A few weeks ago I preached on unity and diversity in the church. I recalled that when I started ministry more than 30 years ago, the main subject that divided the church was the charismatic issue. I said I was so glad that that conflict was behind us now and that the different sides had learnt from each other.
After the service, a good friend had a word with me. She asked if I knew what people were hotly divided over these days? I said I didn’t. She said that the topic that divided people in the church these days was whether one was for Trump or against Trump. I was flabbergasted. There were so many pressing issues facing the church in Malaysia and people were heatedly voicing support for or criticism of the American president?
I understand that what happens in the US has implications for the rest of the world. I understand that the recent US presidential election was contentious and that different visions of what America is and should be are now being hotly contested. We should care and we should pray. But that it should be the main topic of dispute in the church in Malaysia?
Surely this must be the triumph of American media. So much of the English-speaking world tunes in to Western media that it shapes our hearts and minds. It doesn’t help that the political scene in the US today resembles an ongoing soap opera with new characters and new developments hitting the headlines every day. Perhaps political events in the US now serve as entertainment. We tune in daily to see the latest and, like all entertainment, it serves as an escape from what we need to face.
I am not saying that we should be Malaysia focused or Singapore focused, and not America focused. As always, we must be God focused.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42 NIV)
We need to let our hearts be shaped by God and our agendas be directed by God. Indeed the voice of God is needed more than ever in these dark and confusing times. There are many pressing issues facing the church in Malaysia and Singapore. My fear is that the Lord is speaking but we are not hearing because we are distracted by the media we are consuming.
I take it that, this side of heaven, we see things as reflections in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12) and that believers will disagree on things that matter to us. We need to discuss things in charity as we seek clarity, but perhaps, we need to first ask the Lord what are the things that should occupy our limited “bandwith”.