I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord…whose names are in the book of life. (Phil 4)
The turn of politics in the West clearly shows that that Christians who aren’t on the same page politically better recognise they’re in the same book. If they don’t then there’s a shameful schism coming to the church that will expose how in thrall we are to earthly politics as our true hope.
If my Facebook page is telling me anything these past days (indeed the past six to twelve months), it’s this: Many Christians are dangerously close to aping the partisanship of the world when it comes to how they view those who disagree with them politically.
The age of respectful discourse is pretty much over in the public political square. That much seems clear. And it won’t be coming back any time soon. That too is clear. Where it bottoms out we can’t tell, but at the moment the aim of the game seems to be to see how one can despise and scorn those who hold opposing views.
And Christians, in line with other cultural drifts, are heading right over that precipice not simply in their engagement with the secular world, but with fellow believers.
Don’t believe me? Then if you’re a Christian posting anti-Trump messages on Facebook, how do you feel about those Christians who are glad he’s President because he going to slow down the gleeful shut down of the Christian voice by a liberal agenda? Or because Clinton’s views on abortion negate the idea that all human life is sacred?
And if you’re a Christian posting pro-Trump messages on Facebook, how do you feel about those Christian women who are marching against him because of his dreadful moral character and sexually degrading statements? Or because Trump’s view on immigrants is dog-whistling?
And what if those people were in the same church? Well, we can sort that out can’t we? We can change churches until we find one that’s reflective of all our political persuasions. Just like Paul told opposing factions to do – Jew (weak) and Gentile (strong), in Romans, or perhaps even to the two ladies quoted in Philippians 4 who are at each others’ throats; Euodia and Syntyche.
Except he didn’t. He wouldn’t. He can’t. Not because he can’t, but because the gospel of King Jesus won’t let him. The gospel that brought an end to the enmity between God and humanity brought, as a byproduct, an end to the enmity between humanity and humanity. Pure and simple.
So I love how Paul acknowledges the conflict of these two women, but then at the end of that section points to the fact that they, along with others, while not on the same page, are in the same book, the book of life. There’s something bigger at stake here than their partisanship over their much cherished issue.
If you’re in my homeland Australia reading this, then pay attention, because that’s the polarising political tsunami headed in our direction as well. As usual Australia gets everything last. So perhaps we could learn a lesson early before it reaches our shores. Or perhaps we won’t learn that lesson, as I fear we won’t.
And what is that lesson? It’s this: If the church is to be any sort of counter-cultural movement, if it is to have any effective witness to a watching, suspicious world, it better be able to model what it means to love someone who vehemently disagrees with you on a whole range of cultural and political matters.
Because increasingly no one else does. Increasingly no one else can tolerate a person who holds a polar opposite viewpoint to them on something – anything. All sorts of subhuman name-calling can be justified. Watch the news/op-ed shows. Read the comments below the line in the papers. The dark, scornful evil heart of humanity is there for all to see.
Yet the fact is that one day the Lord Jesus will return to judge the earth in righteousness and truth (His righteousness and His truth), and will simply blow away the proud leaders of this age.
That should at least give us pause for thought, a space for humility, and a concern that we be found ready for that appearing by agreeing in the Lord simply because, while not on the same page, we are in the same book. And we’re in that book not because we’re progressive; not because we’re conservative; but because we are sinners saved by the grace of God.