Feb. 12, 2021
Things change quickly after the White House switches parties. After years claiming that detention facilities at the border were American concentration camps, Democrats will be ok with them again. After years of relative silence on spending during a spending spree, Republicans will again call for fiscal restraint. And then there’s the issue of unity.
Those who spent four years talking about how patriotic it is to criticize a president now call for unity. Meanwhile, those who spent four years urging people to support the president are quick with reminders that criticism of political leaders is the American way.
Which highlights an important point: unity is neither good nor bad. Whether unity is desirable depends entirely on what we are unifying around. Unity around a planned crime spree is bad. Unity around a surprise birthday party for a loved one is good.
We like the idea of unity because it brings up images of people getting along. Who doesn’t want that? What are the calls for unity today asking us to unite around?
If we are being called to treat people with dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs, background, or political persuasions, Christians can be united in that effort. “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
If we are being called to listen to our neighbors, Christians can be united in that effort as well. “Be slow to speak and quick to hear for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19).
Politically, Christians should be the best citizens because we are commanded to seek the welfare of our cities (Jer. 29:7), pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2:2), and submit to their authority (1 Peter 2:13) so long as their commands are not inconsistent with what God has commanded (Acts 5:29).
But as Christians look for ways to build bridges, we must also be mindful of the things we cannot unite around.
If we’re called to unify with the sacrifice of preborn children on the altar of convenience, we can’t do that.
If we’re called to unify with a sexual revolution that God calls sin and destroys people’s lives, we can’t do that.
If we’re called to unify with a movement that seeks to punish people for their fidelity to the gospel and their obedience to God, we can’t do that.
Despite cultural sentiments suggesting otherwise, it is not loving to be indifferent or agreeable toward wickedness because “love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
None of this means that Christians are obligated to be combative—“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). But there are times when Christians must be confrontational. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
We must always pray for our leaders, but the degree to which we are unified with our leaders must depend on the degree to which our leaders are unified with God. If they want unity with us while earnestly seeking to honor God, we should be the first to encourage them and support them. If they want unity with us while waging war on truth, beauty, and goodness, the answer must be “not until you repent.”
As with many things, the world tries to deceive the church with a counterfeit version of what God made.
God’s path to unity is through submission to Jesus. The world’s path to unity is through submission to them. These are mutually exclusive options, so choose wisely. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
When the White House changes parties, a lot of things change in Washington, D.C. But what shouldn’t change for Christians is that regardless of who is in the White House, we first seek unity with God and then with anyone else looking for the same thing.