Last night I was blessed to be a part of a prayer gathering of 5 churches in our part of town. It was our second time doing so. I had the privilege of setting up the prayer focus on unity.
The more I study scripture the more convinced I am that unity is not just a part of the gospel or the fruit of the gospel, it is the gospel. We were separated from God by our sin. Because Jesus laid down his life on the cross, we are reunified with our maker. All of us who are in Christ are one. That is the gospel.
And that unity has been under attack for hundreds if not thousands of years. But, that’s not the point I wanted to share with you today.
I shared from Romans 11:16b-21
“…if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. “Rom 11:16b-21
In this passage Paul is talking to the gentiles who, before Christ, were outsiders. But, because of Jesus they had been grafted into the family of God. There are some important things to note that particularly need to be heard in the church today.
1.) If the root is holy, so are the branches.
It is God who makes us holy. It is God who gives life to our mortal bodies and gives us the ability to live a life worthy of His name. Yes, we have a role to play, but it is not to make ourselves holy. Our job is to create the space in our lives for God’s holiness to flow through us to produce His fruit on our branches.
I don’t know how familiar you are with how trees work, especially fruit trees, but if the sap doesn’t flow the fruit won’t grow. The same is true in our walk with Christ. If we don’t make space in our live for the life-giving sap of God’s holiness to flow through us, we will never see His fruit on our branches.
2.) Remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
Wait, isn’t that saying pretty much the same thing? Yes. But it’s coming in a different context. Paul is telling the gentiles who have been grafted into the tree not to become arrogant towards the Jewish branches that have been broken off. He goes on to say that they were broken off because of their unbelief and that we were grafted in because of faith.
Even though Paul is talking about God’s chosen people, they are unbelievers. Paul is telling the gentiles not to become arrogant towards the unbelieving jews over their status on the tree. And the reason they’re not to become arrogant is very important.
Because, “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.“
While not explicitly saying that pride leads to unbelief, Paul definitely makes a connection betwixt the two. (“Betwixt?” Yeah, it just felt right to use it there.) Especially the kind of pride that looks down from a higher status on unbelievers.
This is very much a word we believers need to hear today. Especially my brothers and sisters in Christ who are extremely into politics on either side of the aisle.
Without getting into the debate, Christians on both political sides believe they are on the “right” side. There are conservative Christians who believe they are right and that most if not all of their party’s ideology lines up with scripture. Likewise, there are liberal Christians who believe they are right and that most if not all of their party’s ideology lines up with scripture.
Too many believers have placed too much faith in politicians and government and spend far too much time reading, watching and listening to political rhetoric that only serves to entrench the lines of division.
What’s worse is, too many believes hold their political views so tightly that it causes them to look down on the people who don’t agree with them.
Let me ask you a question. How much have you talked about politics this last week? And by contrast how much have you talked about what you’ve been learning in Scripture and your walk with God?
Likewise, how much of your time, the most precious treasure God has given you, have you spent reading, watching and listening to politicians and reporters sharing their views? By contrast how much time have you spent in the word, praying, serving, being generous, etc?
We spend so much time today consuming political arguments that we actually feel justified in belittling at best and dehumanizing at worst those who don’t agree with us.
We’ve become so arrogant in our positions that aren’t even gospel-centric that we don’t realize the jeopardy we are causing our very selves. I firmly believe many believers are at great risk of suffering the same fate as the Jews who didn’t believe. I know that’s a bold statement. But, from what I observe it’s true.
Too many believers have given so much influence to the party and so little influence to the presence of God. And it’s showing.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t care? No. Am I saying we shouldn’t get involved? Maybe. If being involved puts our witness at risk, then I don’t think we should do it. That may not sit well with you. That’s fine. I’d love to talk with you more about it. I do think we should do our “civic duty”. But outside of that, let’s be more concerned about the gospel than we are about the government. No one is going to change your mind. You’re probably not going to change someone else’s mind. Spend your time on what matters most – Jesus.
And it’s not just politics. We should never look down on those who don’t believe. In all situations we need to remember we have been grafted into the tree by an act of God’s grace. If we boast, we boast in God’s grace and in the cross of Christ.
Because, there will come a day when we are standing face to face with our creator. On that day, your politics won’t matter. All that will matter is if He knows you and you know Him. Imagine yourself in that moment. Look around you. Who do you see? There won’t be anyone there because of your political viewpoint. There will only be people there because you loved them enough to live and share the gospel with them. They will be there because the sap of God’s holiness was flowing through your life and they experienced it. Because of you, God grafted them into His tree. Not the party’s tree. His tree.
And I don’t think we should do anything to jeopardize that.