Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How our Lifegroup is dealing with the election.

The Lifegroup (home Bible study) Gloria and I have been part of for many years is a wonderful place where we enjoy friendship, mutual support and encouragement, Bible study, prayer, great food (too much), and a lot of fun and laughter. It's quite a diverse collection of 10-20 people who get together approximately every other week in each others' homes.

Actually our group is a lot like Jesus' small group of 12 disciples -- you know, Peter, James, John, Judas, etc. Now we certainly don't measure up to the caliber of those great apostles who became the foundation of Jesus' church. But we're a lot like them politically -- divided to the max.

After all, one of the disciples was Simon the Zealot. He had belonged to a group (the Zealots) who were committed to the violent overthrow of the Roman government. I'm sure the Romans looked at them like radical terrorists. On the extreme far end of the political spectrum was Matthew the tax collector. This Jewish man was a collaborator with the oppressive Roman government. His fellow Jews would have looked on him as a traitor of the worst kind. He made his living collecting taxes from his fellow Jews for the hated Roman oppressors. He would've been an outcast in Jewish society, lumped together with "sinners" of the worst sort. Their extreme opposite political commitments make the most radical Republicans and Democrats today look like "best buds."

But Jesus brought these two together to work in love and unity for a higher cause -- promoting Jesus and the Good News of His now-and-forever kingdom. Imagine -- working together in harmony in spite of the radical political differences they had espoused and practiced.

That's what Jesus' church should be like -- very diverse and rabidly united in love and in the pursuit of Jesus' mission. Jesus transforms us by His love and power and unites us around a cause that transcends politics like the Sun transcends the streetlight at the end of the block.

Like the 12, our Lifegroup is very politically divided. It includes passionate Donald Trump supporters and passionate "never Trump" advocates. I'm talking about some seriously strong opinions (mine included). Both "sides" think they're right (logically, politically, and Biblically) -- which amazes me because which is right is crystal clear to me, and I can passionately defend the one-and-only correct view. Everybody smile and roll your eyes here.

So how did our Lifegroup respond to last night's election results when some feel like celebrating and some feel like being in deep grief? Some feel that the savior of America and godly values has been anointed while others feel that the destroyer of America and godly values has now been empowered. Tonight we met, talked over some great food, and then moved into our more serious time. We passed out four bells so we had four "no-partisan-talk-allowed" monitors. At least for tonight, if anyone started to talk about how good or bad the election outcome was or to advocate for one candidate or the other, one of bell-holders was supposed to ring their bell as a call to "cease and desist." It worked! We had no divisive, angry, or passionate debate.

Instead we divided up a number of Scriptures to read (see below) and then spent time in prayer for 15 items related to the election on which we could all hopefully agree.

The Scriptures addressed two questions:

What do the following passages teach about God’s involvement in elevating or deposing rulers? Deuteronomy 17:12 Daniel 2:20, 21 Daniel 4:17, 32 Daniel 5:21 Proverbs 8:15, 16 Jeremiah 27:5 Luke 1:52 What do the following verses teach about how God's people are to respond to those who rule over them? Deuteronomy 17:12 Psalm 146:3 Romans 13:1, 2 Titus 3:1 1 Peter 2:13-17 1 Timothy 2:1-6

The prayer requests we then spent time talking to God about were:

PRAYERS WE HOPEFULLY CAN ALL AGREE ON: 1. Pray that Christians will be as passionate about sharing the Gospel, winning lost people, and promoting Jesus, as many have been in promoting their candidate (whoever that was). 2. Pray that Christians will obey the Scriptures to honor, be subject to, and to pray for those who rule over them (see earlier list). 3. Pray for healing of the great divide in our nation, our government, our institutions, our different ethnicities, genders, and economic standing, and between many Christians. 4. Pray for both “sides” to treat each other with respect, to learn to truly listen to the other, to engage in civil discourse, and to understand others’ viewpoints before arguing against them. 5. Pray for people on BOTH sides to be slow to believe and quick to condemn the multiplication of false and/or unproven accusations, and quick to investigate non-partisan sources to discern and to disseminate the truth. 6. Pray for wisdom for President Obama and the congress as to what to do during these last “lame duck” weeks. 7. Pray for President Trump & VP Pence: that they will have great wisdom and listen to wise counselors as they plan their appointments, priorities, and agenda. 8. Pray that God will place people of unblemished integrity and godliness close to President Trump and that he will listen to their counsel -- like Daniel in the Bible who influenced multiple pagan kings. 9. Pray for an end to the bitter partisanship which has benefited no one, and that the politicians will find ways to work together for the good of all the people in the nation. 10. Pray for those who feel disenfranchised and fear for the future – that the new President will be able to reassure them by his words and actions. 11. Pray for the President and congress to enact policies and laws which will promote the value of life from conception to end of life, which will address the underlying issues which increase the number of abortions (e.g. poverty, access to health care, lack of living wage jobs, etc.), and which will value the lives of those who are marginalized and oppressed (e.g. sexual slavery, child labor, discrimination, criminal justice, persecution, etc.). 12. Pray for the appointment and approval of judges who will value life and morality. 13. Pray that God will raise up future candidates in BOTH parties whose personal character and political agendas reflect godly values and morality. 14. Pray for the advance of the Gospel in the USA and throughout the world. 15. Pray that the USA will stand in support of the nation of Israel but also be willing to confront them if it appears they are doing wrong.

Okay, it was probably too simplistic and could be perceived as producing a temporary and artificial unity without learning to have a serious civil discussion of our differences. But it kind of forced us to set down our swords and together to be reminded of how the Scriptures demand God's people to respond to government even (or especially) when it's rulers don't share our values -- think "NERO" and "CALIGULA" in the first century.

Perhaps it also reminded us that it is more important to pray (1 Timothy 2:1-6) for those God has placed over us (Romans 13:1) than to argue, complain, or gloat. I hope it's a start.

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