If there is anything that has been validated in this past election season, it is how deeply divided we are as a nation. Our differences are not primarily centered in economic or foreign policy matters, as important as they may be, but rather embedded in the fundamentally diverging ways we see reality. At almost every level of society, a progressive secularity is clashing with a conservative religiosity. In his recently released book, Confident Pluralism, St. Louis University law professor John Inazu captures well our fundamental societal differences. He writes,
“We lack agreement about the purpose of our country, the nature of the common good, and the meaning of human flourishing.” (p. 15)
Christian cultural observer Os Guinness points out how our deep differences present a serious challenge to the American experiment. “The challenge of living with deep differences is calling into question not only freedom and justice but America’s very identity—and this is a time when living with our deepest differences has become one of the world’s greatest issues, one that cries out for new and urgent solutions on a wider scale.” (The Case For Civility, p. 5)
As American citizens, it is increasingly evident that there are deep differences among us. What does this mean for all of us? What does it mean particularly for those who are followers of Jesus? How might we wisely navigate the turbulent cultural waters and politically charged rhetoric of our cultural moment? Let me suggest a few thoughts for your prayerful consideration.
First, I believe wise spiritual discernment is needed. The evil one is at work perpetuating a fierce spiritual battle in our world. This invisible war deceives, divides, and destroys, heinously wreaking havoc on individuals, institutions, and nations. Local churches are not immune to the evil one’s fury. We must guard against spiritual deception, foster unity, love one another, and hold fast to biblical orthodoxy. Even if it is costly, the church must avoid cultural accommodation and maintain its prophetic witness.
Second, we need to renew our gospel witness. The gospel has the power to transform human hearts, foster societal flourishing, and shape cultures. The good news of the gospel is what can bring true hope to our needy city, divided nation, and world. With a humble spirit, let us proclaim the gospel boldly to our friends, classmates, and coworkers.
Third, we are called to love our neighbors who are fellow image-bearers of God, even though many see the world very differently. Our commitment to seek the flourishing of others, particularly the most vulnerable in our city and our society, has never been more important. Let’s enthusiastically embrace common grace for the common good.
Fourth, we need to exemplify civility in both our language and behavior. Civility does not require agreement, advocacy, consensus, or suspension of criticism. Civility is not passivity, but it is a posture we assume when we disagree productively with others, respect their sincerity and decency, and refuse to demonize them.
The days in which we live are filled with sizeable challenges, as well as remarkable opportunities. How we deal with others who differ with us may matter more than we realize. For the glory of God and our gospel witness, may we, as apprentices of Jesus, live well in the midst of our deepest differences.