Gone are the days when asking who someone voted for was taboo. Currently, the Filipino people are divided between anti-Duterte and pro-Duterte. These two camps, strongly convinced by their position, are so far away from each other that seemingly nothing can bridge the two.
In this polarized political climate, there is a great opportunity for the church to be different. Here is the radical, unpopular idea: unity, despite disagreements. This is how the world will know that the followers of Jesus are counter-cultural (John 13:35).
How do we achieve unity when we strongly disagree with brothers and sisters who support (or oppose) President Duterte? How can we agree with someone who is “definitely wrong”? How is unity even possible? This is possible by remembering the basis of Christian unity.
What unites all true believers together?
The basis of unity at its very core is the gospel (Phil 2:1-4). Jews and Gentiles — totally different groups that are hostile to each other for cultural, political, and social reasons — were made one through Christ. Listen to Paul’s words in Holy Scripture:
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.Ephesians 2:12-16, 19; 3:6, 10
That is why Paul could say that the church — a unified diversity because of their common union with Christ — displays the wisdom of God for the entire cosmos to see (Eph 4:1-6). This is the unity that God himself created and that he alone can create. Hostility is gone. Opposing foes are now one body in Christ through the gospel.
Friends, remember our union with Christ. If we are united with Christ, then we are united with Christ’s body, the church. The person that we cannot stomach right now because of his opposition against (or support for) President Duterte might be our neighbor in heaven. To despise this unity is to despise the very gospel and blood of Christ that purchased and created this unity.
Yes, the differences still exist. Yes, there are moral overtones and issues that are more than just mere political policies. Although the unsaved world looks at these issues, and they fight over them, it should not be the case for those who have a greater basis for unity. If the gospel is as important as Christians claim it to be, then there is no better place to demonstrate that than in this polarized political climate.
Here is a corollary of the Christian’s union with Christ and with one another. For the Christian, Jesus is their true King. Jesus presently reigns from the right hand of the Father, and he is coming back to physically reign on earth. The Christian’s allegiance is to King Jesus, and not to any human government on this present earth. How can one apply the gospel in this situation? Let me suggest three ideas.
Three quick applications for unity
If Jesus is our true king, then we will not over-celebrate a human leader such as President Duterte. We won’t defend his immoral actions. We’ll call out sin if there is sin even if we voted for him and are rooting for his success. Let us not defend sin or excuse it.
While we can admire the good he has done for the country, we must mourn his ungodliness. Think about our brothers and sisters in Christ who are appalled and perhaps hurt by his sacrilegious remarks, immorality, and clear attacks against Christ. If we over-celebrate (especially through social media), our brothers and sisters take that as an approval of blasphemy and immorality. Oh, may evil not be spoke of about us.
We all should be thankful for good changes, but we must accept the reality that true change is not coming. Remember who our true king is. That is who we should celebrate with exceeding joy. God brings us flawed leaders so we would long for and anticipate the perfect King who is coming back again.
Because Jesus is our king, and we belong to a different kingdom, we are not politically over-zealous. We defend our political views, but we practice moderation.
If Jesus is our true king, then we will not over-despair about a human leader such as President Duterte. If Jesus is sovereign over all things, then in his sovereign wisdom, he has placed this very flawed and evil man to be our president. Unless by providential means he has been removed from his office, he is our president.
Who placed him there? The people voted. True. But ultimately, no one can put up kings or put down kings but God. Listen to Daniel from Holy Scriptures:
[God] changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.Daniel 2:21-22
If Jesus is our true king, we are united with Jesus’ followers. Yes, even those who root for PRRD. Remember that these brothers and sisters are for the President’s success in policy, not for his continued immorality and blasphemy. These brothers and sisters are praying for the President to lead and provide a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim 2:1-3; cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:17).
Remember Peter? In his zealousness for defending Jesus, he cut off the ear of one of the men who arrested Jesus. Did Jesus approve of this? How could he not—he was defending Jesus! But that is not what Jesus’ kingdom is about. Because Jesus is our king, and we belong to a different kingdom, we are not politically over-zealous. We defend our political views, but we practice moderation. What we are about is the proclamation and living out of Jesus’ kingdom, gathering kingdom citizens from every tribe and tongue and nation until Jesus comes.
Although our brothers and sisters should not excuse or defend the sins of the President, will we be willing to forgive the error of their thinking as Christ has forgiven us (Eph 4:32)? These brothers and sisters are probably not supporting the President because of his indecency, but in spite of it for reasons that they believe is good for the flourishing of the country. Many of these brothers and sisters believe that he is a president who cared about the growth and flourishing of the Philippines. Whether that is true or not is besides the point.
Display the Gospel through unity
Let me suggest one way to display unity. Instead of debating, can we pray instead?
While dialogue about opposing views can be helpful, it can also be unhealthy — especially when each one is strongly persuaded in his own mind. Let’s turn our debates into prayers. How about we get together with others in our church who disagree with us in our political alliances and pray together about the things that we commonly agree with?
Let us adore King Jesus for reconciling us to God, despite all our sins, through his death on the cross and resurrection. Let us pray for King Jesus to reign on earth. Let us pray for the good news about the King—the gospel—to be heralded in our neighborhoods and around the world. Let us pray for the current president to repent of his ways and turn to King Jesus for his salvation. Let us pray that he will be wise, serve the Lord, and kiss the Son (Psalm 2).
Let us pray for unity. Let us pray that God will grant our churches the ability to forgive and to forbear. Let us pray that love will flourish. Let us pray that God will remove the blinders from our eyes and our brother’s eyes so that we can see his perspective and he can see ours. Let us pray for humility that we will think of our own opinion less than the opinion of others.
Let us worship the Christ who died, rose again, presently reigns over all things, and is coming back again. The gospel of Jesus is at the core of our identity, not our political allegiance. Let us remember, Jesus is our king, and he reigns!
Filipinos are polarized between the administration’s PDP-Laban and the Liberal Party’s Otso Diretso. But God’s people should not give ultimate allegiance to either of these groups. God’s people should be counter-cultural. Their first and primary allegiance is to King Jesus and to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Our alliance is with one another. When it comes to political affiliations, policies, and election support, we vote according to our conscience. And we know that Christian consciences differ (Rom 14; 1 Cor 8-10). We practice Christian liberty in matters of conscience, and who a Christian votes for is generally in this category.
Remember who the true king is. In the greater scheme of things, all believers together belong to a greater kingdom! That is where our eyes are fixed.