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.