Only One Choice

There was a time not too terribly long after Jesus ascended to Heaven when the Roman Emperor wanted to ensure everybody in the Empire was being Roman enough.  His name was Decius, and he decided to have everyone make a sacrifice on his behalf to the Roman gods.  Many Christians bravely declined, and were tortured before being released (“confessors”) or simply executed outright.  But some Christians capitulated.  They made the sacrifice to the Roman gods.  They submitted their faith to the institutional and cultural machinery of the day.  They allowed themselves to be more Roman than Christian.  

The problem with that is that Jesus said you can’t have more than one god.  Our Creator is jealous because He has every right and claim to His creatures’ hearts, and because He is the only One who can truly satisfy them.  

I can relate to the pull of idolatry.  I mean, my entire life has been a struggle against idolatry.  I have worshiped entertainment, human adulation, silly intellectual titilation, sex, food, and politics.  But they’re all terrible gods, because all fake gods are terrible gods.  Jupiter and Venus and Decius were terrible gods.  TV, power, money, and fame are no better.  

But the one I wrestle with right now in May of 2016 is the draw of politics.  If the right guy were to win, I’d be ecstatic, and if the wrong guy were to win I’d despair.  I’m allowing myself to be drawn into the cultural and political machinery of my day.  I’m allowing myself (often) to be more American than Christian.  

My writing all this is not intended to make anyone ignore the world of presidential candidates and American legislation, or to throw mud at the idea of patriotism.  It’s good to be politically aware, and Christians should also be good citizens.  But I am trying to remind everyone that Decius was only Decius, and the President will only be the President.  To worship who he is or what he does, to give him my heart and hope, is stupid and sinful.  It would be to make America the faith of my heart and Christ simply the faith of my lips. 

And Jesus had strong words for those who worship Him only with their lips.   


10 thoughts on “Only One Choice

  1. Eventually, all the leaders of Christianity were called together to debate on what to do with those who had backslid-den, who had capitulated to culture and bowed to the Romans’ gods. “Toss them out on their ears! Don’t let them back into our churches! They turned their backs on Jesus as if they were ashamed of them!” Some of the elders said. Others countered: “Forgiveness is everything! If you forgive, you’ll be forgiven. If you don’t forgive, then you won’t be forgiven.” At the end of the day – love won out.

    • While Cyprian, Novatian, and others disagreed on what stance to take towards the “Lapsed,” but for a man prone to idolatry to like myself, my aim is to be found faithful to Jesus of Nazareth. He’s the one to whom I’ll have to give an account.

      My (hopeful) prayer is for Him to keep me faithful, so that He won’t be deny me before His Father in Heaven. And thankfully He’s good enough and strong enough a Shepherd to keep even a straying sheep like me : )

      • Sometimes I wonder if Christians put too much pressure on themselves – as if they have one chance and must never fail Jesus. As if, if they don’t tell everybody they meet that Jesus loves them, they’ll be gone at the end of the day and it’s their fault if they didn’t save them. I think there’s a certain idolatry of faithfulness, but we are living in a scenario that Paul couldn’t have dreamed of – we can influence the politicians that are in charge over us. It’s hard to know what’s the limit when our reality is one the Bible doesn’t directly speak to.

      • I sincerely appreciate the reminder to not be overly hard on one’s self, and I do struggle with that (as my wife can attest : )). And I certainly don’t believe in one screwup is the end of faith, since I hold to the perseverance of the saints. At the same time, Jesus’ words about the heart were very sharp, and I don’t want to dull their cut, I want to let them drive me to Him and despair of all other saviors.

      • Such a curious thing to say. I think every now and then we need people to save us from ourselves, to save us from making mistakes, to save us is dozens of small ways. Sure, the Big Saving job can go to Jesus, but often as a regular citizen heroes are made by being a savior, from volunteers, rescuers, people who donate to charity. Sometimes our saviors are sports icons or our politicians, who inspire us to do more or work together. I keep on thinking about the great presidents of the past – “a house divided cannot stand …” “we have nothing to fear but fear it self …” in a real way, we can rally behind them, wear their faces and their colors, quote their speeches from memory. With Jesus – he’s just too sacred to do that to. So sometimes it seems like he’s on the back-burner.

      • I tried to make clear, and forgive me if I didn’t, that I’m talking only about worship, not mere admiration. I admire Abraham Lincoln, but it would be sin to either worship him or to put my deepest trust in him. And those are what (and only what) I am cautioning against.

        And repenting of ; )

      • That’s good news, in general, I don’t think worshiping politicians is something that is in danger of happening in Christian churches. But a lot people combine the two, particularly in the context of Christianity + Republicans. Sometimes it can seem like presidential candidates get more attention than Jesus even in Jesus’ churches.

      • I’ve seen a fair amount of it up here in the Buckeye and Bluegrass states, and so I want to use whatever small pastoral influence I have to point people’s deepest affections and trust back to Jesus : )

      • I live in one of those states and have family in the other, I haven’t seen a lot politics being preached in this area. Then again, I haven’t darkened the doorway of a southern baptist church for quite some time and it’s entirely possible that the denomination has a few churches that has lost its way. What with power corrupting and all.

      • Well, I appreciate the interaction, Jamie. Blessings in Christ!

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