I recently heard a startling statistic recently involving our nation’s political perspectives: Of all those who voted in this year’s election, nearly half believe their “side” will lead to the saving of America, while the other half believes the other “side” will lead to its downfall. In other words, one side is good while the other is evil. The result is that both sides consider themselves right and the other wrong. Period.
I believe that in this moment of political upheaval in our nation we are vulnerable to a common deception used by our enemy. We take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on the machinations of the world and people around us. We focus in on, become obsessed with, the other side’s conspiracies, their stupidity and ignorance, their choices, while focusing on our side’s ability to save the people and country from ruin.
Division has always been one of Satan’s most potent weapons. The early Church was divided on the necessity of circumcision for Gentile believers. After the emperor, Constantine, made Christianity the official religion of Rome in the 4th Century and ushered in the institutional church, it has been rife with division over both doctrine and practice, with the Reformation being the largest split in its history. From there, more divisions occurred, divisions we still live with today in the form of various denominations and movements.
When I was in college, and a new believer, I recall those divisions well. Leaders of campus ministries were often distrustful of each other because of doctrinal differences. Once, the ministry in which I was involved planned a three-day evangelistic outreach. I, as one of the planners, sought to get other ministries involved. I called one of the staff of another ministry and the first thing I was asked, in a very doubtful tone, was, “Are you going to preach the Gospel?” This particular ministry had a reputation of criticizing other ministries with whom they disagreed. I was so angry that my campus minister had to calm me down, and he reminded me that Nehemiah continued to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem despite opposition.
Another time, I was part of the Worship Committee at my church. We recommended that Communion be shifted in the service to follow the pastor’s sermon. Within a day or two, word had gotten out and a couple in the church began a phone campaign to halt the change. “We’ve been doing it this way for years. We don’t see any reason to change it now.” That was their argument and they stirred up enough people that no change was ever made.
Churches over the decades have split over building programs, the color of the carpet, changes in pastors, doctrinal arguments, and, more recently, political viewpoints. Discord between Christians is almost as common as Sunday morning services. It is the natural way of things when we cease to fix our eyes on Jesus. With our gaze elsewhere, we become more easily drawn into focusing on what we want. We are quick to air our opinions and often to demand things go our way or else. We tend to gather around us, as Paul predicted, those who say what our “itching ears want to hear.” Now, we refer to this as an “echo chamber.”
As a result, we get drawn into battle with our brothers and sisters. We believe we’re right; they believe they’re right. And if they can’t see things our way, we’re done with them. It is a self-centered mindset. Paul addressed this with the Galatians and with a warning: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
This is what Satan wants; it is not, however, what the Lord wants.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 15:20-23)
For this prayer to be answered, we believers must once again fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and, instead of doing battle with one another, battle our true enemy with weapons not of this world, but rather ones suited for the spiritual battle we are facing.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Now would be a great time for us believers to let our fellow citizens know we are disciples of Jesus.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references from the New International Version, 2011.