Priorities <= Identity

Identity = Priorities

We can often be tempted to put our loves and even likes front and center. When we do we open ourselves to perceive those who disagree as enemies, and they often perceive us as the same. Now we feel attacked so we call them evil and they reciprocate. Thus labeled it becomes difficult to engage in anything but war. Christians are called to war just not against people.

I grew up in a Christian family with a mom and dad who taught us that the key to fulfillment as Christians was to live out our calling to love others as we‘ve been loved ourselves by God. That means showing kindness and seeking to serve both believers and unbelievers, Both kindness and service are hard to exhibit when we at war with one another.

The seat of all this enmity is bound up in our priorities. I’m not referring to “to do” list priorities but to alliegiance priorities. Giving our first priority is God doesn’t mean we give up other things we prioritize it means we acknowledge that they are inferior to and will always come after our first priority. Christ should always be our first priority.

Christ is our first priority because we are his. 1 John 4:11 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Every person, no matter how little or how much they differ from us, is valuable and dearly loved by God. If we now bear his name it is because he cleansed us with his blood and adopted us into his family. We are saved by God’s grace or not at all. He gives us grace to live lives that reflect him in how we love and treat others. All others not just those who vote like we do and agree with the things we love and like.

Priority proceeds from identity. If our identity is a Jesus follower then we surrender our will and pursue his will for our lives to bring him glory through the way we choose to live our lives. If our identity is a self determination follower then we surrender our will to no one and “do it my way” to bring fame, fortune, success, pleasure to ourselves through the way we choose to live our lives. These are two starkly different paths with two starkly different outcomes.

Take for example “the cancel culture”. This pop culture term is simply descriptive of the latest form of ostracism in which someone is “cancelled” out of social or professional circles – both online on social media, and in the real world. This pop phenomena should have no place in the life of a Jesus follower. Why not? Because Jesus, truly one with the right to “cancel” anyone, instead chose to love us. The self determination follower decides whether to “cancel” someone based on what benefits their own goals.

Priority proceeds from identity. I want to focus for the rest of this post on those of us who identify as a Jesus follower. Our response to those with whom we disagree should drastically be changed by our identity and the priorities that proceed from it.

How should we respond to those with whom we disagree Politically.

No political party has the market cornered on Christian beliefs, regardless of their claims. No political party is the antiChrist, regardless of what the other party claims. I write now as one who went down the partisan rabbit hole and forgot these two facts. I thus alienated, rather than loved, those with whom I disagreed — I repent of this sin again and ask Jesus, whom I follow, to give me the grace to treat others as I would like to be treated. Thankfully, I am not the one whose path you follow! As Christians we should love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact the divine distinctive of the Christian is love. (John 13:35)

When someone disagrees with us politically, how should we react? Of course it is OK to react by expressing our political views, with these provisos:

  • avoid partisan speak (no easy task in our world today)
  • avoid “going on the offensive” to prove our political view is best
  • avoid letting a political discussion devolve into a political debate
  • instead of becoming defensive or going into debate mode:
    • take a deep breath
    • pray for an attitude adjustment
    • extend grace to him or her by being kind (even if you don’t think they deserve it)
  • remind yourself of a time when God extended grace to you

Basically we need to learn when to let it go and to always treat those with whom we disagree politically (or otherwise) gracefully by reminding ourselves that we owe our very lives to God being gracious to us.

How should we respond to our “enemies.”?

In the Gospel according to St Luke he records these words of Jesus: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” It doesn’t take a great exegete to discern what Jesus means here,

If they are “enemies” (perceived or real) Jesus says to love him or her. No room for “cancel culture here. Knowing how we like to cling to “give them what they deserve” Jesus says do good to him or her. Knowing how we like to “dish the dirt” Jesus says bless him or her. Knowing how we like to ignore those who oppose us Jesus says pray for him or her. Then after some particularly relevant examples of how to respond to your enemies Jesus says for us to treat him or her as we would like him or her to treat us.

In the Gospel according to St John he records these words of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment- to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples- if you have love for one another.

Whether it is someone who voted differently than us or someone who has become an enemy, we can chose to follow our feelings or follow Jesus. We can let the partisan divide invade our home, church, or workplace. We can argue our position and hammer at theirs until we have created an enemy. Or we can see them as those for whom Christ died, and treat them accordingly. We can shut them down or lift them up in love and read “between the lines” and try to understand why they see the world the way they do. We can each go our separate ways, or we can find unity in our faith. We can choose to hate, or we can choose to love.

These are peculiar days. The pandemic. The election. Nerves are frayed. But I believe this is the perfect time to walk our talk before a world wanting to know if what we say we believe is authentic. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner. Thank you for your saving grace. Please enable me to extend grace to others. Please give me a measure of your Holy Spirit and enable me thereby to love the unlovely just as you so graciously love me. Amen