I have purposefully stayed away from opining or injecting my two-cents into the public forum and debate- it certainly has not been a discussion, surrounding the 2012 presidential election. To be honest, I almost completely checked out of Facebook because of what I considered to be very regrettable and poor representation of all that is Jesus Christ and his character. Although I highly value my privilege as an American to vote, which I did, I more so put my trust in God’s sovereignty and in his right to determine what is best, not simply for the nations; and specifically this great United States of America, but as it relates to his eternal kingdom and purposes. I have found myself citing Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Timothy 2:1-4 quite frequently in response to those who somehow believe Jesus has called them to campaign for him; which seems like such a political thing to do.
What follows below is in my opinion, a well-written piece by Bob Muni, a man who is a former missionary and who attends Grace Community Church. He approached me after one of our gatherings this past weekend and noted that I had “given him much to think about.” This is what he wrote:
RADICAL THOUGHTS ON THE ELECTION
WHAT IF WE HAVE IT ALL WRONG?
2 Chronicles 7:14, “ 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.”
This much prayed and quoted passage has been used to rail against the moral decay, perversion and decline in American culture. Many a prayer meeting have I attended where we prayed and “repented” for what we saw as the vile sins of our society and the downward spiral that is portrayed in Romans 1 when people deny God and His rightful place.
I have heard and also prayed myself these desperate prayers pleading for God to hear our prayers of repentance and heal our land; ie: restore biblical values as the foundation of our society and reflected in the culture. It would be the grand turn around and ultimate vindication for reviled Christians and moral folks everywhere. We yearn for justice and having things put right, as we want it.
Somehow this election and the doom that it represented to these hopes may have awakened me to a new reality. Maybe we have gotten this all wrong and we have been focusing on the wrong things. It says … IF MY PEOPLE, WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME…. who is the author referring to? It doesn’t sound like it is referring to those we have been repenting for (who I might term the “world” as opposed to the “church”). We have been repenting for the decadence of the world, not the sins of the church.
I believe we have gotten our eyes and hearts focused on the wrong “wicked ways”. We have been pointing our righteous fingers at all of them and the sins we so readily protest against in others.
What if the wicked ways are the wicked ways of the church and its people? What if we are the perpetrators because we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie? What if the truth we have missed is the simplicity of the gospel? Jesus proclaimed “they will know you are Christians by your love!”. When was the last time (if ever) that Christians have been recognized by that description.
We have become the folks who judge and point fingers from holy huddles. We have developed a myopia within the walls of wherever we “go to church” and often there is a reluctance to interact with the “lost”. If we are brutally honest we find it hard to be relevant to those still in the “world”. Crowds flocked to Jesus. Do they flock to us? Why not? Could it be we don’t look or act like He did?
We have hung our platitudes of self-righteousness on the hook of being “right”. We have done this by boldly proclaiming that what others are doing is so wrong and we have the scriptures which tell us clearly that what THEY are doing is wrong and sinful. What if being RIGHT is not enough? When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees with the woman caught in adultery, they were RIGHT. She had done what they accused her of, she was an adulteress caught red handed. The facts and who was RIGHT lined up with the Pharisees. She was guilty as sin. IF being caught in sin and exposing the moral impurity of such acts along with appropriate punishment was the answer, Jesus would have joined with them and affirmed the stoning of her as the just due for her actions. The Pharisees were RIGHT but were exposed in their self-righteousness.
Jesus asked that the one without sin to cast the first stone. When put in that light, the self-righteous all left. What if we have been casting the stones while full of our own sin? What if we have been judging without paying attention to the corollary that accompanies it? We will be judged by the standard with which we judge others.
Being RIGHT is not listed as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-24. If we focused more on the real fruits of the spirit and the foundational message of the Beatitudes (MT 5) we would likely be better off. We can’t rest in being RIGHT. Jesus had the opportunity to affirm this way and did not.
The command of Jesus is very simple.. it is to LOVE others. That includes the wicked and their wicked ways that we so readily repent for in THE PRAYER. What if the sin of the church in not loving or being known for love? What if that is the wicked way that God wants us to repent of?
What if He wants us to repent of all the wasted money spent on self-indulgence, opulent buildings, spectacular meetings, and a prosperity message that Jesus would not recognize? What if the wicked ways are our inability to extend mercy and embrace those who oppose us and are perpetrators of the moral decay we are so fearful of? What if the wicked ways are the sins of the church that keeps us in our holy huddles and not amongst those who need the message of Christ the most? Are we afraid of getting dirty or being infected by the sins of others? What if our wicked ways is the diluted seeker centric message that has permeated the church?
In the exchange with the rich young, Jesus lovingly confronted him with his riches and exposed his heart as unwilling to follow Him if it meant giving that all up (…taking up his cross. A cross means death to all we have. Dying to our old life, our will, our heart and possessions.). In our seeker friendly churches, we would never have done what Jesus did. He is the target audience, we would likely have offered the rich young ruler an easy payment plan, “you don’t really have to come to Jesus like that, just pray this easy prayer and you can get in”.
Jesus in His mercy, let him walk away. Jesus said the cross and dying to self were the way one followed Him. What if the wicked way of the church is the preaching of the wrong message? I hear too often… come to Jesus and get. I rarely hear a salvation message include, come to the cross and die to self, it is the way to follow Him.
What if we will continue to see the demise of our country because we have been repenting for the wrong things? What would it look like and what would be the impact if Christians really started to look and act like Christ who hung out with the “unholy” and loved them. Or if we obeyed His commands to care for the poor, the widow, orphans and the infirm. What if government has grown so large because the impact of the Church taking care of the “least of these” has become so small? Is it coincidence that the church was the primary source of meeting the needs of those in need and as it abdicated its role, government took over? If we want smaller government we may need a more Biblical Church.
We talk about government waste and taxes. What about church waste on it’s own opulence and self indulgence for huge buildings, big splash events, concerts and conferences that make a fat church more inept, myopic and introspective? What about a church that largely ignores the Biblical edict to give? I believe the average believer gives less than 3% of their income. What could the church really do if its priorities were realigned and people gave cheerfully and liberally to the needs of others?
He said we would have the power to do all that He did, yet we often explain away that the power of God and the Holy Spirit are not for today. What if the worst of our wickedness is that we have portrayed God incorrectly, that we have put Him in a theological box of pious platitudes and not allowed him to live in us and through us in the way He intended, to be like Jesus?
Have we been guilty of not just failing to love as Jesus loved but also failing to live as Jesus did in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring real freedom and change to people’s lives? The power of the Holy Spirit has been confined to our salvation with the occasional demonstrations of His power within the church at “meetings”. Jesus demonstrated the power of His healing and freeing power in the streets for all to see. He healed the sick, opened blind eyes and cast out demons. Is that the Jesus that is visible today? Is that the Jesus we should be portraying and have failed? Instead of bringing people “in” should we be going “out”?
And if so, what does that look like? Certainly not the public accusations and finger pointing of a holier than thou message that is so often delivered. What if that were replaced with the fruits of the spirit and the Beatitudes? What if compassion and healing, forgiveness, meekness, mercy and hope were delivered in love to a world thirsty for meaning in life? What if our message was delivered by actions of love and not words of judgment?
What if the worst of our sins is that we have kept Him in the box and He wants to get out, which means He wants us out, to be the salt and light of the world that it so desperately needs. And He wants us to be like and do what Jesus did? When the real Kingdom of God shows up as it did with Jesus, government issues were a non-sequitar. He could have taken over and had a political revolution, the opportunity was there. What is the lesson we should draw from Him not taking that route? I don’t believe it is abdication from society or the political arena. BUT, how much more passionate have we been over politics than the Kingdom and souls? Is there a misappropriation of what is truly important?
Jesus never won an election but has had more impact than any earthly king or kingdom. What does that do to our focus and how we can best impact the world?
What if the lesson of this election is that there may be judgment and that the reason is not them, but us?
Last thought… what if it is not about winning elections but winning hearts?