By Chris Turner
Director of Communications, TBC
I sat down in a movie theatre with my 13-year-old daughter and I located the doors as I did. We would have been the first fatalities if someone stormed in with guns blazing. We moved.
I was recently at an upscale mall and passed two ladies who were obviously Muslims. I looked closely to see if I could detect any sign of an explosive device strapped to their bodies. I didn’t, but I quickly moved on.
Paranoia? Racial profiling? Xenophobia? Do those labels describe me? I don’t believe so. I’ve been a missionary, traveled extensively overseas and love other people and their cultures. So why such anxiety? I’ve searched for a word to describe the suspicion I feel toward the world around me and think I’ve finally found one. It came while enduring the political debates and listening to candidates belligerently hash through the issues of national security, immigration, and gun control.
I am … an American.
Let’s be honest. I doubt I am the only person who feels the tension of living in a rapidly changing America. The inflamed rhetoric of presidential candidates adds to my anxiety. I find my growing fear makes me angry at the world around me; at others not like me. Candidates fearmonger to establish the idea that they are the more capable person to protect Americans from the onslaught of fears the candidates fuel. But no candidate can truthfully protect America or dispel the encroaching darkness many of us feel.
The arrival of Syrian refugees initiated my personal struggle between national security, being an American, and my calling as a Christian; “The Three Tensions” as I call them. Listen, I too want a safe country in which my daughter can grow and live. But the more I’ve wrestled with The Three Tensions, the more I see that my commitment to Christ is diametrically opposed to my right to safety and ultimately my U.S. citizenship.
Unfortunately, way too many of us Christians are looking to a politician to save our country rather than to a Savior to save its soul. You can’t rectify a spiritual problem through a political process. The darkness creeping across our state and across America is not caused by an influx of Muslim refugees, it is caused by the hardening of Christian hearts toward the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
Amid an increasingly divided America and growing fear and suspicion of anyone who doesn’t mirror our personal convictions, I believe those who claim to be Christians have before them three choices.
(1) Deference. I suspect one reason Donald Trump has received such backing is because people are “fed up” with a variety of issues that seem to flow from the Washington establishment. I know I am. But electing someone then sitting back to watch them do their thing is abdicating our Christian responsibility to wade into the world with the gospel of Christ. Passively deferring to the political process rather than embracing the Great Commission is disobedience to Christ.
(2) Denial. Another approach is living a life of denial, separating ourselves from those around us who don’t look the same, talk the same, have the same opinions, or share the same ideology. People living in denial choose passivity, hoping the problem will either go away or will somehow correct itself. Like deferring, denial is disobedience to Christ.
(3) Engagement. This is truly the only biblical response of the three. At some point Christians have to recognize that the Great Commission calling of Christ rises above our concerns for national security and ultimately above our American citizenship. Jesus commanded us to “Go,” and often times reaching people with the gospel means not having to travel any farther than next door. There are more than 140 different people groups living in Tennessee, and 45 of those are among the world’s most spiritually unreached. Could it be that God has brought them to America to hear the gospel since we’ve not adequately taken the gospel there?
There is a real tension between our heavenly citizenship and our earthly citizenship, and in the midst of that tension Jesus calls each of us to live a life of love, not a life of fear. In fact, John tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (I John 4:18).
Christian, we stand at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and you may stand at a pivotal moment in your life. You can engage and change your world by reaching Tennessee and the nations for Christ, or you can passively sit by and watch spiritual darkness creep across Tennessee. You can live a life marked by love for your neighbor – regardless of his nationality, or you can live a life of fear, which ultimately breeds hate for your neighbor.
It’s time for you to choose. How will you vote?