Monthly Archives: August 2011

When the Church Was a Family

When the Church Was a Family by Joseph H. Hellerman, (2009; B&H Publishing) is one of those books that is revealing, refreshing and readable all at once.  Hellerman unveils history’s curtain for us to peer into the pagan culture during the time of the early church and get a sense of how life was experienced by our fellow believers in those ancient times.

Yet it’s more than that. Hellerman teaches us how the culture of the ancient family, so different from our Western families, was impressed upon the church back then.  When people came to faith in Jesus, they understood that their loyalties and familial allegiances were radically switched. This was no easy thing for the Christian to do. Often it meant severe rejection and ostracism by one’s own blood-family; which also had negative ramifications within one’s own village or city. To understand the dynamics of what real faith and conversion meant to believers in the early church helps us to see how radical, daring and even severe it was to trust in Christ.

As Hellerman teaches us what life was like in that day, he also contrasts the family culture of the ancients with the individualistic culture of our time.  It is this assessment that underscored how our individualistic, disconnected and often dysfunctional family life has impacted the way we view and behave within God’s family. I think his critique, sadly, is spot on.

However, at the same time, the book is refreshing because most of it presents the many positive features of becoming a genuine, loyal member of Jesus’ family.  These features made my heart long for the kind of love, affection, intimacy, loyalty and connectedness these believers experienced together as a Christian family.  These qualities Hellerman unfolds for us is the reason I highly recommend this book.

Here are some excerpts:

Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 43-47). B&H Publishing.

 

Social scientists have a label for the pervasive cultural orientation of modern American society that makes it so difficult for us to stay connected and grow together in community with one another. They call it radical individualism.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 109-110). B&H Publishing.

 

The New Testament picture of the church as a family flies in the face of our individualistic cultural orientation. God’s intention is not to become the feel-good Father of a myriad of isolated individuals who appropriate the Christian faith as yet another avenue toward personal enlightenment. Nor is the biblical Jesus to be conceived of as some sort of spiritual mentor whom we can happily take from church to church, or from marriage to marriage, fully assured that our personal Savior will somehow bless…   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 170-174). B&H Publishing.

 

The “let us meet your needs” approach to marketing the church, which became so popular among baby boomers in the 1980s and 1990s, has only served further to socialize our people to “prefer a variety of church experiences, rather than getting the most out of all that a single church has to offer.”1   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 213-215). B&H Publishing.

 

We don’t desire growth for growth’s sake but rather a community that grows slowly through natural introductions. We don’t measure our success by numeric growth. We have decided to measure by other means, such as, How long do relationships last? Are members of the community at peace with one another? Are relationships reconciled?3   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 243-245). B&H Publishing.

 

Renewal movements have historically tended to emphasize church practice and the various expressions of the Christian life, while giving less attention to careful theological reflection and lessons learned from church history.   When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 260-261). B&H Publishing.

 

[In a strong-group society] the person perceives himself or herself to be a member of a group and responsible to the group for his or her actions, destiny, career, development, and life in general. Correspondingly he/she perceives other persons primarily in terms of the groups to which they belong. The individual person is embedded in the group and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessary only if in accord with group norms and only if the action is in the group’s best interest. The group has priority over the individual member, and it may use objects in the environment, other groups of people in the society, and the members of   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 370-375). B&H Publishing.

 

American men (and increasingly women), define themselves primarily by what they do, by their individual achievements. Our personal identities are rooted in how we answer the vocation question and in what we accomplish in our pursuits in the working world.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 535-537). B&H Publishing. [Note: Hellerman contrasts how in the family or group culture, one’s identity was so knitted into the family unit that he could not easily perceive of himself or herself as totally independent from the family or group. The author points out both the obvious and not-so obvious implications for such connectedness.]

 

The choices we possess in our radically individualistic society have come at a tremendous emotional price. We pay dearly in the stress department for our freedom to decide for ourselves, and as a result many of us are now emotionally bankrupt. How much inner turmoil, how much soul searching and self-evaluation, how much pressure do we experience in individualistic America as we make—and take personal responsibility   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 584-586). B&H Publishing.

 

As Bellah and others have observed, the origin and popularity of clinical psychology can be directly traced to the increasingly individualistic slant of Western relational values. In other words, the great majority of people on this planet never needed therapy until society began to dump the responsibility for making life’s major decisions squarely upon the lonely shoulders of the individual. Our freedoms, as intoxicating and exhilarating as they often are, have pushed us over the edge emotionally. We are reaping the consequences of decisions that were never meant to be made—and lives that were never meant to be lived—in isolation.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 671-675). B&H Publishing.

 

But in a number of instances, the people in our congregation utilize psychotherapy as just another resource to enable them to continue along their own selfish quest for personal autonomy, an autonomy that seeks to escape—rather than courageously to engage—painful, real-life relationships.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 693-695). B&H Publishing.

 

Pastors (if we are honest with ourselves) will acknowledge a similarly unimpressive won-lost record in our gallant but often futile attempts to grow our people in the context of relational accountability.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 699-700). B&H Publishing.

 

As reasonable as all this sounds, for the Christian faith a neutral approach to cultural differences proves highly problematic where the distinction between strong-group and weak-group societies is concerned. The reason for this is quite transparent. The collectivist social model is deeply woven into the very fabric of the gospel itself.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 714-716). B&H Publishing.

 

My soul takes pleasure in three things and they are beautiful in the sight of the Lord and of men: agreement between siblings, friendship between neighbors, and a wife and husband who live in harmony. (Sirach 25:1)   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 783-785). B&H Publishing.

 

There are striking differences between the way we do family and the way that strong-group cultures conceive of family relationships.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 805-806). B&H Publishing.

 

While marriage was important for those reasons, the closest same-generation family relationship was not the one between husband and wife. It was the bond between siblings.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 817-818). B&H Publishing.

 

It is imperative to recognize, however, that the way in which Americans do family would have been quite foreign to first-century sensibilities. The early church functioned like an ancient Mediterranean family—not a modern American family. We need to resist the temptation to read our idea of “brother” or “sister” into the biblical text. Instead, we must learn to grasp the way in which “brother” would resonate with a strong-group person, since the New Testament church family model reflects the relational values and priorities of kinship systems in the first-century world.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 823-827). B&H Publishing.

 

In Mediterranean antiquity, blood runs deeper than romantic love.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Location 864). B&H Publishing.

 

[M]arriage in Mediterranean antiquity: Marriage, therefore, is a legal and social contract between two families for (1) the promotion of the status of each, (2) the production of legitimate offspring, and (3) the appropriate preservation and transferal of property to the next generation.2   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 867-870). B&H Publishing.

 

• The closest family bond in ancient Mediterranean society was not the bond of marriage. It was the bond between siblings. • Correspondingly, the most treacherous act of human disloyalty in an ancient family was not disloyalty to one’s spouse. It was the betrayal of one’s brother.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 896-899). B&H Publishing.

 

Based on what we have learned we can expand our list of key principles: Principle #1: In the New Testament world the group took priority over the individual. Principle #2: In the New Testament world a person’s most important group was his blood family. Principle #3: In the New Testament world the closest family bond was not the bond of marriage. It was the bond between siblings. Corollary 1 The central value that characterized ancient family relations was the obligation to demonstrate undying loyalty toward one’s blood brothers and sisters. Corollary 2 The most treacherous act of human disloyalty was not disloyalty to one’s spouse. It was the betrayal of one’s brother.  Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1129-1137). B&H Publishing.

 

So this is how a New Testament believer would have conceived of his relationship to his church family: What this means is, first of all, that the person perceives himself or herself to be a member of a church and responsible to the church for his or her actions, destiny, career, development, and life in general. . . . The individual person is embedded in the church and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessary only if in accord with church norms and only if the action is in the church’s best interest. The church has priority over the individual member.8   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1151-1155). B&H Publishing.

 

He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31–35) These words, spoken in the hearing of a large crowd, were utterly scandalous in the cultural context in which Jesus lived. In   the social world of Jewish Palestine, Jesus, as the oldest surviving male in His family (we may presume that His father Joseph had died), was responsible to defend the honor of, and provide leadership for, His patrilineal kinship group. In a single stroke Jesus dishonored Himself and His family by refusing to exercise that crucial family role. And He did so in a public setting.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1252-1254). B&H Publishing.

 

The way we handle these disconcerting sayings is quite revealing. In our efforts to understand what Jesus said about family, we generally set aside these passages and begin to develop our theology of family from the more positive teachings. We gravitate toward those portions of the Gospels in which Jesus exhorts His followers to honor their parents or to refrain from divorce. Only after we have persuaded ourselves that Jesus is truly family-friendly do we return to the thorny passages cited above and somehow try to fit them into a pro-family reading of the Gospels.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1259-1263). B&H Publishing.

 

It is simply to observe that the Jesus of the Gospels often seems to be concerned with something quite different than the material typically found in our creeds and statements of faith.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1315-1316). B&H Publishing.

 

The operative question for the first-century Palestinians who were confronted with the miracles and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth was not What is Jesus like? The operative question was What is God like?   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1319-1321). B&H Publishing.

 

The right-hand side of the chart approaches the Jesus question from an entirely different angle. Here we are not asking, What is Jesus like? We are asking, What is God like? Since Jesus claimed to be speaking and acting on God’s behalf, we ought to be able to answer this question by observing Jesus in action. If we want to find out what God is like, we simply observe what Jesus said and did. Pretty straightforward. Yet this is precisely where Jesus’ contemporaries in first-century Palestine had a serious problem with Him.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1341-1345). B&H Publishing.

 

By behaving in a totally counter-cultural way and by demonstrating His right to do so with stupendous signs and wonders, Jesus was asserting to His contemporaries, “God is not like you think He is—God is like me!”   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1357-1359). B&H Publishing.

 

As history has repeatedly demonstrated, the church can hold unequivocally to orthodox Nicene Christology—Jesus is God—and nevertheless assume that this “God” somehow affirms or desires the forced conversion of unbelievers (Charlemagne), the destruction of indigenous peoples in the name of Manifest Destiny (American colonists), human slavery (Euro-American enslavement of Africans), or racial apartheid (South Africa)—just to mention a few of the atrocities perpetrated by persons who claimed to be followers of Jesus.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1373-1377). B&H Publishing.

 

The earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth constitutes the one time in the history of humanity when heaven fully and finally came to earth. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have the opportunity to see the question What is God like? answered in the flesh-and-blood world in which we live. During His incarnation Jesus not only procured our way to heaven. He also showed us how to live on earth.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1388-1391). B&H Publishing.

 

The loyalty conflict is not about making a choice between God and people. Rather, it is about choosing between one group of people and another—between our natural family and our eternal family. Recall from the previous chapter the three central social values of the ancient Mediterranean world: 1. In the New Testament world the group took priority over the individual. 2. In the New Testament world a person’s most important group was his family. 3. In the New Testament world the closest family bond was the bond between siblings.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1427-1434). B&H Publishing.

 

[W]e see that Jesus’ concept of the family of God was tangibly realized through the sharing of material resources, as Jesus and certain of His followers traveled together. Here is a group of people, unrelated by blood, who nevertheless spent a significant period of their lives together and who related to each other according to the standards of ancient kinship solidarity. They understood themselves to be a surrogate family.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1489-1492). B&H Publishing.

Apparently, leaving one’s father and following Jesus constitutes for Mark a paradigmatic example of what it means to “Repent and believe in the good news!” Again, exchanging one family for another is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Luke 14:26  Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1539-1541). B&H Publishing.

 

I. H. Marshall draws for background upon a Hebrew root that has the sense “to leave aside, abandon.”5 A. Jacobson agrees: “‘Hate’ here probably does not mean ‘dislike intensely’ but ‘sever one’s relationship with’ the family.”6   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1547-1549). B&H Publishing.

 

N. T. Wright, in a ground-breaking study of the life of Jesus, asserted that “the only explanation for Jesus’ astonishing command is that he envisaged loyalty to himself and his kingdom-movement as creating an alternative family.”9   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1583-1585). B&H Publishing.

 

This is a key point. In the markedly collectivist social setting of rural Galilee, people would not simply have related to a prophet-teacher like Jesus as isolated individuals. Jesus would have been much more than their “personal Savior.” They would have joined His group. As   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1589-1591). B&H Publishing.

 

An ideal and not uncommon situation, we might surmise, would see the conversion of a whole household, with the disciple’s natural family embedded in, and serving the mission of, the dominant surrogate family of faith. In this case there would be no conflict of loyalties. But even here the natural family existed to serve the designs of the family of God, and not vice-versa. The focus was on the church—not on the family. And where conflict between the natural family and God’s family did arise, the faith family was to become the primary locus of relational solidarity.   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1619-1623). B&H Publishing.

 

(1st) God — (2nd) Family — (3rd) Church — (4th) Others This list of priorities misses the whole point of the above discussion. The strong-group outlook of the New Testament church meant that the early Christians did not sharply distinguish between commitment to God and commitment to God’s family. Cyprian   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1628-1631). B&H Publishing.

 

Jesus and His followers did not define loyalty to God solely in terms of a low-group, individualistic “personal relationship” with Jesus. Nor, by the way, did they define it as loyalty to the church as an institutional organization (more on this later). For the early Christians, loyalty to God found its tangible daily expression in unswerving loyalty to God’s group, the family of surrogate siblings who called Him “Father.” This is the lens through which we need to read Jesus’ variegated teachings about family in the Gospels. People in Mediterranean antiquity had to leave one family in order to join another. If we are truly serious about returning to our biblical roots, where our relationships with our fellow human beings are concerned, our priority list should probably look something like this: (1st) God’s Family — (2nd) My Family — (3rd) Others   Hellerman, Joseph H. (2009). When the Church Was a Family (Kindle Locations 1638-1645). B&H Publishing.

 

 

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Advice to Our Church During the Political Election Year

I’m writing this piece to you, dear people of God, to offer some guidance regarding how we should conduct ourselves during the course of this heated political election season. I (and perhaps you too?) am concerned that we deviate from our main objective and focus as a church, which is Jesus Christ.

We ought to be a church that has as our main concerns the clear perspectives of Christ’s kingdom and teaching.  Social, political, personal and other such important concerns are secondary to loving, honoring and glorifying God through Jesus Christ.  I say clear, because we can often find not-so-clear support in the Bible for our own political or social views which so easily distract or cause us to deviate from our purpose as Christ’s local body.

So, permit me to lend some guidance for how we can treat these political and social issues, but more importantly, treat others during this intense season.

First, each one of us should be convinced in his own mind about his position.  This is the general or broad principle of Ecclesiastes 7:25 and Romans 14:5.   Each one’s political view is best informed by the Word of God (Psa. 119:169; Rom. 14:5), and not merely informed by one’s cultural, familial or other influences.  At the same time, this is not a call for anyone to be sloppy about his or her political perspective. Again, using a broad application of certain scriptures, one should not be double-minded (Jas. 1:5-8), but should say what he means and mean what he says (Matt. 5:37; Jas. 5:12).

Secondly, each of us should recognize that everyone has an opinion, but that not all opinions are equal, nor are they all always valid (including our own).

An opinion is “The judgment which the mind forms of any proposition, statement, theory or event, the truth or falsehood of which is supported by a degree of evidence that renders it probable, but does not produce absolute knowledge or certainty” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language).

It would be prudent if each person has a well-informed opinion to share, not merely one that is based upon little knowledge (Prov. 28:26), feeling or intuition (Prov. 25:2).  Well-informed opinions bring a higher value to good discussions. Ill-informed opinions serve no one.
Further, we should respect one another through the love of Christ, even if we do not agree with or respect the other person’s opinion(s). Please note that in our congregation we do have a diverse group of people.That’s a very biblically healthy thing.  Opinions about social and political matters range from one side to the other, with much in the middle. We are to be reminded that Jesus’ own disciples held to quite divergent, indeed hostile, political and social positions. Consider Simon the zealot living and working side by side with his enemy Matthew the tax collector.

Thirdly, each of us is called to have the humble mind of Christ (Mic. 6:8; Phil 2:5ff; Rom. 12:3, 10; 1 Pet. 5:5).

All division, discord or fighting stems from an abundance of pride and a lack of humility (1 Tim. 6:4f; Jas. 4:1-3, 6).  This easily includes the propensity to try to impose our own political or social agenda or perspective upon others. So when we don’t get what we want (such as trying to make others agree with our own views) we make fertile ground for fights and discord within the church.

Humbleness means that each one of us is not seeking to please self.  This is to say that I/you/we are not to be:
(1)  Arrogant (Rom. 12:16; Jas. 4:16)
Which means one does not insist on my own way, ideas, or beliefs just because they are mine.
(2)  Domineering (1 Pet. 5:3)
(3)  Stubborn
(4)  Unreasonable (Ex: Gal. 6:3; Jas. 1:22)
(5)  Unyielding To be unyielding means one must not stand hard on things he believes when the truth and facts clearly counter his position.

Humility will take a genuine interest in others and in what they have to say (Rom. 12:9, 10). Humility is teachability, a willingness to give an ear to other perspectives in order to learn what others believe and perhaps why they believe them.  This is not a call to receiving all other views without discretion or discernment, but it is a call to be proactive in graciously and patiently listening to others.  Too many fights take place over straw men and too many divisions happen because of a deliberate and judgmental ignorance.

Humility is also thinking rightly about oneself (Rom. 12:3, 10, 16, 17), seeing oneself before the face of God. When we meditate on the implications of living before the presence of an almighty, sovereign Lord we will be more aware of such things as who we are even in the midst of a politically heated time, who God is with respect to elections and the future of our country,  and so forth.

Additionally, a humble person is teachable (Job 15:8; Prov. 26:12; Eccles. 7:16; Isa. 5:21; Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 8:2), and willing to change his mind about any matter if the other view bears legitimate weight and based upon revealed truth.

Therefore, each person can be (ought to be?) passionate about his position, but not arrogantly obnoxious about it (Prov. 11:2; 13:10; 21:4; 28:25; Mark 7:22; 1 Pet. 5:5).

Fourthly, each one has a right to state his position or speak his conscience in a godly manner (with grace, truth, clarity, kindness, etc.).  However, we should exercise wisdom and choose appropriate times in which to voice or discuss our views.

Fifthly, if it is a matter of an ongoing debate, the discourses should be tempered with humility and other Christ-like qualities.  For example, one should have restrained control of his attitude and tongue through gentleness and patience (2 Sam. 22:36; Ps. 18:35; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Thess. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:2, 3; Jas. 3:17).

The biblical idea of gentleness, a very important character quality and precious to God (1 Pet. 3:4), is not that of being weak or sentimentally passive. Rather, gentleness is that of being patient, mild, reasonable, full of grace and graciousness.  This is exercised by not insisting on  own way or our own perspective. Jesus, the God-Man and omnipotent Lord of the universe was gentle.

The Bible portrays gentleness as seeing people as sensitive beings, deals with people where they are, and treats them with respect (1 Cor. 10; 1 Pet. 2:23).

It really is feasible for us to hold to divergent political and social views and still be fellow believers in Jesus Christ.  I think of the example of J. Gresham Machen, founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and of Westminster Theological Seminary who voted for a Roman Catholic Democratic presidential candidate. On things biblical he was about as conservative as you can get, but on other matters he held to various views.  Fellow believers denounced his opinions and some even vehemently questioned whether he was a Christian because he did not hold to the same social or political ideas as they.  That’s just wrong.

The gentle person shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to unnecessarily offend (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 3:2). I am not saying that we can or should never offend.  There are appropriate times for that. For example, biblical truth and the Gospel would be a couple of main things that offend others.  Jesus’ exchanges with the high priest, the king and with the Roman governor demonstrate patient restraint. Jesus was blunt and truthful, but not loathsome.  Yet, at other times, Christ gave strong, forceful rebukes which were quite offensive.  Those occasions happened when Jesus was protecting his sheep from wolves, or clearing human or satanic impediments to the mission God the Father had for him.

A gentle person reflects care, affection and goodwill toward others (1 Cor. 13; Eph. 4:2). He is not callously abrupt, obnoxiously critical or arrogantly judgmental.

We must not be pugnacious. Literally, this means one is not a striker, not prone to violence, and not a fighter. We are not to be physically abusive. But by implication one is not is not to be mean-spirited with words. He doesn’t lash out when someone says something about which he disagrees. Neither does he incite arguments or alienate people through an attacking manner.
He does not follow through with an uncontrollably hot temper (Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3).

A gentle, humble, godly person must not be quarrelsome. That means he is generally averse to verbal fighting or contentious arguing.  This is different from debating where you present and argue your position. The wise person knows what, when, and how to argue/debate rightly.
One ought not to be eager to make his point in order to get his way.  He is not to be a contentious disputer (1 Tim.6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22-26; Tit. 3:9)  Biblical gentleness does not relish or overly delight in crushing others by defeating their ideas and beliefs.
On the positive side, the godly person has a sense of peace, tranquility, and calmness.  He is a peacemaker – one who is able to bring calm to a stormy situation; not stir up a storm (Eccles. 10:4; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; Jas. 3:17).

As believers, we are called to be just (Tit. 1:8). This means to be upright, righteous, and impartial in dealing with people. A just person is able to forget personal interests and seek the truth in situations, in interpersonal conflicts, or as an umpire over differences, especially differences of opinions.  Being just also calls each to speak what is right, while maintaining the  ability to hear various sides and weigh the evidence, facts, or arguments honestly (Deut. 16:20; Ps. 82:3; Prov. 21:3; Isa. 56:1; Rom. 13:7; Col. 4:1).

In short, the godly believer exercises the fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:23; Phil.4:5), especially in the context of the life of the assembly of God’s people.

If one cannot persuade others of his own position he should be content that he tried, and follow through according to a biblically informed conscience.  At the same time, one should be mature and secure enough to permit others to hold their views without condemnation, rebuke, or ridicule.

Having said all this allow me to conclude by providing specific ways to apply this:
1.     We have such a divergent group of people when it comes to political and social views. This is not a bad thing. We need to continue to actively respect one another and refrain from judging (condemning) each other.

2.     Unless we are having an obvious discussion about certain “hot” topics we should refrain from making political or other statements that are not germane to the subject at hand.  There are opportunities and venues we could arrange for us to do this. Note: I am not saying we are to be quiet about our views. It’s a matter of when and where to say them.

3.    We should be careful about making personal political pronouncements during times when we have guests (especially during worship).   For example, you might feel passionate about a     political position and voice that opinion, but to voice that with guests present could too easily     distract them from knowing that we are first and foremost about Jesus Christ and not about, say, a conservative or  liberal social or political agenda.  In other words, it would be simply wrong for someone to go away believing that we are primarily about “right-wing     Republicanism” or “liberal socialism.”

In any case, we always need to exercise discretion, kindness, and love while uplifting and making much of Jesus. Other matters are secondary (even if important) and are appropriately discussed in other contexts.

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