October 22, 2019
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 10:23-38
Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other. Eat everything that is sold in the marketplace, without asking questions about it because of your conscience. The earth and all that is in it belong to the Lord. If an unbeliever invites you to eat with them and you want to go, eat whatever is served, without asking questions because of your conscience. But if someone says to you, “This meat was sacrificed in a temple,” then don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience.
Pastoral Thought: Today, I am offering a Pastoral Thought in place of my Daily Devotional. To be honest, I don’t know if there is much difference. Yet I want it to be heard as a challenge from your pastor to continue to rise toward the Love First Life.
It would be shocking to no one if I were to speak of our highly charged political climate. Some churches have great uniformity in regard to their political ideology, but Cypress Creek Christian Church has just about every stripe imaginable… and some I have yet to explore. That’s wonderful! That’s beautiful! That is challenging! It really touches my spirit when I see folks who would disagree passionately in the polling booth, but love each other and treat one another with an amazing attitude of respect. It is not only what makes our church unique, but it is a model our culture desperately needs if we are going to rise above the ugliness that seeks to destroy others at any cost.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to conflict and challenging questions in regard to maintaining the community. For most of us, we do not need to deal with meat sacrificed to idols. I have never stood at HEB’s meat counter and debated if I would save $.25/lbs by going with meat sacrificed to Apollo. In fact, we might find the whole discussion rather silly, but it was serious stuff at the time of Paul. I appreciate Paul’s words, “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial.” I don’t know if I would echo Paul and use the word everything, but I might say, “Most things are permitted…” Yet when a community chooses to live in love, the amazing love of God made real in Jesus, there are very intentional choices the community members make. On one level, these choices may feel like a sacrifice or even an infringement on one’s freedom, but love teaches us that we have the freedom to choose what demonstrates respect for our neighbor. We have the freedom to make sacrifices for the sake of that neighbor. It is a much more demanding approach to life, but I believe it is both noble and Christ-like.
With that said, I want to raise the topic of politics, and specifically how we live the Love First Life in our current political environment. Some would say that politics never belongs in church. Not to be rude, but that’s nonsense. Everything Jesus said had political ramifications, especially when you understand that the word comes from the Greek Politiká or Polis which means the affairs of the city or community. The simple teaching of “loving the neighbor,” especially when Jesus explained who the neighbor was by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, pushed back against social and political norms of the time…and still does today if we take it seriously.
At the same time, I think there is a significant difference in struggling with the social and political implications of our faith -vs- bringing a political party or candidate into the faith community. I have an unwritten rule, but I won’t quote a politician in a sermon until we are at least 10 years out from his/her term. I’ve made a few exceptions, but time is an amazing gift that often softens strongly held opinions.
With this, I am asking you to live into the Love First Life by respecting Paul’s invitation to embrace freedom by embracing the freedom to choose love. When we gather for worship or other church events, let’s leave our political t-shirts, hats, buttons and other paraphernalia at home. Let me also encourage you to be involved in the political conversations happening in our community, take seriously your responsibility at the voting booth, and feel free to support your candidate with yard signs or whatever else you might desire to buy. But let’s leave it behind when the community gathers for work, study and worship. We have enough challenges when it comes to Living the Love First Life, and we don’t need to be distracted because we are offending the person across the aisle from us because we are wearing socks announcing Politician X. Some might say that its his/her choice to be offended, and there is probably some truth to that, but Paul heard the same thing in regard to those who were offended by meat sacrificed to idols.
Let me return to an earlier thought for emphasis – I hope you will still discus the issues of the day and how you believe the teachings of Jesus invite you to respond. Let’s do so with lots of “I Statements” that provide opportunities for diverse opinions to be shared. I also encourage people to be confessional and talk about how they know the teachings of Jesus on a subject, but they find it difficult in just how that can be applied to some current social issue or engagement. There has never been a Christian politician or Christian political party. Many of tried, but all have failed. Don’t get me wrong, there have been politicians who are Christian and are trying to figure out how their faith shapes their political values, but they all fall short in being a full representative of Jesus in the world today.
Thanks for thinking with me when it comes to Live more fully into the Love First Life together. If by chance you show up, accidentally, in a shirt promoting a specific politician or party – don’t leave! We have plenty of Cypress Creek Christian Church shirts. We’d be glad to loan you one.
Prayer: Lord God, I love my faith community! I love the people who make up my faith community. I love the diversity found within my faith community, even those I find wrong when it comes to politics. Let the love you have taught me be the love I share, especially with those who disagree with me. Those are the moments when something special can happen, and humanity begins to rise above narrow partisanship to reflect the values of your merciful reign revealed in Jesus. Amen.