“My kingdom is not of this world.” – Jesus in John 18:36
“You don’t want to know.”
That was my British friend’s answer to my question, “What do Brits think about politics and culture in America right now?” He shared his thoughts as we sat munching on nachos in Dallas, Texas. Born in Africa, living in London, and often traveling the world, he said that most people outside of the States are utterly shocked and ultimately confused by the acrimony in America.
I explained to him that America is currently one big dysfunctional divorced family. As one social commentator rightly said, the Republicans on the Right are the Daddy party and the Democrats on the Left are the Mommy party. Those who feel unsafe vote for Daddy to increase military spending, crack down on crime, and protect the family. Those who feel uncared for vote for Mommy to increase social spending to improve health care, housing, and education.
So in our last election, some would say, the family of America was forced to choose between a mommy and a daddy. Many would say the choice was between a bad mommy and a bad daddy.
The election was a bitter custody dispute to decide who would keep the house (in this case the White House) and get custody of the kids now that Mommy and Daddy were officially divorced and not going to reconcile.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA
Today, we’re living in the aftermath of that bitter divorce. Mom and Dad really don’t like each other, and all the kids know it. Some of the kids sided with Dad and think crooked and conniving Mom is to blame for all the pains and problems we’re suffering. Some of the kids sided with Mom and think Dad is a domineering and dangerous bully. Some of the kids are caught in the middle, overwhelmed with stress and anxiety because they can’t bear to see the family always fighting. While still other kids ran away from home and are trying to ignore everyone and everything because they’re just sick of being drawn into all the family drama.
How about you? Did you side with Dad or Mom? Are you trying to bring the family together, or have you checked out and decided to run away?
Wherever you fall, if you’re a Christian, you likely feel the precariousness of how this defective situation affects your faith—particularly what it means for how you live it out in public. Most believers aren’t able to wholeheartedly endorse the dysfunction on the Left with Mom or on the Right with Dad. We live in a very polarized culture, which seems more divided than ever. And I even sense that spirit and attitude seeping into the evangelical church. Many people are afraid to identify with any group—be it political, religious, or ideological—as they could be attacked for it.
Add to this climate the overwhelming and often negative effect of the 24- hour news cycle and constant social media bombardment, and you begin to see a society at its breaking point.
But the heart of the matter is still the same, and that means our heart as Christians cannot change. Despite all the apocalyptic rhetoric, I’ve discovered as a pastor that most individuals are still concerned with the issues that affect them personally: family, finances, work, and finding fulfillment and meaning in life. People have their own problems and need help. They’re looking for strong teaching that can encourage and equip them to keep going. They long to become overcomers, instead of merely being overcome. This provides the church an opportunity to do something especially unique in our day: to be a healthy loving family where disagreements result in discussion but don’t require divorce. In an age where seemingly everything is political—including entertainment, sports, and even funerals—you and I can be a third family, the family of God. Made up of members of the Left and the Right who love one another and seek to honor the same Father who is over the entire family, we can speak life and hope into our broken culture.
Sadly, as you’ll see in our project findings, many people think that Christianity is old, outdated, and irrelevant. But in fact, Christianity is timeless and its biblical message is always timely. Writing to a church in a culture just as fractured, frustrated, and faulty as ours, an early Christian leader who was familiar with riots and prison said that there are only two ways to live your life: You can plug your soul into the world of godlessness, or you can plug your soul into the Spirit of God.
If you plug your soul into the godless world, Paul promises that you will experience the following: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19–21). Sound familiar? This is a natural life. This is Western culture, especially in America.
If you plug your soul into the Spirit of God, Paul promises that you will experience the following: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). Sound fanciful? This is a supernatural life. This is Kingdom culture where Christians choose to live by the power of God’s Spirit.
That’s the life you and I are called to lead today.
So what does a supernatural, spiritual life look like? It looks like Jesus. Jesus lived under the godless rule of Rome, was constantly harassed by mobs, suffered smear campaigns against Himself and His mother, was falsely accused, wrongly tried, declared guilty though He was perfect, and murdered amidst a cheering riot.
As a Bible-teaching pastor, I have great news for you. You may not change the world from being an ugly place, but you can keep the world from changing you into an ugly person. The key is to live by the same power that Jesus did. You can experience God’s power, have emotional health, and live a fruitful life that feeds others hope and joy in a starving world filled with grief and fear—and you can do that in today’s culture. Helping you embrace and pursue that mission is the aim of the Christians Might Be Crazy project.