of the election. About half the country is pleased with the outcome, and about half are not. But me? I’m in a funk about it all. I watched it through pastor eyes, through a missionary lens, through a Kingdom worldview. As I look around post election, it feels and looks to me like a city or town looks after a war, after it has been plundered, after a bomb has gone off, or an earthquake had hit. It looks like a town after a forest fire has swept through. I don’t first see platforms and political philosophies that are or are not advancing, I look and see people, humans of all kinds, and I see a lot of brokenness, misunderstanding, casualties, pride, disconnect and just pure vitriol from one human to another. I expect that from humans, because I’ve learned we aren’t good, not intrinsically. We need something bigger than us, from outside of us, to come to us and change us. That’s Christmas. Jesus, coming to earth to offer salvation to all who would repent. So I expect reviling, name calling, and disrespect toward other humans from people, but not from Christian people, those who claim to walk, talk, and live as Jesus did.
As a pastor, one who’s role is to equip saints for ministry, I feel liable for where we are. I see the problems in our culture as Gospel problems, and I feel the church has long abandoned it’s role as true salt and light. I can’t and shouldn’t be filled with joy and faith in a president, what is happening in our country and world, in our culture and with people, it’s so much bigger than a president. I am not ok with where we are, where the Church is, where people are – this, because I’m more preoccupied with THE Kingdom, and not this kingdom. After all, we Christians are primarily not citizens of earth or of America, we are aliens, part of a Kingdom not of this world. An eternal one that can’t be shaken. I have to say how crazy disappointed I have been over some professing Christians during the election and all the events surrounding it. If Satan himself became President, it still shouldn’t cause the type of fear, idolatry, man worship, and divisiveness that we have seen come out of humans during this process. To avoid writing a book on the subject, I’ll keep the thrust of this article to one main point, and to one main audience, Christians – Jesus is looking for laborers for the harvest, and right now He is finding more people willing to set it on fire.
Matthew 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Though I write to Christians in general, beyond that large banner most of my readers have also already separated themselves into a category based on who I am, and what I’ve shared to this point. Most likely based on your preference, passion, and position, you’re reading this as a Christian who wants to hear what a pastor has to say. You’re a skeptic who wants to hear what a Christian has to say. You’re a friend who wants to hear what a friend has to say. You’re a democrat wanting to hear what a republican has to say, a person of color wanting to hear what a white man has to say, so on. We’ve been conditioned to think this way, in terms of segregation, class, religion, etc. Let’s take off all the jerseys for a moment (or for good!), and strip down to just being human. Let me explain what the Harvest, a bible term and teaching of Jesus, teaches us about the world we live in, and other people.
So we’re on the same page, what is the harvest? First, the harvest, in all of it’s entirety, is owned and loved by God the Father. The harvest is not everything lost, and it’s not everything saved. It’s everything. It’s where we live, work, and play, its ebb and flow, its the life we’ve been given and the people in it. The harvest is not a singular group of people. In the harvest is wheat and tares, grain and thorn, good and evil, old and young, hard and soft, shackled and free, lost and found, religious and not, diverse people, republican and democrat. Everything in the harvest is living and growing, it is all related, it all lives because One person made it. But not everything in the harvest is the same. Everyone in the harvest is loved and an object of grace, but not everyone in the harvest has heard about or responded to Jesus, his love, and his grace. Jesus called us (believers) to labor in, to lead in, and to love the harvest, and said he had very few workers. When you think America, all Americans of all types, think one big giant field full of a harvest.
Most of you have been told there is secular, and there is sacred, and accordingly you’ve removed yourself from the other. Truth is, there are just people, in one broken world, made by God, lost by evil, some have faith, and some don’t. For believers, stop thinking the harvest is someone else, that thinking allows the us vs. them mentality we have lived through recently. The platform God has given you, and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in your life, those are elements of the harvest. You are a worker there if you are a follower of Jesus, and your mission is to tell others about God’s love and truth, with love and truth. You are a dweller there if you are not a follower of Jesus, and if it works like Jesus wants it to, you will get multiple opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the Gospel, without having to come or go anywhere. Love and grace are tangible to all.
So I am writing this to the Christian/religious person, the church goer, from any race or political party that would claim to know truth, and claim to know and follow Jesus. Those who have positioned yourself outside, above, beside, or beyond another. You, bold speaker of hard truth on any side, consider the remainder of this article a modern day Pharisee test. I think there is a way we can know, are we really just shallow people who believe we are better than others, or are we all objects of grace among objects of grace? Like Jesus took a harder, more direct approach with the religious of his day, those that sought to be the voices of truth, the teachers of others, I think we must do the same.
Let me ask you, who won and who lost this election? – the answer to both is The American people. Half won, and half lost, but they’re all human, they’re all Americans, how can there be so much vitriol against the other? Especially from believers in Jesus, (again, which is who I am writing this to and for) we should be ashamed. We have spoken, commented, and carried on as if we have enemies… are American people our enemy? Not only are those that vote differently and have a different vision for our country NOT our enemy, they are the HARVEST, people who God made and loves! Christians are to be laboring in the harvest, not lighting it on fire. Do you know what Jesus did over the harvest? In seeing the broken lostness of Jerusalem, He wept for it. When he saw crowds, whether they were unruly and beating him in the face while nailing him to a cross, or whether gentile, hungry seekers on a hillside, he was filled with compassion! Would you rail against, despise, set fire to, hate, and complain about that which Jesus wept over? Would you literally, by your words and actions, set fire to something Jesus asked you to work in and for? Do you not realize that Jesus wants to build for himself a beautiful bride of humans from every tribe, language, tongue, and culture? Do you know where he is looking to find such humans?…the harvest. Your answers to these questions will help reveal if and to what extent you are a modern day Pharisee.
This is not us vs. them, this is us against us. This is fathers and mothers verses sons and daughters, families divided, generations out of touch and disrespectful to the other, ethnicities that don’t want to understand the other. When you see progressive millennials who can’t take exams because of an election, do you start hurling the verbal stones like “suck it up and quit whining”, or does it first remind you of Paul in Mars Hill patiently arguing philosophically about an unknown God to institutionally hardened hearts? Does it make you pray for God to raise up an Apostle Paul on EVERY college campus? These “people”, do they live in our world, or do we live in theirs? It’s neither, we live in the same world, God’s world, and where His Kingdom is not prevalent, we are supposed to lovingly and boldly exemplify, preach, and teach Christ in that space.
Older Christians, are those whiny millennials those for whom Jesus died, objects of his grace, members of the Harvest, your grand sons and daughters? Absolutely, and more, they are our neighbors, those we love and live with in the harvest, so why are we cursing them rather than weeping over what’s happening to us? When groups of humans are verbalizing that they feel marginalized, when violence and protests erupt, when political decisions shake the country, where is the Church? Behind a computer? Really? Is it that simple, grouping hundreds of thousands of people in a tidy little category as entitled, whiny, conservative, religious, bitter, white, lost, rich, black, deceived, bought, poor, never gonna change, confused, hardened, etc?
People are more than labels and categories, labels and categories seem to be what some people use to understand or define those they don’t have or want to have relationship with. We call this incarnational living, where words become flesh, where actions show love is real. It seems we’d all rather lob virtual “opinion” bombs from our group to another than have to integrate with it, listen to it, learn from it, build relationship and minister within it. “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care”, turns out, is true. Or course it’s true, it’s the summation of 1 Corinthians 13. If you haven’t picked up on what I’m saying yet, blabbing on social medial isn’t an effective way to show people you love them or God loves them.
Guess I should close with that, a little pastoral advice, some rules of engagement, when it comes to social media. After all, Jesus is looking for laborers, who use their hands and feet AND their mouths, not busy bodies, who only use their feet to run their mouths. Here is a rule of thumb if you really want things to change, if you want to help and not hurt. Warning, if you do the latter, it will cost you. Your agenda, your life, your comfort, your money, your pride, your perspective, and could take a decade or two to really see the ripple effects of it in culture. The first two words cost you a few minutes and will continue to solidify the things I mentioned above. Two words that divide us, stall us or move us backwards, and two words that will surely help bring clarity and healing – public rant OR private message?
You choose. Are we really going to spend the next few decades destroying ourselves from within on public, low accountability, low control social media? Or will we start doing the hard thing, the good thing, the right thing, the best thing, the Jesus and Gospel thing – Love God, love your neighbor. Remember that? It’s that command that Jesus said literally everything else he ever said falls under and flows from. Private messaging (or lunch, coffee, living room conversation, etc) is relational in that it’s one person to another – it’s more high control, high accountability, high effectiveness, getting hands dirty kinds of stuff. One is primarily virtual, the other is relational. We aren’t getting anywhere but further away from one another when we pretend we are all virtual talk show hosts. Free speech doesn’t give a Christian the license to say anything they want. We have a higher law, the law of love. It needs to be said, some of you have no more business handling social media than a 3 year old does with an AK47.
We can’t control how everyone behaves, but we can urge Christians to behave like Christ. I implore Christians, quit burning down the Harvest! The places you live, work, and play, including your internet presence, are platforms for ministry, the fields where you work, don’t burn it down, or you’ll have nowhere to labor for God. Those you are railing against are those you are supposed to be bringing into God’s family, your family, your living room! It makes no sense to me, and especially to non believers, that God’s professing people have been more adamant to defend, gloat about, and obsess over a small “k” kingdom, and not live as true representatives of the big “K” Kingdom of light and love. Quit ranting. Start relating, intentionally engage someone who makes you uncomfortable and is nothing like you, and find out, they’re just like you. Go ahead, click that “message” button, knock on that neighbors door, pick up that shovel, or fork, or servant role in the community, whatever will help you see, weep, and engage in lostness. The devil needs no helping destroying those made in God’s image, so stop helping Him.