Faces on Faith: A fresh sense of perspective
My family and I arrived on Sanibel in July, when I began my role as the senior pastor at Sanibel Community Church. Prior to Sanibel, I pastored a large international church in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for four years.
Living overseas blessed our family in many ways. We enjoyed new cultures, new foods, and a broadened perspective on the world. And there was another unexpected benefit of living abroad: I got to detox from American politics.
And I needed it. Before we moved overseas I had become a political junkie of sorts. While I scrupulously kept politics out of my preaching and focused on the Bible, in my own free time I got caught up in the blue versus red soap opera. And it’s easy to do. Almost every aspect of life in the United States somehow gets politicized these days, from chicken sandwiches to face masks to sports.
However, living overseas enabled me to turn off the partisan noise. I slowly lost track of U.S. political news and instead tuned into world events. Politics in the UAE was simple: Honor the rulers. Period. And doing so was a pleasure, given the amazing leadership in the UAE. I met people from many different countries with different government systems, which enabled me to see afresh both the strengths and challenges of our own system of government.
Now I’m back in the USA, and some things haven’t changed. The country is still extremely polarized. I still have principled convictions about government and haven’t given up on our political system altogether (though I sympathize with those who have).
But what has changed for me is a fresh sense of perspective. Elections matter, but they’re not everything. Political engagement matters, but it’s often less impactful than we think. Perhaps what’s most changed in me is a desire to show love for the political “other.” Just as important as casting my ballot on Nov. 3 is being gracious toward the person with the wrong yard sign across the street.
Oh yes, and there’s also the matter of my Christian faith. If I believe that God — not the government — is sovereign, that Jesus died to save sinners like me, and that he calls me to love my neighbor, then shouldn’t I excel at civility and true tolerance? I still believe in keeping politics out of my preaching, but maybe I need more preaching in my politics.
Pastor Jeramie Rinne is the senior pastor at the Sanibel Community Church.