I don’t know how much Christian propaganda is out there, but I do know that I am regularly sent highly emotive emails outlining why we should keep Muslims out of the country or calling for my signature on some petition to ensure gay marriage doesn’t find legal backing. And so I could go on.
Again, it is not that some of these things don’t contain truth or that I as a Christian shouldn’t add my voice or opinion to current debates. But am I seeking to simply protect my rights and the rights of my family and church? Am I wanting to remain unaffected by the increasing incursion of non-Christian society with its non-Christian value systems on my present experience of freedom? Or am I genuinely concerned for the sake of the poor, the sinful, the broken-hearted and those whom Jesus died to save? Is my desire primarily to see God’s Kingdom come and break out at every level of our society?
It is interesting how the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Zealots and the Essenes dealt with the difficulty of being under Roman domination.
Do we do as the Sadducees and try to ingratiate ourselves with the present powers, seeking to work with them and make seemingly necessary concessions to them over differences in opinion and belief? Or do we join the Zealots in setting up revolutionary groups plotting to overthrow our oppressors and using whatever means foul or fair that are available to us? (Surely a little violence or manipulation of truth for a good cause can’t be all that wrong?) Or maybe, like the Essenes, we just withdraw and form communities well and truly separated from the rest of society (whether religious or secular) where we can practice our faith unaffected by any ungodly influences or compromise.
Or maybe we can join the Pharisees. They somehow managed to remain within society (though they also maintained a clear separation) but preached an uncompromising call to abide by God’s laws as best as can be done under the Romans trusting that justice would eventually be meted out at God’s right time. (It is quite amazing in the Gospels how the Pharisees and Sadducees who normally would go for each other’s throats at a moment’s notice, managed to jump into bed with each other and even with hated Herod, to get rid of the perceived threat caused by Jesus.) Or is there another way – a Kingdom way? Is it possible to maintain our integrity, our holiness, our morality and God’s favour whilst supping with sinners and drinking with pagans?
I have to confess that I am ambivalent about the role of Christian political parties and signing petitions to maintain morality, but it is not necessarily because I am convinced it has no value. I am sure that God calls Christians to politics and I am sure that Christians can and should seek to exert influence in the corridors of government. Yet, somehow, if any of the above is to make any sense, it is even more imperative that Christians are not seen simply as the moral conscience of a nation, exposing sin and attempting to ensure people feel guilty about their failures. Rather, Christians also need to be actively seeking out sinners, whether in places of power or in bars and brothels, offering friendship, love, acceptance and support.
As you can imagine in the gay bar I visit, there are times when the issue of homosexuality is brought up. I am asked my beliefs regarding how God sees such behaviour or the people who indulge in such behaviour. Obviously, this question is loaded with the potential for misunderstanding and anger. Most people in the bar would have well and truly posited their identity in their sexual preference, and many have suffered ridicule, rejection and pain because of their choices. Like Jesus dealing with the Samaritan woman in John 4, is it possible to answer these people honestly and compassionately, drawing them to the deeper issues – to the need for Living Water? Is it possible to tell people who may well be involved in a lifestyle contrary to God’s Word God loves them and offers hope and healing for their lives?
Yes, I have no doubt that there are some in the bar who are deeply uncomfortable when I give my opinion about homosexuality, and who would just prefer to change the topic or try and upset me. I did have one man go off his head at me and call me a fool even for believing in God. Interestingly, it was anoth