Saturday, September 21
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... (Ephesians 4:15)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will ﬁnd rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Healthy Christians ﬁnd themselves in a dilemma. While we desire to live in unity (remaining connected in spite of our diﬀerences), we also desire to eliminate injustice and coercion in the world. There are times when those two worthy goals come into conflict.
How do we welcome all people AND protect the victims of coercion? Do we welcome and include people in our community of faith that believe in excluding others? Do we allow a white supremacist to lead a Bible study? Become a member? All are welcome, but how do we respond to someone who is verbally abusing others? Should we allow those who are antiSemitic, racist, or homophobic to join the community because we want to love our neighbor, even our enemies? It is diﬃcult to know where to draw our boundaries.
Christians do not want to be coercive, but we want to promote healthy change, encourage social justice, and embody the grace that has transformed our hearts. Where is the line between encouragement and coercion? When should Christians join protest groups or boycotts? Should Christians divest in companies that support unjust political regimes or invest in order to have more of a voice? Should we demand/expect/call for people to be politically active? How should Christian lawmakers allow their faith to inﬂuence their decisions? When do Christians cross the line from social holiness into political maneuvering, and when is that wrong? Does God desire Christians to be involved in a nation’s politics or avoid them?
The phrase “peace without coercion” holds the tension between seeking justice and loving our neighbor. It is not easy for followers of Jesus to know when to eat dinner with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15-17) and when to shake the dust from our feet and leave that person’s home (Matthew 10:14).
Thank God that we are not alone in making these diﬃcult decisions! The Holy Spirit is present to guide, direct, and increase our understanding of how to respond as situations arise. Just as importantly, we have a community of faith where we can pray and discuss together how best to walk the path of Jesus Christ. We will be all the more productive and faithful if we include diverse voices in those conversations, especially the voices of those who are without privilege, who experience coercion and injustice.
We have not yet arrived where God is calling us to be. We must push forward together. We must learn to speak the truth about hard topics in love and compassion to one another. We must overcome our need to be “nice,” tolerating false peace built on coercion or avoidance of uncomfortable conversations. When we disagree on issues in the future, we must seek to balance our desire for justice with our desire for love. We must seek to make our church a haven of peace, inclusion, and justice for all, then we will be on the correct path.
• See the italicized questions above. Which of these speak most to you personally, and for our church?