I must confess to having enormous admiration for that most controversial of figures, Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), about whom two or three new books have appeared this year. The reason for my admiration will become plain in part from the following extract from A Declaration of the Army of England upon their March into Scotland To all that are Saints, and partakers of the faith of God’s Elect, in Scotland, which was issued July 19, 1650. In it Cromwell made this excellent statement: "Is all religion wrapped up in that or any one form? Doth that name, or thing, give the difference between those that are the members of Christ and those that are not? We think not so. We say, faith working by love is the true character of a Christian; and, God is our witness, in whomsoever we see any thing of Christ to be, there we reckon our duty to love, waiting for a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit of God to make all those Christians, who, by the malice of the world, are diversified, and by their own carnal-mindedness, do diversify themselves by several names of reproach, to be of one heart and one mind, worshipping God with one consent."
With elections facing both Canada and the United States, some bitter words are being uttered by adherents of the different political persuasions. And even Christians have allowed what Cromwell here calls “the malice of the world” to influence them in harsh remarks about political opponents. I suppose this is a danger to which young men are prone and some of the comments I have read that have deeply disturbed me by their attitude have been written by younger brothers. But folly and malice are no respecters of age!
There are Christians today who make the heart of the gospel a political position or an economic perspective. Surely Christians may differ on such issues. As Cromwell rightly says: “Is all religion wrapped up in that or any one form?” He was talking about making ecclesial issues the heart of the gospel. In our day, some, and some who should know better, are making this political policy or that economic strategy essential to gospel truth.
The gospel touches on political and economic realities for sure—not one square inch of this universe is not owned by King Jesus, and we look forward to a glorious theocracy one day in the new heavens and the new earth in which there will be true liberty—but till then, we must learn as Christians to disagree in love on such secondary issues. Yes, have convictions; but love all who love the Lord Jesus.
If we cannot love our brothers and sisters who disagree with us in this and must hit them verbally with invective and name-calling, how on earth will we ever love those that reject the gospel and take very contrary positions to ours on matters far more weighty?