Political and cultural divides are creeping into churches. Social media has given Christians a louder voice to express views on cultural issues and even church membership.
In “Not in It to Win It: Why Choosing Sides Sidelines the Church,” Andy Stanley discusses how this attitude is damaging to effectively demonstrating the love and unity we should have toward fellow believers. Stanley, an author and minister of an eight-church network in the Atlanta area, provides Scripture-based evidence showing how Jesus’ ministry and actions run counter to what many Christians today believe should be the focus of their time and energy.
The idea of “needing to win” too often guides our attitude toward people with whom we disagree. Such an attitude is also diametrically opposed to Jesus’ approach to reaching the lost and making disciples. Stanley writes, “The Gospels and Epistles are unmistakably clear. We are not in it to win anything. Jesus already won it. Jesus will win it again. In the meantime, we are to love one another and the people around us in such a way that we are winsome whether we win anything or not.”
“Not In It to Win It” discusses how an attitude of winning demonstrates itself in national culture wars. Taking sides on cultural issues is viewed as essential to “save America” from some perceived evil or threat. Stanley suggests that engaging in a fight over such issues never produces winners, only casualties.
“Any admonition that declares that we must rule should be checked with the immediate reminder that Christ did not.”
Saving America is not the mission of the church; saving Americans is. Quoting David French, Stanley writes, “Any admonition that declares that we must rule should be checked with the immediate reminder that Christ did not. It is the cross — not the boardroom, not the Oval Office and not the box office — that is the absolute center of the Kingdom of God.”
“Saving America is not the mission of the church; saving Americans is.”
Jesus was aware of cultural problems and challenges impacting the people of his day, yet he often refused to publicly support one view over another. Why? Stanley suggests that Jesus’ purpose and his focus precluded him from doing so. Addressing such issues was not why he came to live among mankind.
Stanley believes the true enemy of the church is division resulting from Christians dividing along political or cultural sides. According to Stanley, “Unity is not a ‘nice to have’ — it is ‘mission critical.’” We cannot truly love each other and be effective in reaching the lost if we allow division to weaken our efforts.
What should be our focus as Christians? Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Stanley suggests this command should inform our consciences and “govern our responses, actions, reactions and priorities.”
Related: Why are some Christians so angry?
Stanley holds nothing back and clearly shows how our need to win — politically or culturally — casts the church in a negative light. He concludes by saying, “Our responses and reactions say more about the sincerity and authenticity of our faith than anything else, certainly more than our sermons, songs and creeds.” In moments when you are uncertain how to respond, “ask what love requires of you.”
DAN ARNOLD is a graduate of Lipscomb University. He worships with the Church of Christ on Fishinger Road in Columbus, Ohio, along with his wife, Lori, and daughter.
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