The Fear That Trumps Our Witness

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I appeal to you, brothers and sisters. By the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…there should be no divisions among you! – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Dear fellow believer,

As I write to you, almost a year has passed since a new president was inaugurated in our nation’s capital. A lot has happened since then. It is possible that your political sentiments are changing. Maybe they’ve hardened. Regardless, if you and I voted differently in the November 2016 election, it is likely that antagonism and mutual suspicion remain. If so, then Satan has us exactly where he wants us.

If you and I voted differently in the November 2016 election, it is likely that antagonism and mutual suspicion remain. If so, then Satan has us exactly where he wants us.

Therefore, I wish to repent—and say to you, unequivocally, that you are a gift and a blessing to me. With you, a deeper intimacy and knowledge of Christ can and will be gained. This is not just a nice thing to say, but rather, an incontrovertible truth that Paul asserts in his letter to the troubled congregation in 1st century Corinth: You have been called into one fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ!

This timely text has begun to move my San Francisco congregation toward healing of its own schisms, some ideological, but most of more pedestrian variety—pulpit preferences, personality types, parenting styles, old wounds. For Paul, myriad differences within the body are not the problem. Like the Corinthians, we will differ on matters of wealth, freedom, marriage, sexuality, Church and state. What grieved Paul was how such differences led to factions, “butchering Christ into pieces,” and therefore emptying the gospel of its power.

The powers-that-be will go to great lengths to divide us. Like the emperors of Paul’s day, divide & conquer endures as the strategy of choice for fearful and vindictive leaders at the highest levels. Governing with intimidation, coercion, and divisive speech inevitably leads to human casualty, especially among society’s most vulnerable. It is for these most vulnerable that we must repent from our fears, and lean into our oneness in Christ, for our gospel witness is at stake. Pursuing Christian unity seems like an uphill battle, but for Christ’s sake it is the hill we must be willing to die on.

For the sake of our unity, I want to ask you some questions. Have you felt ridiculed or demonized for your beliefs? Are there particular things I have done to erect barriers between us? What forgiveness and repentance is needed to make truthful and loving conversation possible?

I want us both to be set free, because I have something to learn from you. More to the point, I believe we have something to learn from each other. We can discover how our faith in Christ, our biblical convictions, and our social contexts inform what we care about and how we vote. We can dare to engage the Bible together, trusting that the Spirit might speak afresh to us, and for our time. Setting aside our partisan identities, can we imagine being the prophetic voice and collective presence that our nation so desperately needs from God’s people today?

Craig Wong serves with a congregation in San Francisco’s Mission District. A former InterVarsity staff member and Christian Community Development Association board member, he’s currently with the board of Dayspring Technologies, a technology company with a Kingdom vision. What do YOU think is needed to foster the Church’s unity? Craig would love to hear from you at cwong61@outlook.com.

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