Politics Is Too Small A Story


So this past weekend the New York Times published an editorial that I think was pretty revealing about a pulse I sense in the current American bloodstream.  If I can put a name to that pulse:  A lot of Americans currently see themselves primarily as actors in a political play.  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, one of the most interesting parts of life to them is this political narrative.  They are willing to make major life choices (like, ahem, who they will be friends with) based on political storylines.  

Now, I think some of this is due to the fact that the secular west that America is a part of has largely removed at least three major components from the center of human life:  Worship of a deity (whether a false one or the one true God of Jesus Christ), marriage, and bearing and raising children.  But it has to put something at the center of its people’s lives, because human beings inherently live for things.  So since deity, marriage, and raising children are pushed to the cultural side, the secular West places a cosmic political battle at the heart of life.  It says that this is what we live for.  By contrast, I don’t think the political landscape is central to the average Nigerian, who is plugged into a church and has six children.

But more than talking about the cause, I wanted to take a second and simply highlight a better story (and, thankfully, a truer story) than the one that cradles mindsets like this editorialist’s.  

Human beings need to see themselves in story.  We are made this way by the Author of the grand Autobiography around us.  This editorialist’s posture makes sense if you see yourself in a story where every human being is either an oppressor or oppressed (or an instrument of oppression).   But that is not the story the Bible tells.  And hence it is not the story we are in.  

The Bible places us in a much grander story, a cosmic narrative in which a spiritual rebel against the good Creating King has seduced humanity to follow him.  And this rebellion has scarred the universe by bringing upon it the curse of death and suffering.  But in this shadowed and groaning world, that good King has entered the drama as chief groaner, and all to take into His own heart and flesh the pain and agony and judgment and death that our sin makes us deserve.  

Through that sacrifice that He willingly and passionately made, and because of the victory He won by coming back from the other side of death, this King is ransoming for Himsef a people out of this wicked rebellion.  He is winning them back.  And He will one day plant them on a remade world, a new creation that is everything that should have been and everything that once was.  

That is the story we are in.  Not one of merely political schema or of America versus North Korea.  Not one of Good People Group A against Malevolent People Group B.  Not one of one humanly constructed ideaology triumphing over another.  (Not even one of how far I can rise at the office or how many people I can get to admire me on Facebook.)  This current American narrative of one political group heroically fighting against a villainous counterpart is too small to live for and too fragile to hope in.  

And that is the heartbeat, an all too common one, that I see revealed in this editorial.  And it’s a sad one.  A person who believes the greatest struggle is politics has no greater demon to fight than the other party.  He has no greater worship song to sing than the voices of his favorite pundits.  He has no stronger altar to kneel at than the one engraved with his favorite political issue.  

We have a greater story to live for than Barack Obama versus Donald Trump.  We have a better hope than either house of Congress can provide.  There is a King on the throne, and He has done something remarkable.  

And it’s not done yet.  

He is returning to finish what He started.  

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7 Reasons Why I Vote but Don’t Obsess

  
Every 4 years I feel the temptation to put my deepest hopes in a human being (or a human cause).  And every 4 years I have to then remind myself that (though I love and want to bless my Earthly nation) I am a citizen of a better country.  

I will vote this year, but I will not obsess over the results, and I will not put my faith or daily hope in any human elected official, cause, or platform.  

Why?  

Glad you asked.  

  1. Jesus Christ is in total control of the universe.  The world is not a rudderless ship.
  2. The sin of my own heart is far more of a threat to me (and my family) than whoever the next president will be.  
  3. Long after every earthly kingdom has ceased to exist and every tax bracket has vanished like smoke, Jesus will be reigning in a Kingdom which basks in the warmth of His light forever and ever and ever. 
  4. I care more about winning the souls of those who I disagree with politically than winning their votes.  
  5. America, while great, isn’t the solution for the world’s greatest problem.  
  6. I could be wrong in my vote or support.  The Bible doesn’t tell me who to vote for.  It does, however, tell me who to live for.  
  7. The Bible tells me not to be anxious, and to instead pray. 

I’ll participate in the election (and my country’s civic discourse).  But I refuse to be consumed by it. 

#VoteDontObsess

Political Woes

  
I believe it’s good for a politically-inclined person (like myself) who claims Christ (like myself) to periodically ask himself:  

Do I treasure my politics more than Jesus?  

Am I more fascinated by the kingdoms of this world than the Kingdom of God?

I’ve had to ask and answer my own conscience, in this election cycle, whether I’d be up for not voting the way I normally do because there was something dearer to me than a political victory.  I’m not trying to bind anyone else’s conscience to my own particular answer, but I do think a Christian should ask the question:  Which do I savor and cherish more?  Christ or a political paradigm?  

Put another way:  Is my political outlook an outworking of my faith and devotion to Jesus, or are my politics closer to the bone than my faith?

I hope my faith is my all.  Woe to me if I preach the gospel of a political ideology more often than I do the Gospel of the perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ. 

Woe to me if I am more excited about, more invested in, more anticipatory towards the triumph of an earthly political candidate than the return of my King. 

Woe to me if I have co-workers who know exactly who I’m voting for (or voting against) but have no idea how to be saved.  God placed me in their lives to be a light for His Kingdom.

Woe to me if I do not ever pray for the leaders I disagree with. 

Woe to me if I insult those political leaders I think are wrong from a heart of malice and spite, as though to be nasty about someone famous is somehow more permissible.

Guys, it appears to me we live in a particularly politically charged age.  But woe to us who’ve been brought to life by God if we succumb to the obsessions of our day and so lose our saltiness.  I’ll be voting and I’ll be paying my taxes and I’ll be obeying the law, but I want to want the bigger things even more.  I want to pray for my leaders and my neighbors.  I want to proclaim the Gospel to the people in my life.  I want to live honorably so that those who see me doing so may ask why, and might even glorify my God. 

Nothing inherently sinful about politics.  But the world loves to take good things and make them gods.  The world loves to take average men and make them kings.  

Just ask Saul.  

I want a heart like David’s. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118:8-9


Tame My Heart

  
The Bible tames the heart of the Christian caught up in a particular day, place, and political and cultural landscape.  It reminds him, “Oh, that’s right.  I’m supposed to think like that.”  It helps him to remember that he is more Christian than Republican/Democrat/American/millennial/white/black/Asian/European.
In fact, let me put it this way:  I should not look exactly like any of my culture’s extra-Biblical platforms.  If I don’t disagree with my political movement on any matter, there’s probably a problem.  Ditto with my favorite TV show, non-Christian author, or non-Christian talk show host.  

The family I am most ultimately a part of is the one Christ’s blood brought me into.  Winston Churchhill and Abraham Lincoln may be my folk heroes, but neither is my Father.  Or my Lawgiver.  

The Bible calls me back to who is.  It reminds me that the category I am now most finally defined by does not mirror exactly any political, social, or philosophical subgroup my day and place has to offer.  I am now a citizen of a city on a hill that doesn’t look exactly like any of this darkened world’s flashlights.  

Let me demonstrate.  

This law from God for Israel might sound like it fits well with one American political ideology:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10).

And this instruction from the Apostke Paul to a pastor might sound like it fits the opposing one:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever
(1 Timothy 5:8).

This might sound like the battle cry of one type of 2016-American movement:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks (Amos 4:1-2).

And this might resemble the signal of an opposing one:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval (Romans 13:1-3).

And the reason for this is that God’s Kingdom isn’t perfectly congruous with any earthly one.  Which is good, because it means our Prince is better than any earthly one.    

Listen, I can’t and won’t agree with everything that makes up American political conservatism, because American political conservatism isn’t the exact same thing as the Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The same goes for my favorite talk show host, editorialist, and TED Talk (if I had one).  And for you, whatever political or social movement or platform you have found most persuasive will almost certainly not line up with the Bible exactly.  So simply go back, regularly, to the source of your new identity to get recalibrated.  You’ll do the world the most good when you approach its causes and candidates with Biblically skeptical eyes; the kind that belong to wise serpents who moonlight as harmless doves.  

If you’ve trusted in Jesus Christ, I exhort you to examine whether you spend far more time watching or listening to or reading an extra-Biblical source for guidance on political, social, emotional, or interpersonal issues than you do your Father and His Word.  Because the Bible is wonderful in how it reminds us who we really are.  And who our King really is.  

I know that I know that the Word of God is the only thing that can tame a heart as fickle as mine.  It reminds me to kiss the Son.  For the rest I’ll reserve a polite handshake.   

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:11-12

Why I Will Not Vote for Donald Trump in 3 Sentences

  
I do not want to put a burden on anyone else, here.  This is simply a statement about what I won’t do and a quick explanation of why.  If you are a believer and want to vote for Donald Trump, pray about it and then leave it to conscience.  I think there’s Christian freedom to disagree, here.  I will say that since the Democratic Party in the United States supports, as a part of its platform, legalized infanticide (which has resulted in approximately 60 million deaths since Roe v. Wade), I do not think a Christian should support a Democratic candidate unless that candidate expressly opposes abortion.  But whether you want to join me in writing in or otherwise selecting a candidate not named Donald Trump is a matter of personal conscience. 

So, I’ll be succinct.  I will not vote for Donald Trump in November, and I can tell you why in 3 sentences:

  1. I believe that Mr. Trump only picked up the pro-life cause out of convenience, and that he would drop it for the same reason. 
  2. Character matters to me when I am asked to invest someone with the authority of leadership, and he has repeatedly and publicly reflected a lack of personal character. 
  3. I do not want to lend my support to a leader whose primary conviction appears to be “Don’t cross me.”

That’s pretty much it.  I haven’t decided who I’ll write in or select, and probably won’t for some time.  But a vote is a lending of one’s approval and, in our constitutional system, an endowment of authority.  And I have decided I will not lend my approval or give my citizen-held authority to Donald Trump.  

I don’t wish Mr. Trump any will, and if he becomes my president I’ll pray for his wisdom and his soul.  But he has requested to lead the constitutional republic God has placed me into, and in November my citizenly answer to that request will be “No.”

30 Seconds of Political Perspective

 
  

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Psalm 146:3-4

I’ll vote.  I like voting, minus the lines and the cold.  It’s a good way to contribute as a citizen and a reasonably pleasant and painless one, I think.  

But you know what I don’t want to do this November?  I don’t want to spend a majority of my emotional capital, intellectual energy, my time, or my hope on what any candidate may or may not do.  I don’t want any candidate, one I agree with or one I’m against, to monopolize my headspace and my reading time and my conversations at work.  I always want to set aside the bulk of my heart and my passion for the eternal King.  Presidents and pundits and plans will all vanish before long, but the God of Jesus Christ has a power that cannot be matched and a good purpose that cannot be thwarted.  

No candidate, in fact no human being at all, has the kindness and control, the mercy and the sovereignty, that Jesus Christ has.  None has His wisdom, and none has His authority.  No one on the Republican and no one on the Democratic debate stages can save your aunt and my neighbor from their sins, can wipe out poverty at the trumpet sound of his return, can kill death and imprison Satan and remake the earth.  None.  

A candidate will get my vote.  But I pray none will get my heart’s deepest hope.  Let that be reserved for the One who will rule for the most good and for all time.

Cling

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When you’re unsure what to believe about pain, the future, the meaning of your life (or the meaning of your Tuesday), cling to the Bible and the God who wrote it.

When the smart, argumentative unbeliever at work asks you the question you can’t answer very well (“Where was God during the Holocaust?”), when he smirks triumphantly and bruises your brain, cling to the words of Jesus.

When your professor tells you you’re a slightly different version of Homo Erectus or Homo Habilis, just one more collection of living matter walking among dead matter, hang with all your heart on Scripture. Jesus said you are worth many sparrows.

When your uncle dies, your grandmother gets Alzheimer’s, your brothers and sisters fight over the inheritance, wrap your spirit around the only sure lifeline. The only unbreakable thread. The jots and tittles that will outlast Heaven and Earth. Will outlast Jupiter and Alaska.

When you see or hear of something horrible, something evil, an act of torture or calloused murder or the violation of a little child, hope in the Lion of Judah who is coming back. Though the violently unrepentant may not know His voice, rest assured they will someday tremble at His roar (Isaiah 31:4, Revelation 5:5).

When the person who claims Christ but says odd things that don’t sound like Him comes around, when he uses words you don’t understand and sounds far deeper and more brilliant than you, cling to the Gospel that uses the foolish to shame the wise. Cling to the only Good News, and to the God who demands childlike faith in Jesus.

When your sin chokes you, when pornography and jealousy and the worship of financial security start to strangle your faith like weeds, turn from your evil and grab the Bible of the Holy Forgiver. The Unlying Redeemer.

This America around us is awash with new programs and philosophies and diets and faiths and _____ Ways to Improve Your Life.

Naturalism and Postmodernism and Oprah’s “Secret” and “tolerance” and Republianism and liberalism and conservatism.

The Emergent church and Islam and the vague, feel-good, self-serving philosophy of suburban middle class life and the church in California that worships Beyonce.

Did I miss one?

Turn on your TV, read a blog, check out an interview with Jay-Z or Johnny Depp or Stephen Hawking and you will get inundated, drowned by speculations and ideas and opinions on what life is, truth is, meaning is, and good is.

If you’re a follower of Christ, it’ll probably make your head spin and your heart stutter and your spirit cry.

You’ll hear people say a widespread return to the traditions they love can restrain evil, or hear redefinitions of what evil and badness even are, or hear people saying there’s no such thing as evil but everything still needs to be fixed and they know just the political program that can do it.

But in the four Gospels Jesus of Nazareth, God and God’s Son, quoted and taught and prescribed and interpreted and spoke the words and sentences and truths of the Creator of the universe. Jesus proclaimed the Old Testament and He began the New.

He gave us the pattern of a heart after God:

Loving the Word of God is a part of loving God. And believing the Word of God is a part of truly believing in God.

Jesus demonstrated the utmost confidence in His Father’s written, spoken Scripture.

So when the world tosses you, confuses you, harms you, or helps you harm yourself, run to and throw yourself on and cling to the specific, written promises of the God who saves.

“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Proverbs 30:5

Cling.