The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
January 17, 2021
The country we love is deeply and acrimoniously divided. The problem is not that we disagree but that we struggle to talk about our disagreements constructively. Our political conversations too often alienate and shut down the free and fair exchange of ideas.
We Christians hold contrary political opinions. That gives us an opportunity to show the country at large how Jesus enables us to deal with disagreement with mutual respect and kindness, and without enmity or contempt. We then can make visible who Jesus is and what a difference He can make; and, as we invite others to give Him a second look, they can see for themselves.
John the Baptist saw the wonder of Jesus so clearly that he invited two of his disciples, Andrew and another unnamed disciple, to quit following him and to start following Jesus. When Jesus turned around and noticed, He asked, “What are you looking for?” – a good question for anyone checking out Jesus to consider. Taken aback by the challenge of the question, they blurted out a safe but dishonest response, asking, “Where are you staying?” – as if all they were interested in finding out was where he was spending His nights!
In truth they were looking for more than they realized, and their words reflect it. The verb in verse 38, translated “staying”, is meno. At one level, meno means “hanging out” somewhere. But in John’s gospel meno is used to translate Jesus’ description of His deepest and most significant relationships. When Jesus talked about how He “abides” in the Father and the Spirit, and they abide in Him, and how He abides in believers and they abide in Him, John’s Gospel employs the verb meno. So, whether or not the two men were aware of it, in asking Jesus where He rested at night, they were in effect asking Him something more profound: “Jesus, where does your heart rest, on whom does it rely, with whom does your heart reside – and can we follow you there?” Jesus immediately invited them to find out for themselves: to follow Him and just look. “Come and see,” He bade them. And they did! And Andrew became so struck by what he saw that he “first” went looking for his brother to invite him to check out the Man he thought might just be the Messiah.
Jesus Himself was always on the lookout for people to invite to check out what God was up to in Him. So “the next day”, verse 43 says, Jesus invited another person, Philip, to follow Him. And then, just as Andrew had looked for Peter and invited him to “come and see”, so Philip looked for Nathanael and invited him to “come and see” who this Jesus is.
And His followers have been doing the same thing ever since. For finding out who Jesus is, is the best discovery anyone could ever make. And their making it benefits, not just themselves, but the community and the country in which they live. Thus, a prime purpose of Jesus’ followers is to make Him visible through their conduct that others might catch a glimpse of Him.
The Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI, has been doing that as they have been engaging members of the church and of the community in positive conversation about political differences.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the church is made up of people who politically are conservative, progressive and everything in-between. Church members have aimed to keep their political persuasions from taking precedence over their spiritual unity. They mean to define themselves first as followers of Christ, and only second as Republicans or Democrats or members of a third party.
For over a year, they’ve been meeting weekly – at first in person and the past ten months by Zoom – to work through their conflicting stances on health care, immigration, gun control, abortion and who would best serve America as president. They’ve sought to understand, and to develop empathy for, those who see things differently than they. They’ve striven to maintain high regard for people with whom they are at odds on some of the biggest issues before us.
Through prayer and obedience to the way of Christ, they have in fact learned to deal with conflict in a way that has not diminished but strengthened their love and admiration for each other, that has banished disdain and increased appreciation even for those who oppose their views. As one member testified, “This is the only place where I really have found respect for the other side. I’d take a bullet for any of you.”
A few have changed their views, but all have become more thoughtful, open-minded and humble in their opinions. One church member said, “When [an idea I dislike] is in the news or on TV, it’s easy to switch the channel or choose not to read it. But when it’s coming from someone you love and respect, you stop, listen and think about it.” She now tries to weigh both sides on an issue with careful and fair-minded deliberation.
As citizens in this democracy, we who walk with Jesus can bear a good witness to who He is and what He can do to make people better in every aspect of life. That enables us to more winsomely invite others to give Jesus a second look and see for themselves what a difference He can make!