One of my priorities when dealing with our college students is challenging them to own their faith. Too many live on the coattails of their parents’ or pastors’ spirituality and fail to work out their own beliefs. As leaders, we make the mistake of telling younger believers what to think instead of teaching them how to think. When dealing in the larger arena of thought beyond the safety of our churchwalls, phrases like “just because” or the “Bible says” don’t hold as much weight. We have seen how even the sacred words of our Lord have been used for centuries to justify racism, human rights atrocities, the crusades, the Holocaust, and America’s Manifest Destiny.
I can use the Bible to justify anarchy. When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, God didn’t want them to have an established government. The Bible justifies capitalism as illustrated in the Parable of the Talents. A large return is expected on investments and those who can’t produce are edged out. It would seem that Jesus had a problem with small business owners: all the fisherman could have been put out of business as well as bakers and funeral directors.He was a bleeding heart who favored high taxes while feeding the masses without giving them the tools to make it on their own.
But what a mess America is in: economically, spiritually, militarily, politically, etc. etc. etc. We have arrogant idealogues who would much rather win debates than produce viable solutions. We have smug academic elitists who insist on hand outs vs. hand-ups, redistribution of wealth, and tolerance for all…accept those who disagree with them. Then we have those who claim to be the standard bearers of morality, but continually fail miserably in their personal lives. Their “righteousness” has become self-righteousness and has helped to polarize, marginalize, and alienate entire segments of society.
If we’re going to mix the Bible and our politics, before subjecting people to its standard, perhaps we should embrace it first? Take 2 Chronicles 7:14, the token verse we pull out on the National Day of Prayer; are we willing to live it out the other 364 days of the year? Do we even realize that the context has to do with God’s own people living in prosperity but but in danger of rebelling? “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” There are several implications for the American Christ follower who believes the word Right is synonymous with Christian…
Surrender Our RIGHTS. “If my people, who are called by my name.” As a members of Christ’s Body, we have rights and responsibilities. We bear His Name but quite often are not known for being Christlike. Rather, our MO is more bigoted, opinionated, condemning, and hypocritical. We come back and say “our good is being ill spoken of.” To the contrary, our stupidity and foolishness is being exploited; and in the process Christ gets a bad name. That’s not to say that American Christians aren’t persecuted, but if we are genuinely threatened for Christ’s sake, shouldn’t we a) expect it to happen because He said it would? b) Trust in Him to fight on our behalf? I seem to remember the Lamb didn’t defend Himself, answer or strike back, or demand to have His own way…He surrendered.
It’s a messy situation when we interfere with Bill of Rights Issues. Without going into detail, we try to deny “ungodly” groups their civil rights yet complain when we can’t display Nativities or plaques of the 10 Commandments. Maybe we would accomplish more if we could reflect the gentleness and meekness that the Holy Spirit desires to produce in us. And perhaps adopt phrases like turn the other cheek, walk an extra mile, give up our shirt and jacket, sell all we have, and consider others greater than ourselves. Sounds like a true disciple of Christ to me. And I’m pretty sure God would rather us demonstrate godliness in our lives rather than our decorations or clothing.
Determine to Walk RIGHT. If my people would “…turn from their wicked ways.” The party that espouses morality and family values…I could write endlessly about how they have fallen short in this regard: tawdry affairs, bathroom rendezvous, solicitation of minors and yet labeling other people as abominable degenerates. Again, we have to remember that we live in a pluralistic society, guaranteeing liberties to all of its citizens. It’s problematic to expect non-Christians to live by a biblical standard, especially if Christians won’t. How dare we preach freedom from sin if we’re not free ourselves.
Give Up Our Need to be RIGHT. If my people would “humble themselves.” Somewhere we’ve forgotten the word civility. We’ve reduced our tactics to name calling and screaming belittling sound bytes. People are not our enemies. We will disagree. But our goal should not be attaining higher ground but common ground. How can we work together to serve people? Conservatives maintain many lines that should never be crossed with morality and take a firm stance against dangerous behaviors. Liberals destroy many lines that should never have existed: racism, sexism, orientation, disabled…lines that have made many 2nd class citizens. My point? Both represent issues that are indicative of God’s heart. Both can also be self-serving and contrary to the Cross. It’s not about winning, it’s about serving.
Just think of the Kingdom that Scriptures propose: a place where the effects of poverty and physical suffering will be eradicated. Starvation and diseases will no longer claim infants; mothers won’t have to see their children blown away on the streets or endure lives gripped by drugs. Senior citizens will live long full lives and not have to choose between food and overpriced prescription drugs. The homeless and victims of war and human selfishness will all have a safe, warm, comfortable place to call home. Immigrants and the unemployed will rejoice because everyone will have a dignity, purpose and an occupation. It will be place where the effects of pollution, global warming, and contaminants no longer threaten God’s creation. A place where elephants and donkeys dwell together in harmony.
There are so many factors when choosing candidates and can’t be limited solely on our pet topics. Are they people of courage, compassion, intellect, wisdom, and vision who want to serve? Are they people of character? Right doesn’t equal righteous, correct, or even integrity. I ask again if it’s possible for God to work through anyone? A Roman Centurion responsible for the deaths of 100s maybe 1000s of people. We see the effects of God’s people humbly serving even in the worst of conditions: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Joseph, Esther, and Nehemiah all served humbly and won the attention and hearts of their superiors.
Commit to do RIGHT. If my people would “pray and seek my face.” God has already told us what to do. While many believe we need to do more, and I do as well, the more IS NOT a substitute for prayer. If there’s any reason we’ve gotten off base, it’s because we’ve relegated prayer to an event rather than a lifestyle and lifeline. As we’re transformed in His Presence, then we can minister in His Name.
Serving our nation is NOT just for the sweet by and by when God establishes His New Heaven and New Earth. Did Jesus ever say: Get the Romans to feed the poor? Get the Romans out of power? Where was His focus? Trying to get His people to obey. Our ultimate concern should not be electing presidents and public officials who share our views but on what Christ called us to do. As we politicize our convictions, let’s ponder a question: who is God more concerned about, the poor or the unborn? Let’s take it further, what about those who are born? Are we willing to take care of them as well? 77% of abortions are due to socioeconomic reasons. Are we willing to help with services that would encourage low income mothers to bring their children to term? Orphanages and foster parents programs are full to the point that individual attention and real care is impossible. But if only 7% of Christians would adopt, we could shout down all of these agencies. Repealing abortion rights doesn’t fulfill the Great Commission. America doesn’t need new laws: America needs God and the Church needs to wake up! I will touch on this more in future blogs, but I believe that if we abdicate our spiritual responsibility, then we forfeit our moral authority and popular credibility.
If we are passionate about issues, we need to do something about it. But we can’t omit our greater calling as Christ followers. What has more power? A ballot box or a Christian on his/her knees? Yes our votes count, but our prayers count more. If we want the benefits of being God’s children, we definitely need to get busy exercising our responsibilities: be humble, pray and seek His Him, and repent…then the healing comes. So, as November 6 approaches, and may it pass quickly, let us participate in the political realm. Serve like crazy in the physical realm. And let God be God in the spiritual realm.