3 Lessons From Events In The USA
By Lim Sue San
By now, many would have heard of or seen images of the recent events in the United States (US) in the media. I must confess I don’t usually pay much attention to things happening in the US. That was until last year, when the country faced the pandemic, racial riots, and the presidential elections.
Tensions were palpably high, both on mainstream and social media. But what particularly intrigued me was what was happening within the Christian community. American pastors were divided on whether to hold in-person physical gatherings despite government restrictions, rising cases of infections, and resistance to mask-wearing. Professing Christians were expressing polarising and often vitriolic opinions online on which presidential candidate a true Christian should vote for. Different views and even conspiracy theories were also creeping into many churches, fuelling further hate and fear.
As a non-American living on the other side of the world, I recognise that the current state of affairs is far more complex than I’m able to understand. What is evident however, is that division runs deep not only in the country, but also in the church. As a people of God called to watch and pray, what can I pray for fellow believers there? Are there lessons that God is teaching us? Here are some of my own observations and reflections:
1. Seek truth and wisdom in the right places
As the pandemic forced many American churches to suspend in-person worship services, congregants turned to social media and podcasts for input and guidance. Many became exposed to teachings that sounded “biblical”, gradually limiting themselves to information that aligned with those teachings.
Having a good understanding of theology is vital. Scripture warns us that false teachings abound in the last days. The call is for us to always be growing in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), digging deep into God’s word and examining Scripture like the Berean believers (Acts 17:11). The Bible also states that “there is safety in an abundance of counsellors” (Proverbs 11:14). Limiting ourselves to a single source of counsel may not be wise. We should develop a community of mature Christians with visible fruit of the Spirit, to whom we can turn to for godly advice.
2. Respond with gentleness and grace
Some Christians, by reason of defending truth, verbally attacked fellow believers who held differing views on hot-button issues such as racial injustice and LGBTQ. Whether one chose to vote for one party or even abstain from voting, the criticisms were relentless and vicious. There seemed to be little attempt to listen and build bridges.
This phenomenon is happening everywhere, even on our shores. We must not vilify others just because their stance may be different from ours. While we try to uphold Christian values, we are to “let (our) speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). I have been very encouraged by American pastors who courageously responded with patience and gentleness to hateful comments from believers and non-believers alike. To me, they have been examples of what it means to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19–20) (NIV). These are challenging times for them, and they and their flock will need much wisdom in the days ahead.
3. Look ultimately to King Jesus
Whether red or blue, earthly leaders are still fallen human beings. In fact, their flaws and failures should come as no surprise to us. Even the most beloved king David committed adultery and murder. What is important was that he humbled himself before the Lord and repented. The accounts in the Old Testament point us to the one King who will one day come to rule with truth, justice, and righteousness. King Jesus is the final Judge to whom we must all give an account. This truth is both sobering and comforting. Let us all then diligently aspire after the apostle Paul who said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)