A few weeks ago I was visiting with a man who had served in and retired from the military. He expressed to me that he struggles with the tension between his love of country and protecting Americans from radical Islam and his obligation to the gospel as it concerns the entry of Muslims in the United States. Tension. In a conversation with another person, we discussed our anger towards people who harm children and how hard it is to “love our enemies” like Jesus commanded. Tension.
Many of us like things to be black and white, right and wrong. We don’t like the “grey space”. We like to keep things simple. However, as followers of Christ, we live in a grey space. You see, we are citizens of two worlds, two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Earth. Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven.” This concept is based on the very words of Jesus who said on numerous occasions that we are not of this world.
As citizens of two kingdoms we will live with a constant tension that exists when we are pulled in two different directions. We live with the tension between safety and comfort but with a mandate to be a light in dark places. We live with the tension between a constitutional right to speak our minds about temporary things and a gospel responsibility to share the eternal message of the Cross. We live with the tension between hating evil and sin and loving unconditionally. This tension is only resolved when we realize that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Everything must be viewed through this lens.
This means that while opening up the borders of our country to Muslim refugees may also be opening ourselves up for terrorist attacks, we also have an opportunity to share the Gospel with people who otherwise would have never heard. In most Muslim communities it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity and would result in prison or death. Likewise, it is difficult and dangerous to send missionaries into these regions for the same reasons. However, we now have Muslims coming to us in record numbers. They are coming to a place where we are free to praise and proclaim the name of Jesus. We are free to openly share our faith. They now have access to the Gospel that most would have never had if they remained in their home countries. God is bringing the world to us!
Does this mean we throw open our boarders and have a free for all? No. In Matthew 10, Jesus is preparing to send out the twelve disciples to share the gospel. Among His instructions, Jesus gives this warning, “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We are sheep among wolves. We are living in dangerous times. That shouldn’t keep us from doing what we have been called to do. However, we are also told not to be naive. We should be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves. We must constantly be on guard for attacks from the enemy (Satan). We must be discerning with those we associate with. We must consider both the safety of the innocent and the advancement of the Gospel. But the Gospel must come first.
The tension between our two worlds will continue to grow. It will become more and more difficult for followers of Christ to live out our faith. The world in which we live will continue to grow antagonistic towards Christianity. This doesn’t mean we should run and hide. It means we must embrace the tension, and with wisdom and discernment we must advance the Kingdom of God.