Pastoral Perspectives

The Gospel always trump

Recently, I learnt from my friends’ Facebook postings on the U.S. Presidential election, that between them, they can have very differing opinions about Trump and Clinton. After the results were announced, some in jest suggested that the end of the world is nigh while others voiced their disappointments as if they have experienced a grievous personal loss. For someone who is not a fan of either candidate, what surprises me is that a handful of the people I know would express their views so passionately on social media even though the election results would not impact Singapore directly, albeit there will be implications. In fact, at one point, two of my friends were posting articles to and fro in a bid to reason with the other why their candidate is a better choice that I was fearful that it may strain their friendship and affect their Christian witness.

To be sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion and preferences. The challenge is when one is tempted to cast those who differ in a negative light as we all have the tendency to think the worst of another. In the process, one can also easily become contentious and self-righteous, believing that the others are blindsided or indifferent towards particular issues. We see this happening when scores of angry Americans took to the streets in protest after Clinton failed the second time in her Presidential bid. Not only were they reluctant to accept the results, many were quick to denounce Trump supporters as racist, misogynist and other derogatory labels. This is most unfortunate because when differences are handled through attacking the other person’s character rather than engaging with his ideas and seeking to understand his motivations, it will certainly not help to bring a nation together nor mend the existing rift within any society.

If there is a lesson for us from the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential election, it is that Christians must guard ourselves from behaving like the world when it comes to relating with people who disagree with us. Sometimes, in our zeal to raise awareness of certain social issues or champion biblical morality, we can easily become careless with our words or end up caricaturing those who do not share similar convictions. In the case of those were supportive of Clinton, one wonders whether it would have helped their cause more if they demonstrated more graciousness and rallied together to find ways to build bridges and contribute to the common good by serving their respective communities.

On an interpersonal level between Christians, we may also sometimes be guilty of regarding men and women according to the flesh (2 Cor 5:16) in that we judge other believers on the basis of what we think should be of importance and significance. These issues could range from one’s political affiliation to evangelism strategies to how discipleship should be carried out. While it is understandable that we desire to be a good witness for Jesus and would want non-believers to think well of the church, Christians need to be mindful that we do not unwittingly end up letting culture decide what constitutes good witness. For example, even if people’s attention span are generally getting shorter, it does not necessarily mean sermons should become as short as those 15 minutes TED talks, as much as every preacher can always improve on his public-speaking skills.

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, he cautioned Christians about “those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community, even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.” In Bonhoeffer’s opinion, there is every danger that those who dream of such an idolised community would demand it to be fulfilled by God, by others and themselves such that they end up having laws of their and judging others on such a basis.

If we are be faithful witness and stewards of what God has entrusted with, we must begin with the firm foundation that it is Christ and not us who builds the church. Our foremost task is to live out what it means when apostle Paul said that “Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15).

As one pastor pointed out, the most important statement we make is not announcing which leader we are rooting for but proclaiming the King who has given us his very life. As God’s people, our influence upon society is never dependent upon any political party or leader. If anything, it is a power that comes through bearing the Cross. In a day and age where people are increasingly intolerant over differences and so easily offended by all sort of issues, those of us who have been forgiven much by a holy and just God will need to learn to forgive others. After all, Christian can rest in the assurance that the good news of a Risen Saviour will always trump over any news that the media may lament or rejoice.

Rev Edwin Wong

November 20, 2016