This past Sunday, several folks took note that we did not mention the controversy surrounding the recent executive order by the President – to halt access to the United States for people who hold citizenship from seven distinct countries for a period of time. According to the White House, this order was instituted until a more formal and intensive vetting process can be implemented that will aid the United States in protecting our citizens from possible terrorist activities, like we have witnessed in France and Belgium of late. So, the order is meant to be temporary, but many are outraged by the signals it is sending and the collateral damage which is taking place.
While we all agree that we need to do our best to curtail attacks like those recently in Europe, many Americans, including Christians, are saddened and frustrated that this executive order seemed to single out Muslims and has been poorly executed; thus, the collateral damage is too high. Furthermore, for Christians, it is a contradiction of our Biblical call to aid the refugees among us. So, why did we not address it? I thought some Q&A might help us get to the salient points in a brief manner.
Why did we not address the executive order?
Let me begin by saying that this Presidency is probably going to have intensely controversial news cycles, in a unique way. CHBC is just not going to be able to address all of them, in an orderly and Biblically objective matter, without stressing our community and without getting in the way of our primary mission. Certain things will be ‘big’ enough that we will address them, but realize that current events are happening so quickly, with tremendous changes by the hour, that we will not be able to both keep up or digest without our thoughts and positions being outdated within days or even hours.
But also, take into account that speaking into these issues is very, very complex. We want to take the Gospel path each time, and the minute we begin to speak into government policies that do not necessarily encumber the inner working of our church or our religious freedoms directly, we are prone to a partisan pathway, even if that is not our intention. We can always use the moment to talk about what Christians believe, and how we want to live, but we are not a geopolitical entity. We are the church. More on that later.
Having said that, we may address this, but right now we are praying for wisdom. Please pray for us and with us.
How do we determine what is ‘big’ enough to discuss publicly?
Unlike past issues, the events of late started just days before our church service and data was very conflicted in the headlines. Last year, we did address homosexuality when gay rights issues were big in the headlines. The difference there was that the President and the Court were beginning to make rulings that affected the inner workings of the church and other religious institutions. The issue was not just gay marriage, but potentially the hiring practices of churches, what we had freedom to teach, our freedoms as business owners, how we managed our facilities, healthcare provisions, etc. Religious freedom was on the line, so we responded with information that we believe was directly relevant to the Body of Christ here at the Bible Church. Likewise, in the past two years, we have formally responded to race relation issues, etc.
In this situation, although we want to think publicly and do our best to shape a good and just society as much as possible from a Gospel perspective, this is about the status and policies of a geopolitical entity, the United States. You see, the Bible governs the life of the covenant community. Nowhere do you see God speaking to the governmental affairs of Babylon, or Persia, or Rome. God’s Word directs how Israel is to live faithfully within those places, but there is no command to Babylon on how to treat its borders, its immigrants, or its refugees. Israel is commanded to care for refugees among them, as well as the poor and the orphans. The Torah does not even stipulate that we go looking for the refugee, or make sure that they have easy access to our general society. It only talks about those who make their way to us and want to fellowship with us.
So, churches like ours will continue to do our best to obey God’s command to us, the church. We certainly want true refugees to have access to the benefits of our country, and we should try and influence toward that end. But, the executive order is an issue of geopolitical policy. Though you might strongly disagree with it, is not an issue of Biblical corruption. Let us not conflate America with the church, in other words. We are still free to love the refugee among us, and we do, and we will.
So, how will we handle controversial governmental decisions or policies that are not governing our internal workings, but strike at the heart of Biblical concerns?
- The leadership will stay current, do our best to digest and process information, and use wisdom.
- We will pray. We all need to pray. We need to ask for wisdom. We need to pray for our nation’s leaders.
- We will measure everything by the Scriptures and do our best to figure out how to respond, and/or if a public response is necessary.
- The leadership is always available to talk in person.
- We may respond publicly, but not necessarily from the pulpit. With our new communications director, we can now more effectively utilize videos, e-newsletters, blogging, etc.
- We will most likely give preference to issues that are sustained, not quickly evolving, and that affect the inner workings of the church and the general issue of religious freedoms.
How can we process all of this in general?
Keep the Bible in one hand. In the other hand, keep both Christian and secular sources. Keep things to the left and to the right. For example, on Monday I painted my daughter’s bathroom. While I painted, I had the news on. For half the time I played CNN, the other half I played Fox News. The difference was amazing. Same data. Conflicting data. Totally different interpretations. Different angles. Our congregation is very diverse, politically. You can only imagine what it would be like to speak into this with folks that have different interpretive lenses on the data, and sometimes there is conflicting data.
So, with all of that, remember you have the Bible in your other hand. The Bible is the grid. Read it. When an issue comes up, look it up in the Bible. Use a concordance. Ask a pastor for guidance. Bring it up in Life Group. Use the Word to guide your path.
Absolutely, let’s care deeply. This is not about our hearts scaling over. However, let’s be dignified and show the good works of the Holy Spirit in how we respond to our friends, colleagues, and family members who might view these issues from a political lens, rather than a Biblical lens… especially on our favorite social media channels.
Pastor Jay Thomas
Lead Pastor at Chapel Hill Bible Church
P.S. – Some of you might feel like this is a “cop out”. Being a Gospel-centered (versus partisan) church is always going to make a tribe or group feel like their side was not addressed. All of us will feel that way as we seek to avoid the left and the right, yet follow the third way of the Biblical Gospel. I guarantee you that at some point you will feel on the ‘in’ and others will feel on the ‘out’. Our goal is not to be formed by the world, but by God’s Word. Let’s try and do that to the best of our ability.
In either case, we will not be silent or cautious due to pressure. We will do so out of desire to glorify God and love our neighbor.