To a hammer everything is a nail. To some nonbelievers, other people are mere objects to be fed into the ideological meatgrinder. They want you to adopt their view of reality--one which, in 2020 America, is almost entirely politicized. We are red state people or blue state people; red state governors or blue state governors; Republicans or Democrats. Had they their way they would hurry us safely into categories of their choosing, marked as allies or enemies. You have to fit into the slots that have been cut into their own minds.
God shows us a better way.
What We Owe
The Bible says, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8). Paul lists several Commandments, and finally says, "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law" (13:10).
Can we love our neighbor if we are engaged in pigeonholing him? In persuading him? In preening and aligning him? If we join into the secular political fray, what use are we to Jesus' kingdom which is not of this world?
Why do we owe another person love? And what is the love that we owe them?
Made in God's Image
We are made in God's image--all of us. Humans, all humans, are made in God's image. We have moral, reasoning, aesthetic, emotional pieces, and so on. Our character is made up of our thoughts and feelings combined. Where do we get our thoughts and feelings? Everything interacts. Every person is infinitely valuable because each person is endowed with the mental and emotional gear to tell right from wrong and good from evil, and, to cleave to the good. Each human person is endowed with the pieces he needs to be like God, not in power but in good. Although He is infinite and we are limited, we can echo, we can copy His goodness even in vastly lesser manner.
We are capable of doing good. We are capable of loving and choosing the good. We are capable in His strength and help to be good. As fascinating as is a sea turtle or a great ape, we have no reason to believe they can do those things. They are instinctual, wonderful, but they are not men.
Capable of Doing Good
You are an agent of the kingdom of God. There is a nobility in you. You are designed to be holy. You are designed to be like Him. And so is the person who is the deepest blue stater or reddest red stater. Be careful what category you pick; your choices are not limited to red or blue or purple. None of those colors should chain or define you. God's is a kingdom of love, not destruction. His purpose for us is higher than political, higher than Facebook, higher than Twitter; higher than the Game of Thrones or the MCU.
You love another person by respecting their nobility, even when their nobility is not immediately evident. Billions are trapped in the stupor of this world, and yet, Jesus died for their hearts. How can we be His servants and yet abandon them to evil?
Aiding Others Humanizes Us
Our hearts need to do good; damaging others harms us; aiding others humanizes us. God calls us to humanity, to be agents of good. We love others by doing good to them, attempting to bring good to them. They don't have to do us good in return; they will often return evil. But we are to try to help them toward heaven.
How much deeply awful behavior should we let people do to us before we stop loving them? Surely there is a time when they've gone too far and we are justified in "blowing them away" just like in the movies. But while they were nailing Jesus to the cross, what was His reaction? He prayed for the torturers. "Father, forgive them; they don't realize how wrong they are, how much injustice and suffering they are inflicting on another" (Luke 23:32).
If we are honest with ourselves, we've become greatly desensitized to evil. Hollywood and video games have had a lot to do with that. In the 1960s we saw killings in movies, but a crassness soon entered in. Not only would the hero kill the bad guy, but with smoke still hanging in the air, now the hero would offer a wisecrack about the person just slain, and we joined in in wholehearted agreement. "Yes! He got what he deserved."
Today, video games are dominated by the first person shooter, training the player, usually one of our children, to engage in virtual killing. There was a very popular television series a coupe of years ago in which brothers and sisters competed for the thrones of kingdoms. I saw clips on the internet that suggested that gory beheadings were a characteristic of that show. I wished I hadn't seen them.
Here we are trapped in a dark world of sin with our nose pressed up against the porthole, longing for a better world. And we should be. We should be in this world but not of this world, not shaped into its contortions through its media, its news reports, through blind obedience to its overreaching commands or blind rage and opposition against its demands. God gave us minds; He wants us to reason carefully, to walk intelligently in this world, to resist all plans to shape us as cogs.
While we are free, agents of the kingdom of light and not of darkness, we walk amid people trapped in that narrow shaft, who decide they are blue or red politically. But that's all horizontal; we are vertical creatures. We are in primary relationship to that monarchy of which Jesus is King.
Then how do we relate to people caught up in the present crises?
One thing we can do is to treat others as we would have them treat us were we the blinded. We would prefer them to be gentle, and to help us find our way to a correct moral position. Think just how stubborn you are usually. Would it be easy to bring you from a position A to a position B?
It might be quite a project then to help someone toward moral clarity. Jesus died for these hearts, they are valuable to Him. His cross tells us that. People have moral worth and we are charged to help out from delusion. This is not the state's job, its a moral matter. It is a Christian's job.
We devalue those we regard as deluded. That is wrong. How an we win those we are busy looking down upon?
When we Disagree
Someone has well noticed that the church members of the Michigan Conference (and of every conference) have differing authorities. We are immersed in the soup of culture and the culture is rotten. No, all ideas are not equally bad and all parties and groups are not equally wrong. But the lesser of two evils is still an evil. God has something better for us than leaving us to choose for ourselves which is the lesser evil and become to supporters of the lesser evil.
We should tread softly with our opinions and expectations, and treat each other gently and in a winning way. We can afford to be generous with each other. If we disagree about wearing masks or gloves or social distancing, or other entries in our new list of pandemic terminology, cannot we not love each other and give ourselves opportunity to sort things out? As Christians we should be more famous for grace than for sweeping judgments of others whose hearts we cannot read.
Paul who said "owe no man anything but to love one another" also said "be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Roman 12:21). In the same place he said that it was not the believer's part to avenge himself; God will take care of anything in the vengeance department. The believer's part is to provide needed food to his persecutor, or to give drink even to a thirsty persecutor.
Perhaps these cautions are unneeded. Maybe we are all grace-filled and ready to roll. But as we appear to be coming into a period where we will be more in contact with others and each other, there will be differing opinions and ideas. God sends us into this milieu intending that we not forget the path He has marked for us. We are to give the Third Angel's Message and draw hearts to Jesus, to be agents of Sabbath reform, health reform, agents of Heaven and not of Babylon, not of Egypt.
Look how quickly the world economy crashed and here we are subject to unprecedented restrictions. If there is one silver lining to what we have faced these past two months, it is that it is a wake-up call, a prod against our complacency.
Christians must never forget the call of Jesus. We are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). That does not mean just when it is convenient. We must also remember that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We seek peace with others, but Jesus alone is our Master. We are called to enter in by the narrow gate. Broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13. In the closing events of Revelation chapter 13 it will be easier to do what we are told than to be faithful to Jesus.
The time before Revelation 13 is our practice time, our practical training time. But remember, we are not before Revelation 13; we are IN Revelation 13. We are in, particularly, Revelation 13:11-18 and we have been wasting our training time. The present situation shows it is time to arise and shine. The end is sooner than we thought.
We are not ready.
To conclude, no matter how politicized the world around us becomes, we must keep on our mission, living and giving the Third Angel's Message, living out the reality of Christian experience, being in the world but not of the world. We need to be careful of the sources that surround us that would enlist us in their viewpoints and projects. We need to recognize that some things which seem obvious to us may be different than we think. We need to have grace toward brothers and sisters and neighbors who have a very different understanding of the crisis we have just been passing through, than we do. Our main message is not a theory about the current strange events but it is something definite, something certain, a Bible-based message for these last days that turns hearts to Jesus. It is a time to be awake. It is time to keep our hearts focused on him and to be awake to how easy it will be for us under pressure to do the easy thing so we can eat food.
As those who understand the mark of the beast we should remember Proverbs 23:2:
When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you; and put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.
We should remember that counsel before we jump onto the train for our immunity passports or free app downloads or any other thing that comes our way. Questions of mammon lurk in the fine print. Let us seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and He will show us what else we need and don't need from those so helpful authorities so suddenly so concerned for our well being.
So we are in the meatgrinder but we are engaged in a sausage rebellion. We refuse to have our humanity ground out of us, or to grind out the humanity of others. We refuse to do harm to our neighbors. We refuse to argue over uncertainties among ourselves. We agree to walk with Jesus in our hearts to bless, and not to curse.
We will be Christians in this situation and all others, because Jesus is our King, full stop.
Muskegon and Fremont MI SDA churches via Internet and Zoom 2020-05-30