Advent: Finding our unity in Jesus

December 5th, 2016

Advent is the ideal time for Jesus followers of all political persuasions and partisan alliances after this difficult election cycle to set aside our differences, coming together in unity to reflect the mind and heart of Christ. To experience the new this Advent season, to find our “next,” we must let go of the old. Old habits and ways of thinking must be replaced with new. The “mindset” and “attitude” of Christ Jesus that the Apostle Paul described to the Philippians must supersede our own prejudices, presumptions and partisan ideologies.

In another one of Paul’s letters, he reminded the Christians in Ephesus about the necessity of renewed thinking:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

What is remarkable about this admonition is that it may have been written from a Roman prison cell. Paul knew how to practice what he preached.

The English word repent comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means a change in mindset or the mind. Our minds control our attitudes, actions and behaviors. Our thoughts become actions, and our actions become lifestyles. The author of Proverbs reminds us, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (23:7 NKJV). Our attitudes affect the outcomes of our lives in this world and the world beyond.

One of those key attitudes requires remembering that God is a God of relationships: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5). Ginghamsburg Church represents a diversity of folks, in both ethnicity and political ideology. In my Facebook newsfeed I frequently find posts from Bruce, a staunchly conservative Tea Party supporter, juxtaposed with those of Matt, a committed political liberal. During one weekend worship celebration, I may be greeted by Beth, an age sixty-plus gay woman who retired from a male-dominated profession, when she taps me on the shoulder from the row behind me. At the next worship time, I will turn around to find one of our many young married couples, baby carrier parked beside them, seated in the same aisle, representatives of one of the fastest growing demographics within the church. What binds us together? Definitely not our political viewpoints or even our lifestyles. Our unity is found in Jesus.

Jesus calls his followers to demonstrate a radically alternative way of living together. In the world, people organize themselves into groups in which people tend to think alike, vote alike, look alike and share the same economic demographic. But in Christ’s kingdom, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Having the mind of Christ Jesus allows us to see people as Jesus sees them, regardless of political persuasion, sexual orientation, nationality, theological beliefs or even the lack thereof. Jesus never told his followers, “This is my command; you shall adhere strictly to right doctrinal beliefs and agree with one another on correct political ideology.” As a matter of fact Jesus left us with only one new commandment in all of his teaching. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34)

Ultimately it is not our theological positions that determine the authenticity of our faith. True faith is demonstrated through Christ-like love. Let’s use this Advent season to break down the political and ideological barriers that divide us and find our unity in Jesus.

Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. His newest book is Down to Earth (Abingdon Press; 2016), a paradigm-shifting, four-week Advent study with Ginghamsburg Executive Pastor of Discipleship Rachel Billups. A Down to Earth DVD, Leader Guide, Youth Study, Children’s Leader Guide and seasonal devotional are also available.

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