I’ve always been a proud Aggie, which is probably why God called me to be a pastor just a few miles north of the University of Texas. Maybe God wanted me to bring salvation to the Longhorns? Or, maybe He just wanted me to temper my own convictions a little by surrounding me with people who fly different colors in the Fall than I do.
The truth is, rivalry and tribalism are fun when it comes to college football; they can turn mean spirited and divisive when it comes to politics and religion.
Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own tribe – not the Aggie tribe, but the Christian tribe. My frustration comes when we sometimes forget that the grace that we proclaim to non-believers applies to ourselves as well. You see, we are sometimes guilty of shouting from the roof tops that everyone is welcome, but then whispering behind closed doors about the people we don’t agree with, and who have no place in our club.
It’s hard to sell the idea of grace when we fail to show it to one another.
Paul dealt with the same issue in the early church.
In his letter to the Galatians, he rants against members of the church who are placing requirements on new Gentile converts that they themselves do not adhere to. Less than 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus, the church was becoming infested with pride, creating ways of dividing themselves based on things like race, heritage and belief. Paul spent much of his ministry combating this tendency from a distance, writing letters and sending representatives to the various churches to remind them that we are a people of grace, and not of legalism.
As we enter another election season, I am all too aware that our country is divided by a multiplicity of divisive issues. I am also aware that the Church is not immune to the temptation of allowing our feelings about various political issues to influence our feelings toward fellow believers who may think differently than we do.
Our world has more than enough platforms for arguing about divisive issues. The church is not one of them. My prayer is that during this upcoming election season, which promises to bring more than enough colorful commentary and demonstrations of power to keep us all entertained for months to come, that the church would be a refuge for all of us, as we focus on the cross that brings us together, offering salvation to all.
Even the ones who fly the burnt orange flags. ☺