3 Barriers to the Church's Ability to Love Others

Obstacles to viewing others as human in times of conflict.

In recent years, my family has navigated some rough patches; death, cancer treatments, open heart surgeries, chronic disease, etc.

It often seems that in these times of trauma or tragedy, family comes together to stand with one another as we wrestle through. We aren’t picking fights, we are crying on each other’s shoulders. 

In recent months, our human family has been enduring an especially rough patch:

War. 

Racism. 

Suicide.

Deadly viruses.

Plane crashes.

Few have been untouched (in some way) by the realities unfolding. 

However, in the responses to these tragedies and hardships, I have noticed something disturbing unfold. Rather than rally together as a family navigating a season of trauma, we have used this moment to divide, stir hatred and misunderstanding, point fingers and, more than anything, view those on the opposite side of an issue as less than human. 

We have used this moment to divide, stir hatred and misunderstanding, point fingers and, more than anything, view those on the opposite side of an issue as less than human.

Watching political pundits bark the party line or news anchors posture themselves as authority figures rather than conduits of curiosity, I see three barriers that keep us from seeing others as divine image bearers who have stories, families, pain, hopes, traditions and a unique interpretation of reality.

1. Fear

Those of us in the West (and I’m sure many others around the globe) live in a culture of fear.

It is a posture of “What If?”

What if the terrorists strike my city? What if all of our jobs are taken by immigrants who don’t deserve be here? What if that person walking on the street (who looks different than me) tries to jump me? What if the stock market crashes and I lose all my investments? What if (insert name) gets elected and everything goes to hell? 

The Problem:

We spend so much time trying to prepare for the “what if” that we completely miss out on the joy, beauty and opportunity right in front of us. We project our fear on others and undeservedly make them the potential culprit. Because everyone is out to get us, we can no longer trust anyone and our worldview is largely pessimistic. 

The Cure:

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do ... Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows ... Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Luke 12).

In the end, if we truly believe Jesus is reigning, what do we have to fear?

2. Nationalism

Yes, we live in a country with unprecedented wealth, opportunity (for many) and infrastructure that has done remarkable things domestically and abroad. There are so many reasons to be grateful to live here.

That said, it is deeply disturbing to me how inverse our allegiances have become within the Christian subculture. Many, out of reverence to our country, have placed their primary allegiance to the USA rather than to the Kingdom of God. 

The Problem:

Nationalism is a form of idolatry that we must repent from. We often unquestionably support policies and practices that support our nation even if they come at the expense of innocent human beings on the other side of the globe.

Further, we often place our hope in our elected officials rather than in Jesus (who reigns as King of the Kingdom that has come and is coming). It means we, whether subconsciously or consciously, see people who live outside of our borders as “less than.” We may not admit it, but it is certainly the case. If our war machines take the lives of those half way across the world, it is somehow easier to justify than if it were the life of one of our own. 

The Cure:

“My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my Kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36).

May we, daily, submit ourselves, first and foremost, to the rule and reign of Jesus, praying, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  

3. Power

The growing distance between those with economic and political power creates a social distance that doesn’t allow us to share tables with those who have differing degrees of power. Often, those in power don’t know the people who their power impacts, which leads to decisions that negatively impact those on the underside of power.

The flip side is that those without power are willing to dehumanize others as a way to ascend to power. If getting power means values and ethics are compromised (which inevitably has direct implications on human beings), then so be it. 

The Problem:

Power is viewed as a commodity that can be acquired for our own advancement rather than gift to be given away for the flourishing of others. A utopian view would say everyone is born into an equal playing field of opportunity, but that simply isn’t the case.

The Cure:

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"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18).

What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?

What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?

A Prayer for the People of God and Our Human Family

May we, the people of God, choose to live lives fueled by the hope Resurrection rather than held captive by the fear of death.

May we, the people of God, choose to rightly place our allegiance in Jesus and His Kingdom rather than become slaves to the kingdoms of this world.

May we, the people of God, choose to embrace the way of the Cross and freely give away power for the flourishing of others as we join God in the world He is making. 

As our human family endures a season of trauma, may God’s image rise in each of us so that we can offer and receive love in the most unexpected people and places.

Top Comments

Jerad D. May

1

Jerad D. May replied to Josh's comment

Josh, I respect your opinion here but I think I agree with what the author is offering.

I understand your fervor and desire to want to put political officials in office who have a Kingdom-centric worldview and I think this passion comes from a noble place. But the reality is that neither political party is truly Kingdom-centric nor do they purpose to instill Kingdom principles. It is not the point of their existence and neither is it their agenda.

In fact they function under principles that are fundamentally opposed to the principles of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is characterized by a power that manifests itself through cross-like love not judicial authority and military might.

Jesus says that his Kingdom is not of this world. It does not look like the kingdoms of this world and it does not function like the kingdoms of this world. As Christians we cannot properly place our hope in anything but the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of His Kingdom and return. This means that if we have placed any sort of hope in any one person, any one party, any government, or any country other than Jesus Christ and his Kingdom (no matter how "sort-of" Christian they are), we have committed an idolatry of sorts.

That said, as you pointed out, nationalism is not evil. Nor is either party. And I don't think that this is what the author was trying to say. In fact, he said "there are so many things to be grateful to live here." Be proud to be American. That is fine. But realize that America and the GOP are not the hope of the Christian faith. Neither is a vote. Give to caesar what is caesars. But let our hope never be placed in something as arbitrary as a check in a box or a certain political platform.

Voting is not us manifesting what it means to be an agent of the Kingdom of God. It is simply testimony to our own non-kingdom political perspectives. Rather Jesus throughout his life challenged us to be agents of the Kingdom with our lives.

Let us do this united under Christ with the sort of brotherly love that united fishermen and tax collectors, zealots and prostitutes, Jews and Gentiles.

David Moore

4

David Moore replied to Jerad D. May's comment

Josh, I was unaware that Jesus was in over his head and needed the GOP to protect the church. Where would the church be without Herman Cain!?

7 Comments

Josh

11

Josh commented…

The author overlooks many points and this article is too broad. To say Nationalism is idolatry is ignorant. It shouldn't take priority of Christ but Nationalism itself is not inherently wrong. Furthermore, to assume that both parties are again inherently wrong is a fallacy. Obviously the only party that protects Christianity from the onslaught of liberal tyranny is the GOP. The reason why we see anti-christian policies being enacted is because CHRISTIANS vote against their principles. You cant expect God to be in government when you vote for officials that don't believe in him.

Jerad D. May

1

Jerad D. May replied to Josh's comment

Josh, I respect your opinion here but I think I agree with what the author is offering.

I understand your fervor and desire to want to put political officials in office who have a Kingdom-centric worldview and I think this passion comes from a noble place. But the reality is that neither political party is truly Kingdom-centric nor do they purpose to instill Kingdom principles. It is not the point of their existence and neither is it their agenda.

In fact they function under principles that are fundamentally opposed to the principles of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is characterized by a power that manifests itself through cross-like love not judicial authority and military might.

Jesus says that his Kingdom is not of this world. It does not look like the kingdoms of this world and it does not function like the kingdoms of this world. As Christians we cannot properly place our hope in anything but the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of His Kingdom and return. This means that if we have placed any sort of hope in any one person, any one party, any government, or any country other than Jesus Christ and his Kingdom (no matter how "sort-of" Christian they are), we have committed an idolatry of sorts.

That said, as you pointed out, nationalism is not evil. Nor is either party. And I don't think that this is what the author was trying to say. In fact, he said "there are so many things to be grateful to live here." Be proud to be American. That is fine. But realize that America and the GOP are not the hope of the Christian faith. Neither is a vote. Give to caesar what is caesars. But let our hope never be placed in something as arbitrary as a check in a box or a certain political platform.

Voting is not us manifesting what it means to be an agent of the Kingdom of God. It is simply testimony to our own non-kingdom political perspectives. Rather Jesus throughout his life challenged us to be agents of the Kingdom with our lives.

Let us do this united under Christ with the sort of brotherly love that united fishermen and tax collectors, zealots and prostitutes, Jews and Gentiles.

David Moore

4

David Moore replied to Jerad D. May's comment

Josh, I was unaware that Jesus was in over his head and needed the GOP to protect the church. Where would the church be without Herman Cain!?

Steven Esses

1

Steven Esses replied to Josh's comment

GOP stands for God's Own Party? That line has been touted from the pulpit since I became a Christian in '71. I even voted for Bush, the Man of God candidate, in 2000. Could you explain to me how sexually torturing Iraqi children in Abu Ghraib furthers the interests of either the Kingdom of God of the USA, or makes us more secure and prosperous? The Patriot Act and the growing surveillance State originated in Liberal Tyranny, did it? If the Liberal Obama administration is advancing it, where are the GOP voices for Liberty calling for its dismantling? Perhaps you think a militaristic, police state protects and furthers the Gospel?

Gavin Raymond

4

Gavin Raymond replied to Steven Esses's comment

Josh...and I mean this kindly...sounds like you're saying your god is too weak to handle the voting process? Or is reliant on followers who stick by their principles to make things happen? If so I think I disagree.

Laura Watts

2

Laura Watts commented…

This article does not shine light on how the church can break down barriers and love others. This is totally not what I expected from the title. Nationalism? Really? This is more an article about how narrow-minded (in the worst sense), arrogant, anti-immigration, blah blah blah, conservatives should change theirs views to be more accepting of other countries, cultures, races, etc. and to be less confident in the power and abilities of the government. I know that sounds a little cynical, but I really find this article to be really off base when it comes to the topic at hand. Perhaps, the author should re-title the article.

Lindsey Will

20

Lindsey Will commented…

This article had me fist pumping a couple times. I can see why it might make a few people mad, but the main message I got when reading this was God is the King of kings. We don't have to live in fear, we don't have to put our "hope" in imperfect political or power figures. He is in control whether we accept, believe, and understand that or not. This article kind of empowered me and reminded me I am a child of God--I am not a child of the world. "If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?". Great article in my opinion.

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