Politically engaged, untethered
“Politically Engaged, Untethered”
Sermon by Caleb Campbell, September 5, 2021
As you can tell from the video today, we’re talking about politics. Yes, that is a giant dumpster fire. It’s a phrase that I had heard multiple times, especially over the last few years as I have engaged in conversation around government and politics. Today my encouragement to you would be to not allow the general disdain in our culture for government or politics to shape your view of how it is that you engage with government and politics.
In fact, I want to argue from Scripture today from Second Corinthians, chapter five and six, that there’s a specific posture that we’re called to take as it relates to our engagement with government. For those of you who are joining us today in person, you should have received a handout. If you did not get a handout and would like one, please wave your hands up in the air as if you just do not care, and one of our amazing hosts will get those to you. For those of you who are joining us online, it’s so good to be with you today digitally. If you go to our website, D-S-B-C dot church, on the front page of the website there is a link. You’ll see “Groundwork” and then a link to our study guides. We’re on part number four, with the giant globe on it. This series that we’re in, Groundwork, is a moment for us to take a look at some of the core convictions that we have as a church family – like the statements or phrases that we oftentimes say around here.
So, as we think about government and politics, we have articulated it this way — that as a church family, we engage in government and politics while remaining untethered to any political party, striving to live first as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. So just to note a few things. Number one, we do engage in government and politics. I’d like to argue a little bit about why that is. Second, we are untethered to any political party, and we’ll share a little bit from the Scriptures on that. And finally, we strive to live first as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.
Now I did want to say, too, that when we think about government and politics, I know that it’s fun to make fun with the dumpster fire and things like that. But as for government, many of us will tend to drift into this thinking that government is a necessary evil. But I actually don’t think that as I read my Bible. God intends for us to view government just like all the other good gifts of God –sex, money, power, etc. Government is a gift from God to be stewarded. It is the way that we manage our common life together.
If you open your Bibles, your first two pages will show you that not only did God create the cosmos and humanity and desires to dwell with humanity within his cosmos, but also, He called people to rule and reign over the cosmos, which is government language. Government is a good created by God to be stewarded. However, just like sex, money and power, it can be distorted and corrupted by sin and becomes something that curses instead of blesses.
So, when we think about government, I just want to encourage you not to take that approach of just general disdain, rolling your eyes and things like that. Rather, it’s a good to be stewarded that God has given to us. And I just I would prove it to you by asking: Have you ever been to a place where the government is failing? Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, but you know what I mean. Yeah, we’re off to a great start.
Government is how we manage our common life together. How many of you drove here today on a road? A paved road? OK, and there were signs posted that told you the agreed-upon limit for the speed. You guys remember that, right? Some of us want that number to be higher, and so you disobey the law, and you commit sin by doing so. And then others of us think the numbers should be lower. But that number — that speed limit — it’s our agreement on how we’re going to manage our common life together as we traverse these roads together. Because I have not only responsibility to myself, but I also have a responsibility to you, and so my actions can adversely impact you. And so, I’m going to drive the speed limit or under in order to make sure that not only that me and mine are safe, but also that you and yours are safe. Government is how we get the roads paved. It’s how we how we navigate, like what’s the appropriate speed limit and things like that in fact.
For many of us, we often don’t pay attention to government until it’s like a giant dumpster fire — until government fails or until people are yelling and screaming at each other at a fever pitch. But most governing is done in such a way that it’s just boring, normal life. Managing our common life together, right? Most of government is just that, and it came home to me in a real way, even this week. I was talking to Lacey, who’s one of my coworkers. She and her husband, Zach, just received under their care a foster child. They completed the foster care training and received a foster care child into their home. I think, Zach, was it a couple weeks ago? Can you even count anymore? I know you’re not sleeping.
OK, so as I was talking to Lacey, she was talking about the child who’s under their care. The child was going to be visiting with one of their birth parents. The government was arranging for this to the best of their capacities — safely and in a healthy way for the child, aiming towards reconciliation with the birth parent. One of the things that Lacey said was that she was not going to take the child, but they’re going to send someone to take the child. And if there’s no one available, they’ll send the child home in a taxi. And most of us, myself included, thought, “How could that possibly be?” And we had this big, long conversation around like, wait, is that right? I mean, how does that work? And even for me as a citizen of Arizona, I’m thinking, “Wait. Is that the right way for us to do that? How do we work together to manage our common life together, to take care of this child and make it so that like a kid doesn’t have to get sent home in a taxi?
I also thought just a little bit bigger picture about an experience I had many years ago. I got to go to Kampala, Uganda. I went a few years in a row and got some ministry there. I thought I was ministering, but actually I was being ministered to. There was a group of orphans with an organization called Perfect Injustice. David and Abby Keto, who led it, were telling me the story of orphans there in Kampala. By and large, within the government system, there is not care taken — especially for poor orphans. And so, if you don’t have any money, you’re an orphan, and you have no family to go to, your options are to steal and to live in a slum. And there are many children who do that, and their neighbors who find them to be a nuisance and will actually poison some food and leave it out to kill the child.
Government is our common life together. It’s how we manage our common life together. Take foster care, for instance. Now, we as a community have said, “Hey, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to try our hardest to do right, based on our values as a community.” How we manage that is what we call government.
Government is a key space in which we love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s a key way for Jesus followers to practice that love of neighbor as we manage our common life together. As a church family last week, we shared that there are many refugees that end up getting resettled here in Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey had made a proclamation last week or two weeks ago, specifically thinking about the refugees that are coming from Afghanistan, saying Arizona is ready to receive and care. As a church family, we welcome refugees. But how do we manage that process to make sure that the background checks are done and make sure the vetting is done, to make sure transportation happens? Government is how we manage our common life together.
I did want to say, church family, last we said that during last week and this week, anything that comes in through our Benevolence Fund, all those funds will go to support caring for refugee families as they arrive here in Phoenix. And you guys were super generous. I believe we’ve had more than $5000 given, and so thank you so much. This is going to be invested in local ministries that help resettle refugee families.
And by the way, I just want to mention – I know this is a little last-minute – but Mary, who runs the Phoenix Refugee Collective … I’m forgetting it, I should have written it down. Anyway, she runs a ministry to help refugees, and I’m going to be on Facebook live with her today at 2:30. I’m just going to ask some of the questions that I’ve been hearing a lot of us ask. She’s got a lot of knowledge, and so we’ll be on Facebook live on our Desert Springs Bible Church Facebook page. We’re going to try to make it available for those who aren’t on Facebook. We’ll at least record it and be able to share that. She can add some texture and color to this conversation. Again, that’s today at 2:30 on our Facebook page.
As we think about our posture towards government, I have this question for you: If you were to survey the people that you have influence over — whether that’s interpersonally in your family, in your office space, digitally through social media — if you were to survey the people that you have influence on and you were to ask them, what does this person care about the most? Or what are they most known for? What is the thing that they’re standing for? Would their answer be your answer? Would their most firmly held conviction be the thing you would want them to say? We are all representative of the value systems that we hold. We’re all representing some value systems. So, what value system do you represent — especially as we think about in this particular cultural moment, when we think about politics, government, political engagement?
I’m gonna ask you this question straight up: Are you most known for your political affiliations or for your relationship with Jesus? Would you rather that people know your firm convictions on your political convictions — or would you rather them know your firm convictions on Jesus? To put it another way, who are you repping? Who are you representing?
In second Corinthians, Paul writes to a church, and he gives a little bit of a job description, and this is the text where we get this statement that we’re going to live first as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Notice Second Corinthians 5:17 again. If you have the study guide, it’s right there for you. You can make notes on there. There are some questions to engage with later, but I’d encourage you to make notes as we go along.
So, this is what he says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a …” what? “A new creation;” they’re a new creation. Keep that in mind. “The old has passed away and see the new has … come.” Notice the language. A new what? Creation. Now, I think that Paul is riffing on Genesis one and two, where God creates the heavens and the Earth, and now He’s saying there’s a new creation or a re-creation.
Here we go. Let’s get after it. So, in the Biblical mind — in the mind of many of the Biblical authors, if not all, of the Biblical authors — here’s how they perceived the world. How did they perceive nations? How did they perceive power? How did they perceive the world? And you will find this from beginning to end of your Bible. This is all over the place. There is this paradigm that the Biblical authors hold that there are two spheres, or there are two domains, or there are two kingdoms. One is of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven or the domain of Heaven. And who is the boss in Heaven? Who’s the King in Heaven? God, right? So, they see it, and you’ll see it.
Actually, you should read through Psalms all day today when you get home. In the Psalms, you’ll see language like “the Lord is high” and “lifted up.” He’s “enthroned.” Who sits on a throne? What kind of a person? A king. There’s political government language all throughout your Bible. And so, the King of Heaven — the King who’s up in that heavenly domain — in that in power dynamic that is called the Kingdom of God who is the boss? It’s God.
And then there’s this other domain. There’s this other place. And then there’s Earth now. Many of these Biblical authors would say things like there’s the kingdoms of this world. Or you’ll even have the apostle Paul saying the world or the world systems. In fact, the apostle Paul actually has this line. He talks about the rulers, powers, principalities, and authorities — and what he’s talking about is not just humans, but the power structures that are interwoven into the kingdoms of this world. So, when you hear in the Biblical text, you’ll hear things like “That is of the world,” or “Be not of the world. Rather, be of heaven.”
It’s this dynamic at play — live the value systems, not of this world, but of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, the Biblical authors have this in mind. There are two domains. There are two spheres. There’s the Kingdom of Heaven, and there’s the kingdoms of this world. If you go to the Book of Revelation, you will see that this is illustrated in vivid detail, where there is the Kingdom of the Lamb and the kingdom of the dragon. You’ll find it from Genesis all the way through to Revelation, this dynamic that the Biblical authors have – that there are two kingdoms, two domains.
In Genesis chapter one, where you have God creating the heavens and the earth, the two spheres were overlapped. God was the King, and He called humanity to be His citizens, to co-rule and reign with Him. And there was harmony. There was the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth, and they overlapped.
And then in Genesis 3, what did Adam and Eve choose to do? They gave God the finger. They turned their back on God and went their own way, basically saying, “I want to be the king,” right? Any Lion King fans in here someday? “I just can’t wait to be king” — you guys remember that song? Hey, that’s actually a commentary on Genesis 3. I don’t know if you guys knew that. That is a commentary — I just want to be the king.
And so, you have this rift — this division between the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world, as they are known. And now the kingdoms of this world are marked by sin, evil, injustice, selfishness. So, what are we to do? We need these fears to be reconciled, don’t we? How do we get back to Eden? How do we get back to having the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth interwoven? How do go back?
The apostle Paul is going to tell us. He believes that in Jesus Christ, the two spheres begin to come together again and be reconciled. And so, in the middle — the coming together of the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world — the reconciling that must happen is done not by human effort, but by the work the grace of God made known to us through Jesus Christ. He took on flesh, became one of us, dwelt among us, and was executed by the kingdoms of this world in order to bring about this reconciling work, where the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth are reconciled together again.
And Paul believes — I’m going to argue this from the text — Paul believes that the representatives of this reconciling work, of this re-union, of this act of grace — that the representatives of that are not government. It’s not military; it’s the church. And so, the church — follow me on this — the church lives as a citizen of the kingdoms of this world. If you have a passport, it’ll tell you where you’re a citizen of an earthly Kingdom. But we live according to the Kingdom values, not of the kingdoms of this world. But we live right now in this world. We live as citizens of a greater Kingdom – namely, the Kingdom of God. So, we live according to our ultimate citizenship — you guys with me so far? And we model, as we live those lives, what Jesus said, “You are to be a light. Let your light so shine before people. You’re a city on a hill.” People are to look in and see how Christians operate, to see how they think about sex, money and power and government — to see how they posture themselves towards those things. And in that, the role of the church is to put on display God’s Kingdom amongst the kingdoms of this world.
There’s a word for it. Paul mentioned it here in a minute. “Everything is from God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ.” What was the word R? Reconciled, right, God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of what? Who did he give the ministry to? Us. The ministry of reconciliation is given to the church. The church is to be about proclaiming this message now. Notice the job description. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. OK, we got that reconciling work, right? The good news is that Jesus is the Risen king and has come to rejoin the spheres. That’s good news, isn’t it? Therefore, in light of that good news, we are what? We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal to us through Jesus followers.
Through us Jesus followers, God is screaming, “Even if you run away, as we sang about a moment ago, I will receive you back. I will leave the 99 for one.” And how does that message get proclaimed? Through us. The ministry of this reconciliation has been entrusted to the church. Therefore, the Church, Christians, Jesus followers, are to live — I want to argue first and foremost, as ambassadors of that Kingdom news, of that good news. We plead on Christ’s behalf, to be reconciled to God, right? So, we exist in this space still impacted by the sin, evil and corruption — sometimes even contributing to the sin, evil and corruption of the systems of this world — and yet we are striving to live on earth.
As it is in where? Jesus taught us how to pray. I’m using the good old King James here: He says pray like this, “Our father who are in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And so how should we posture ourselves vis a vis “Give us today Our Daily Bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive … ?“ We’re going to live this Kingdom amongst the kingdoms of this world. We’re living right here. You guys with me so far?
OK, let’s get after it. Let’s talk about politics. So, we live presently — at least I do — in a democratic republic. We are so blessed, by the way. If you think that American politics just is a dumpster fire, hang out with people who are in countries where their government is absolutely a train wreck. Hang out with people who live under dictatorial regimes. We have an immense privilege and blessing to be able to speak into a political process, to be able to have certain rights, to live in a country where those rights are protected.
It also means that we have an immense responsibility. Read your Bible. I think you should actually read your whole Bible today, not just the Psalms. It’s a long weekend. That’s right. You guys can do this. Throughout your whole Bible, you will find what Jesus followers are to do with their power and their privilege and their rights. Do you know what Jesus consistently says to do with those things? Use them in service of others. I hear a lot of talk in America about my rights. And I hear a lot of talk from Jesus, saying “Whatever rights and privileges you have, give them away. Use them in the service of others.” If you think I’m wrong, go read your Bible. This weekend, right now.
Alright, let’s keep going. What’s our approach to government? There are four approaches, at least as I see them. I know that a lot of this, I mean, a lot of the teachings — I would say this about all the teachings of Scripture – are applicable to any society that you’re in, right? I’m going to just kind of lean into the American system, if that’s OK. I totally get if you’re a Christian in North Korea. It’s not going to work the same. I totally get that. And I pray that that you have a pastor who can help you guide through that.
So, let’s take a look at our possible approaches to government and politics. Number one, we can take the approach of the partisan. We can pick a side. We can say — I want you just to hear me on this — we can say things to ourselves like “I am a Democrat. I am a Republican.” “I am” — I just want you to hear that language. “I am.” Is that an identity statement? That is an identity statement. I would encourage you to be careful about the “I am.” Now, “I choose to vote for”, or “I generally align with the platform of …” Just be nuanced in your language. But to say “I am” — here’s the deal. If we take the partisan route, I think, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, inevitably the partisan leadership is going to pick an issue or pick a perspective on an issue that is out of sync with the Gospel.
They’re made by humans. Like these are huge. These are human systems. Which means that inevitably, they’re going to articulate a platform. There’s going to be a position on a particular issue that runs contrary to the teachings of Scripture, that runs contrary to the Gospel. Here’s my question for you: Is your following of Jesus equipping you to speak a prophetic and critical word against your own preferred party? If it’s not, it may be that you’ve chosen to say, I’m just all in with the elephant or the donkey.
Here’s the problem with being totally partisan, saying my allegiance is to this party or that party. Here’s the problem. They keep changing their convictions. Read a history book; they keep changing. It’s exasperating. Thanks be to God that the word of God is unchanging, solid and true — and that Jesus doesn’t change! I can follow the Jesus path, knowing that it leads me to health and flourishing. I don’t have to follow any political leader. And haven’t you noticed what they will do many times? People who want your vote will say whatever you want to hear, even if it’s the Bible. For 1700 years, military and political leaders have leveraged Holy Scripture for their own gain. Do not fall into the temptation of thinking that America is somehow immune to that. You think that’s hard? We’re going to keep going.
Should I do this? Yep, OK. Tremper Longman, a brilliant theologian and Bible commentator. says this. Hear me on this. “No nation today, including America, holds the same status as ancient Israel did during the Old Testament period. To treat America as if it had some kind of favored divine status or role is not only mistaken, but also potentially idolatrous.”
I’m going to come at you fast here. There is no category in your Bible of “Christian nation.” The Biblical authors have, in their minds, in their imagination, two kingdoms, two domains –the Kingdom of God and the kingdom or kingdoms of this world. That’s it.
Now, when I hear people say all America is a Christian nation, I think I know what you mean. Two things to think about. Number one is evangelism. Is America an excellent representative of the teachings of Jesus around the world? After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was reported that many people in Japan called the atomic bombs that were dropped on their nation the Christian Bomb. McDonald’s. KFC. Smith and Wesson. Atomic bombs.
There is no Christian nation. I just wanna I just want to lean into this. If Jesus had a category for establishing Christian nations, He would have done it. He would have killed Caesar and handed us the keys. But look at the teaching and life of Jesus. The way to power is through service, not through domination.
We’re going to keep going, OK. Yeah, like “My country, tis of thee” — not in the Psalms.
And as your pastor in this cultural moment, I’m gravely concerned that for many of us, the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of American Flag has merged with the doxology — that we treat our national religion as equitable or interwoven with what it means to follow Jesus — to where we call people who kneel at the at the Pledge of Allegiance or the singing of the national anthem, we call them heretics.
We are ambassadors of a greater Kingdom. And when we merge our nation’s religion with the Jesus way, it always distorts the Jesus way and gives a misrepresentation. So, I just I would encourage you to just think about if you use the phrase Christian nation, Christian nation. Just think about what that means and also be very careful applying promises that were made to ancient Israel and then copying and pasting then over to America. That’s dangerous, because there’s a command given to ancient Israel to slay the philistines.
Let’s keep going. The second option is to be disengaged. We can, like an ostrich, bury our head in the sand, saying government is gross and disgusting. Or we can like a giraffe, be above it all and look down on all these philistines just scrambling about. No one has as much knowledge as I do. It’s all, just it’s all just a game, anyways. And I’ll tell you this much, this was my position until I was shown the way of truth more clearly.
This was my take. I remember years ago, lamenting to a friend of mine. She at the time would have been in her 70s, an African American woman who ministers in downtown Phoenix. And I said, “I don’t really want to get involved in politics. I’m not really into that.”
And she said, “Well, that must be nice. Because me, my family, and the people I serve, we are directly impacted, oftentimes negatively, by how government is run. What can I do if I’m to love my neighbor, other than be involved?” And that was a time of repentance, and, frankly, confession. I recognized that I was in a position where whatever happened in government very rarely negatively impacted me and mine. But oftentimes it was negatively impacting my sister. Do not mistake pietistic escapism for righteousness. Do not mistake pietistic escapism for righteousness.
The third option: We can take a warrior approach – that we are going to power up, and we’re going to fight the war, and we’re going to take power. By the way, can we just say, aren’t these wonderful graphics? Honest to God, I just feel like an actual dragon is lurking. Well, hey, it’s Biblical, read Revelation. Wow, guys, good job.
Often, I see this, so I’m going to talk about Christians here just for a moment. In the name of Jesus, we can power up and level up and try to take. We’re going to fight the war. We’re going to take over. And again, just read your Bible. In fact, I’ll pare back our homework. Just read the Gospels.
You know there was a moment where Jesus, after Jesus was betrayed, soldiers come to get him. And Peter, one of Jesus’s most trustworthy allies and friends, sees these soldiers about to seize Jesus. And you know what Peter does? Takes out his sword. Do you know what Jesus says in response? “Put it away. Put it away, that’s not how my Kingdom is advanced.” The Kingdom of God is not advanced by the edge of a sword, and it’s something we’ve been getting that wrong since Constantine to Charlemagne to William the Conqueror to today. We’re gonna fight the war and take it back. We’re gonna take ours back. Just read the teachings of Jesus and tell me is that anything near what Jesus teaches?
In Matthew 11:12, Jesus says that from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has been suffering violence. And the violent have been trying to seize it by force. I want to be very clear. I think that we should be politically engaged. I hope you’re hearing me on that, but not in the posture of a warrior who’s going to go in and slay the enemies and take. The ends do not justify the means.
Our character and our actions often display the gospel more clearly than our words. In fact, when a person’s teaching does not line up with their actions, what do you generally call that? Hypocrisy. And so, if we teach a peaceable Kingdom, if we teach “love thy enemy,” if we teach “love your neighbor as yourself,” but our actions are to warrior up — then how does that impact our proclamation of the Gospel?
Again, if Jesus wanted us to do that, He would have killed Pilate. Jesus said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” If my Kingdom were of this world, my people would be killing you right now. But as it is, Jesus says to Pilate, my Kingdom is not of this world. And what He means is, it’s not of this world’s systems, right? Remember the two domains. “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus is calling us to do it. We do not advance the Kingdom of God with the weapons of the kingdoms of this world. If we pick up the weapons of the kingdoms of this world what we’re advancing is not the Kingdom of God. The ends do not justify the means.
There’s a person who’s had a profound impact on my life. She used to be a part of our staff. She’s very outspoken. She’s very involved in advocating for the rights of immigrants. She herself is a DACA recipient –Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. She’s publicly advocating for that. She was telling me a story about how she was at the Capitol building in Arizona, and she was again advocating for DACA. And she saw a person who was a political leader in our state who is on the other side of the issue than she. He’s on the other side of the issue, and some of her peers were scorning and saying nasty things about that person. She went up and said, “Hey, it’s so and so. I’m so glad to see you today”. Her friends were aghast. How could you possibly be nice to that person? Look at all the harm he’s doing to our cause. You know what she said? “We both follow Jesus, which means that he’s my brother. And I’m glad to see him.”
You see, we don’t fight the culture war using the weapons of the kingdoms of this world. How are we to live, then? Paul will say in a moment in your text that that we fight using the weapons of the Kingdom of God, which are righteousness and justice and peace.
Let’s take a look at the fourth option, which is to live as an ambassador of a greater Kingdom. That means we’re engaged. What’s an ambassador? Follow me on this. Ambassadors leave their home country and enter into a foreign space in order not only to serve their country’s interests, but also to serve in that space and to represent their home country’s values in the foreign land. What is an ambassador? They represent their home country’s values in the foreign land. Ambassadors are different than generals. Generals come from a foreign land to take over or use military power. But an ambassador comes in to represent the values of the foreign land.
So, we can take the posture of an ambassador. This is exactly what Paul says. An ambassador of what? What type of a Kingdom? If we’re not going to be an elephant or a donkey, … and we’re not going to be an ostrich or a giraffe, … and we’re not going to be a T Rex or a dragon, might there be an animal that you find consistently in your New Testament, that signifies how we’re to use power and influence? The last book of the Bible is all about power. And there’s the way of the dragon, which is the kingdoms of this world. And there’s the way of the lamb. What’s fascinating to me is that the Biblical authors will actually use this language — the death, burial, and resurrection of the lamb.
The weapon that the kingdoms of this world — the ultimate weapon that the kingdoms of this world wield — is what? Death. And guess what got beat on Easter? Death. Which means that the way of the lamb is the way up. But it’s not the way that we think. The way to power is through service. The way forward is the way under. It’s an upside-down Kingdom. The mascot for the Kingdom of God is not a tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s not a wolf. It’s not a tiger. It’s not a bear. Oh my, the mascot of the Kingdom of God is the lamb.
So, what might that look like? Let’s just take a quick look. “He made the One who did who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God in Him and working together with Him.”
Notice he’s entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to whom? The church, who are to live as ambassadors – notice — working together with Him. We work together by the power of the Holy Spirit. We work together with God on this mission to reconcile the world to Himself. Is that a big deal? It’s a big deal.
“We also appeal to you do not receive the grace of God in vain, for He says at the acceptable time I listened to you. And on the day of salvation, I helped you see, now the acceptable time is now. Behold, now is the day of salvation.”. Paul sees the two spheres cojoining in Jesus, and he’s saying that day is here. Check this out.
“We are not giving anyone cause for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed ….” I’m gonna talk to the Christians, if you don’t mind. I’m gonna ask that you would open your heart to receive this. We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense so that the ministry will not be blamed. We’re working in such a way to not give anyone an occasion to be offended or to find offense so that the ministry will not be blamed. I’m going to lean into this as your pastor. Man, I love you guys so much. Though I feel compelled to say this: If people were to ask what Christians stand for in this particular cultural moment, would it be the death, burial, resurrection, the reconciling power of Jesus Christ? Loving our neighbor as ourself?
I could tell you that for many — and many of you are still trying to figure out who Jesus is – many of you would not associate yourselves with the church or with Jesus. You’re in process, and I’m so glad you’re here. Many of the views that people who are still trying to figure out Jesus is that what evangelical Christians in this country care about the most is political power. I’ll prove it to you. Two years ago, I was talking to a person who’s a friend of mine who’s not a Jesus follower. He pulled me in, and he said, “Listen, if I go to your church, you guys gonna make me vote Republican.” In his mind, when we surveyed the people in our community and asked — “What does that church most care about?” — many people were responding that they want political power. We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense so that the ministry will not be blamed.
Vincent Bacote says this: “Our commitment to the truth and even our outrage at injustice and evil are not sufficient to excuse us from remembering that even our greatest enemy should be accorded respect. Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts, but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture and politics and so. Instead, as God ministers, we commend ourselves in everything by great endurance by afflictions, by hardships, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonment, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, by purity, by knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God.”
Right, we’re not going to pick up the weapons of the kingdoms of this world. We’re going to live and fight, so to speak, according to the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left. How do we do that? I’m going to ask Brandon, who serves as one of our elders, to join me here.
Our elders, especially over this last 18-19 months, have been working overtime to think and pray through how it is that we’re going to actually live in this particular cultural moment and live out the teachings of Jesus. The role of an elder is to shepherd the flock. I serve as one of our elders here, and so does Brandon. So, I’ll ask you, as we think about the past — especially the last 18 months — tell us kind of your take on shepherding and leading us.
(Brandon) We’ve been committed to gathering over the last couple years on a regular basis. We’ve been really wrestling, learning, praying through issues of racial reconciliation, different political movements and issues that are out there — even face masks. What we’ve gathered, and what we’ve learned is, it’s really hard. It’s difficult. It brings a lot of hurt and confusion. But what we’ve also learned is the best way to learn and to grow together is to have the difficult conversations. Caleb, as a pastor, has it been difficult to lead a ministry in the last year and a half?
(Caleb) Yeah, yes.
(Brandon) Yeah, I I would imagine it. Horrible, absolutely horrible. Some pastors have walked away from ministry. One thing that I appreciate about the team here is that they’ve done the opposite. They’ve had the conversations either from the stage or within the church group. We value that, we appreciate that, but it is difficult. And we realize it’s difficult for our church, as well.
So, part of this is we want you to know that we’re available as elders of this church. We would love to meet with you. We enjoy coffee, we enjoy lunch with you. And we want to have an open dialogue over difficult issues. We would love to be able to pray with you, and there’s actually a group of us that meet every Sunday morning before church here on campus to pray. Sometimes we get to pray with other people, and we really value that time. One way to connect with us is through email. It’s just elders@DSBC dot church. The connection card that Dawn and Enrique mentioned earlier in the seat back in front of you – you can just put on there. If you’d like to connect with the elders, we’d love to touch base with you.
(Caleb) Thanks, Brandon, I really appreciate the work that you and our eldership do. I just want to affirm what Brandon is saying. One of the key things that our elders do is meet with people, talk through hard issues. So, if there’s ever a time or something that we do is confusing or frustrating — or maybe we say something that you think is not in line with the Scriptures or you’re just trying to figure out how these all the pieces fit together — our elders are making themselves available to meet with you, even for a long time. I know that that Brandon, you’ve had long relationships with people just to navigate through some of these hard-to-navigate issues, because we want to be people who are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. And these challenges that come our way, they’re not going away. There’s just going to be a new one, fresh every time we seek to take a step forward. And I’m so thankful for our elders, leading us spiritually.
(Brandon) One more thing I’d like to mention, Caleb is our staff. They really do truly love you guys. They go through a lot of times in anguish over decisions that have to be made and just the ministry that happens at DSBC. So, I just encourage you to think of them often, to pray for them, passing an encouraging word on to them at times and so. They really wrestle with a lot, and we want to just make sure that they’re supported. So, thanks.
(Caleb) I’m going to ask our band to join us and we’re going to take communion. Brandon is going to lead us through the taking of communion. For those of you who are in the room, the elements are available in the back of the seat in front of you. For those in the bay, they’re available on the table, right back here. And for those of you joining us online, if you would please obtain any elements to represent the body and blood of Jesus and join us as we take communion together.
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