The quest for unity
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Partisan politics is not foreign to the Bible. During the days of Jesus’s earthly work, the Jews were divided about the Messiah’s political identity. They had twisted the Messiah’s Kingdom mission with a political one. Jesus was born, raised, and did His earthly ministry when Jewish Palestine was governed by the Roman Empire. Thus the Jews sought and expected a political Messiah to accomplish their partisan expectations. They expected Him to be a political leader; to lead a revolt and deliver them from their oppressors; to establish the Kingdom by conquering and overthrowing the Roman empire and ruling the whole world. They also expected Him to make Judaism a superior religion. The Jews were politically and religiously divided about the Messiah! The Rabbi from Galilee was not what they had in mind! Their expected conquering king suffered and died and conquered the chief enemy, Satan.
Likewise, in our contemporary world, cultural-political expectations and inclinations not only divide countries but also the church! Sadly, politics make most Christians unchristian, especially during the electioneering period. In the heat of partisan nationalistic, tribal, cultural-political, and religious inclinations we end up suffering from deep wounds and hurt. Politics make us demean, disparage and demonize those with whom we do not share the same political interests.
We become selfish, angry, and cold-hearted. Consequently, we alienate the people we are to share the gospel with. How then can Christians bridge the prevalent political divides?
The quest for unity does not mean an end to cultural-political differences or uniformity. I am a strong believer in multiparty politics. In a divisive era, it's easy to get caught up in our cultural-political differences but we can choose to extend grace and love one another despite our differences; we can endeavour to build healthy cohesion; we can disagree honourably and find unity in our diversity. How can we do this and what strategies do we employ to bridge divisive politics?
First, we need to heal from our own partisan cultural-political and religious trauma, heartbreaks, and wounds because there’s no way we can bridge the divisions without looking inwardly. Never underestimate the power of deep-seated bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness caused by divisive politics. The Scriptures say, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45; Matthew 12:45); “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21); “When divisive political war drums are sounded, they spark political violence” (Psalm 58:4).
To bridge the political divides, we must first acknowledge our own brokenness and come to Him with a humble and repentant heart–He will forgive and heal our nations from cultural-political and socio-economic problems.
Second, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must understand that we represent a different Kingdom–the Kingdom of God; that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21; Ephesians 2:19) and that our identity is in Jesus Christ not in our cultural or tribal affiliations. In our dealings with people, we must then be eternity-minded.
Third, as Christians, we must know that we are charged with a divine responsibility–the ministry of reconciliation (1 Corinthians 5:11-21). God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. We are called to reconcile people to each other and ultimately to God. When we heal from cultural-political wounds and are aware of our identity and the Kingdom we represent, we show love and extend grace to all peoples regardless of cultural-political inclinations. Love transcends political prejudices and breaks down the dividing walls. By our love and unity, the world will know we are Christ’s disciples (John 12:13) and his faithful ambassadors.
Lastly, to bridge partisan cultural political divides, we must avoid demonizing those who do not share similar political inclinations with us; embrace unity in diversity, extend grace and show love, preach peace, and help reconcile people to each other whether they support the government side or the opposition. We must also be ready to champion truth, political justice, and reconciliation. We should also call out/confront bad leadership and governance and offer objective solutions.
Ultimately, the quest for unity is not to achieve uniformity or sameness but to embrace unity in diversity.
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