I finished this up this morning and I’ve been letting it rest. Many times when I write I’m unable to work in love along with the truth. This post stems from my personal journey in reading, meditating and prayer and several face-to-face conversations over the last year. This is one entry in a larger subject that I’ve been wanting to address and this may be the catalyst. Although I’m confident in addressing these things while teaching and discipling, I’m more cautious of posting in a larger public access where there is a greater possibility of misunderstanding. But, that’s what a blog is good for, a series of articles that address and continue the conversation.
In all of this, Jesus Christ is all that matters. I have an amazing life in Him and I continue to be amazed at His work in my life. In the ministry that Jesus has granted me in teaching, writing, shepherding and discipling, I always want to share the amazing story of Jesus and encourage everyone to live more fully in Him.
After processing this post this afternoon this song came to mind. The lyrics fit the theme I’m attempting to communicate. I also think it helps us focus on what matters even while reading the post.
I believe that if we lived with this kind of attitude more often throughout each and every week and not just our 1 hour of prescribed worship, then the great matters of debate would not matter to us so much. We would just live for Jesus and share the message of life in Him with others.
This week we’ve had some political activity in Oklahoma that has had dueling sides lobbing volleys at each other. I’ve also been reading an email conversation among some area ministers that has also been political in nature but on a different matter than the Oklahoma legislature. I’m being general about these topics and this post because I don’t want to point a finger at any particular person, but at all of us. This topic of politics, Church and State, and Christian political involvement has been heavy on me for several months now, but can be traced back to the 2004 U.S. Elections. The reason it goes so far back is for a different post. The 2008 U.S. Elections were a portion of what motivated me to read and study on the subject, but the major factor was the quest for understanding on how to be a Christ-follower.
In this area two major questions have caused my thirst for knowledge:
1. What does it mean to be a servant in the Kingdom of God? This has caused me to measure every thought, word and deed against being part of the Kingdom of God and to examine where I lay my allegiance.
2. What does it mean to serve the Prince of Peace? For instance, how can we serve the Prince of Peace and speak of Just War?
I admit that these are heavy topics and that’s why it’s taking me months and years to sort through them. It’s also why it’s for another post, or several posts, but I wanted to lay some groundwork for what I submit to you today.
Let’s get fired up
The news in Oklahoma and the email conversation were focused on two different hot-button political issues for many Christians in America. As both sides shared their views and cases and a few derogatory statements, I was left wondering. I wonder if there is a different and better way. A third side to the story, a third way to approach all of this and actually build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I believe that the Kingdom of God is that third way, but I still wonder how we are to apply it in this world. Many people within the two current sides of the religio-political conflict believe that they are presenting and fulfilling God’s Kingdom in these matters.
But I wonder why it’s not working. If we believe that the Kingdom of God cannot be overcome and we believe that we are living in His Will through government and politics, then why isn’t it working? There are various answers to that because I’ve heard them, I might even state them myself, but I like to keep things fairly simple and there is a “least common denominator”: We can’t legislate morality. Nobody can. We can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. And we can’t prevent people from doing what they want to do. It’s very difficult to do it in our families and circle of friends much less the church. How can we expect it to happen at the state, national or even global level?
So where does that leave us? Do we stop paying attention to all of this and mind our own business? Absolutely not, because that would require us to deny the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I suggest we look to Jesus and His words and actions. I don’t mean WWJD because that leaves the door open to us justifying ourselves. You might even find people along the political spectrum that will say that they are doing what Jesus would do in government affairs. What did Jesus actually say? What did He actually do? These are the questions that we must seek answers to as we scour the Scriptures. I believe that if we are truly reading, studying, meditating and processing what Jesus said and did, we will have a better understanding of what our role should be and how we should act in our role as citizens. If we present ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ then we must look to Him and His ministry. What does Jesus spend the most time speaking about? What are His Top 10 topics? Where do politics and government fall on His list of issues? These are some of the questions that I encourage everyone to seek answers to in the Bible.
I hear voices
What are the voices that we listen to? There are 168 hours in a week. How much of that time is spent listening to the voice of God in His Word? How much time each week do we spend listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our prayer time? How much time each week do we spend encouraging one another through the Fruits of the Spirit? Are we doing this at all? Worshiping and praising God, breaking bread together, praying for one another and reading God’s Word. Yes, I’m married with children and I know that everything that goes along with that takes up time but if we get 8 hours of sleep each night, and work 40 hours a week we still have 72 hours a week to live. On what is that time being spent?
If we aren’t spending the majority of our time with God’s Word, God’s Spirit and God’s people, then we should really examine our lives if we are to continue to call ourselves Christian. What other voices are we letting in? Are they the columnists of every variety and in every form online and in print media? Are they the talk-show hosts on the radio and television? Are they the journalists on the news broadcasts? Are the voices that we let in from organizations and individuals, activists for their own agenda or cause? As a bond-servant of Jesus it’s hard enough to control our own voice and how it influences us when we don’t listen to God. Why do we exacerbate the problem by listening to so many other voices that may not have our eternal interest in mind and don’t encourage us to stand-fast in the presence of the Lord?
If not by the government, then how?
So what do we do with our fellow citizens? How are we to relate to our neighbors who do not have a life in Christ? Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors. In that day and age the religious leaders viewed that as despicable and they protested it. I wonder if they were like some protesters today, full of vitriol and screaming and spewing words and spit at their opponents. The must have lost sleep over Jesus and His ministry and they became containers of pent-up rage that went unchecked until it caused them to do what should have been unthinkable, justify murder.
One major thing about Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors is this: Any time He spent with them, He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that they should live with that in mind. This meant that He always sent them along on this life’s journey with “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus met with them in whatever state they were in, but did not want them to remain in that state and took the time to explain why and how to get out. Jesus sought first and foremost to forge a relationship with them so that He could share with them. This leads me to wonder about us in the 21st century.
Is it stretching it too far to apply this thought to our contemporary society with “Jesus ate with the homosexuals and gossips”, “Jesus ate with the liars and the greedy”, “Jesus ate with the arrogant and the abortion doctors”, “Jesus at with the adulterers and abusers” and so on? Jesus continues to want to meet all of us, and he continues to send us back into the world with “Go, and sin no more.” He wants to save us and then have us proclaim that salvation with our actions and words.
The very name Jesus means “the Lord saves”. It doesn’t mean “the Lord debates,” “the Lord politicizes” or “the Lord votes”. We all can testify to the various and innumerable ways that we have been saved, but I truly hope in this context that we ask that the Lord to save us from our personal and political agendas and grant us a better insight and practice of His agenda.Notes and References: Romans 1:16-2:16 Matthew 7:1-6 Matthew 9:9-13 Luke 6:31-42 A post this morning from Vince Antonucci: Judgment for the Judgmental Also from this morning: Thy Kingdom Come by Ben Myers