Jonathan Haidt in a post identifies a dynamic he believes is tearing America apart. He references an article entitled, “Fear and loathing across party lines: New Evidence on group polarization.” The article reported on four studies in which Americans were given various ways to reveal both cross-partisan and cross-racial prejudice, and in all cases cross-partisan prejudice was larger. “This rising cross-partisan hostility means that Americans increasingly see the other side not just wrong, but as evil. Americans can expect rising polarization, nastiness, paralysis, and governmental dysfunction for a long time to come.”
This observation by Haidt comes as a “soul alert.” In the present political and moral climate a committed follower of Jesus will seem like a sheep going out among wolves. When Jesus sent out the 72, two by two, he warned them, “On your way! But be careful – this is hazardous work. You’re like lambs in a wolf pack” (Luke 10:3 – Message). When He sent out the 12 he warned them “Stay alert! This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” (Matt 10:16- Message). Then Jesus added, “Don’t be naïve. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation – just because you believe in me” (Matt 10:17 – Message).
Men learn to see yourself as lambs and sheep. Jesus advice to us – don’t be naïve, you will be targets of character assassination. So be cunning like a snake and as inoffensive as a dove. In other words, learn to spiritual navigate your way in an unfriendly environment and don’t make a scene. Become a subversive ( Eugene Peterson). This is valuable advice in the highly charged partisan political season we have entered. I have always identified myself as a “committed evangelical,” but I agree with Russell Moore when he stopped describing himself as an “evangelical.” Instead I simple say I am a humble follower of Jesus, since I find myself being violated, manipulated and deeply misunderstood, by politicians, cultural elites and the media. The church could be entering an exile existence within a post-Christian culture. How do we respond? Here are five suggestions.
First, simply share your story as a humble follower of Jesus. Avoid partisan rhetoric. The partisan landscape is all shifting sand. It is a matter of opinions and perspective. But Jesus give you a firm place to stand. He is a rock and a fortress in the time of trouble.
Secondly, be intentional about practicing the presence of Jesus. A godly presence can be more effective then words and opinions. Some times, like Jesus, silence is the best witness. Do not get caught “whining” about how bad our culture has become. Learn to live within culture, while not being a part of the culture.
Thirdly, purpose to maintain a thankful, optimistic attitude about being part of the kingdom of God. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We know the end of the story.
Fourthly, cry out for God to be merciful to us as a nation. We are not deserving of mercy, but pray that He would have mercy on us. Bonhoeffer reminded us that, “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.”
Fifthly, it could be that the church is in exile within our culture. As God told the Hebrews to pray for the Babylonians during their exile, we likewise need to pray for our nation. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jer. 29:7).