A Time to Choose
Thoughts on what it means to be Christian in times like these..
It is no surprise to anyone that today’s political and cultural climate is in disarray. The world has become a place where anything and everything can become a divisive issue. One side will say “If you are for this, then we are against you!” and the other side will respond back with a disenchanting response that is similar to their oppositions.
I admit that I have played a part in this. We all have. We all have believed, at one point in time, in the lie that says, “for one side to succeed the other side must fall into the abyss and never return”.
Deep down I believe we all realize there is a better way.
Deep down we all realize that our differences, though they may be plenty, will never come between what unites us. For we are all human, and we all know what it means to be so.
To be human means that we know struggle and joy can live in the same moment. To be human means that we know what its like to have faith and doubt dance with each other. To be human means that we know that we won’t ever have all the answers, but at the same time maintain our drive to keep adventuring.
What connects us is far greater than what can ever separate us.
Regardless of whether or not we know it, the creeping agent of deceit and mischief known as fear has always plagued mankind from the beginning. Fear has always driven division. Fear has always aided and abetted those who seek to separate. Fear is what causes confusion about what is truth and what is right and what is good.
Fear alone is dangerous, but if fear is the agent then power is it’s most devious vehicle.
Those who would seek to exert their own will and agenda on others have always realized that power is the way in which fear is manifestly used to destroy the sacred unity of all things. Fear and power are a dangerous tool for those who wish to cause hell on earth. You can see it in every movement where the leader promises to be the answer to all of our problems and if you don’t agree with them then you become the problem.
A short list in the long line of those would abuse those around them by convincing others its good for them.
If you can understand fear and power you will understand every world conflict that has ever occurred.
Yet we can still have hope, because where ever fear and power sink its deathly teeth, there will always be those who would oppose it. In the Christian tradition that figure is Jesus. The Jesus story is compelling in many ways but without proper context we may miss out on key points.
During Jesus’ day we find Israel under occupation of the Romans. Rome was considered the first global super power and at it’s helm was Caesar. To give you more context, Caesar was considered by many to be divine. He was even considered by many to be the “Son of God”, which sounds oddly familiar. This is a very compelling statement because when Rome marched into your territory or city they gave you two options. Surrender to Caesar and declare him Lord over your life, or you will be crucified with the rest of those who would oppose him.
Most would choose the former.
By the time of Israel’s occupation they themselves had their own problem with power grabs. Herod, who ended up on the throne, was able to cooperate with the Roman government by oppressing his own people. The Pharisees at the time were adamantly opposed to what was going on but because they didn’t have enough power to do anything they focused primarily on scriptures and their teaching of the Torah. Sadducee’s were considered Hellenized Jews who delighted in being controlled by the Roman Empire because they were given more power and prestige.
During all of this time no one was caring for the poor or looking after the orphan and the widow. Those who didn’t have power simply didn’t matter.
Then a man named John came along baptizing people and shouting at the top of his lungs for the people of Israel to “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is coming!”. Keep in mind that for 400 years Israel hadn’t heard from a prophet of God. If at any point in time the people needed to hear from God it would be then. If at any point in time Israel needed God to restore it’s kingdom it would be then!
200 years before John the Baptist and Jesus came along there were the Maccabees. The Maccabees led a short-lived and violent revolution against Rome to restore Israel and rebuild the Temple. You see, Israel had tried fear and power and like most times it only works for a short while. The Kingdom Jesus was talking about was one that brought Heaven and Earth together.
These would define the kingdom Jesus was pursuing.
These would define the radical revolution that Jesus’ disciples would carry out.
Imagine. If someone steals your coat that you would go ahead and give him your shirt as well. If someone hits you, you would turn the other cheek and say, “Go ahead, one more time”. If someone needed forgiveness you wouldn’t just forgive them once, but eternally.
The call to Jesus was a call to action. It was a call that when the time came your heart would be so full of love that even when your enemies were set on destroying you, you would still sacrifice your life for them.
When Jesus calls us he bids us to come and die to the old way of fear and power and to come alive in the new way of faith, hope and love.
I wanted to share all of this with because every four years we have the same discussions. We pick sides and try to use fear and power to destroy the so called “enemy” and every time we do so we allow fear and power to seduce us into believing that’s how the world works.
I am here to remind you, that if you truly believe what Jesus says, that just isn’t so.
Jesus turned an entire empire built on fear and power upside down and gave the throne to “the least of these”. He gave us the tool set and complete example of how to actively pursue the world he first created. Everyday we choose to bring a little bit of heaven or a little bit of hell to this place called earth. Don’t let fear win. Don’t let power seduce us. Let love, mercy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control win.
Let us decide now that the empire of fear and power no longer controls us, and let us decide that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
I get the anxiety of elections, believe me, I do. Revolutions of fear and power come and go, but the Kingdom of God is always at hand. We indeed have choices to make in America, but it’s not between our two dysfunctional political parties. It’s between light and dark. It’s between being salt or being bitter. It’s between joy and misery. It’s between heaven and hell and how we can bring more of the former to earth in the here and now.
The fundamental question, then, is whether or not you trust that God knows what he is doing and whether or not he still thinks eternity of you. I choose to believe he does and I think you should too.
Grace and Peace.
So practical things we can do.
1. Let those who despise you know that you love them. Leave nothing up for discussion. Let he/she know that how you view them will never change. Take pre-emptive measures specifically when using mediums like social media to engage. That means really thinking through your post and questioning your motives. Relationships can be ruined because of this stuff. Empires like enemies because it gives them a target to crush. Those of the Kingdom love enemies because they see them for they are. Someone to be loved.
2. Be patient. The time will come where the tide turns. One of my favorite quotes is from a book by George MacDonald called the Princess and the Goblin. It says, “People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have believed it all yourself if you hadn’t seen some of it”. People don’t simply start choosing faith, hope and love they must be shown how.
3. Realize you may not always be right. We should always carry with us the ability to admit we are wrong. Have discussions with people and let them know why you believe, but always leave a space for change. You are one person with one worldview, you are not God and you do not know all things. People of fear loathe losing arguments because it lessens their view of self. Be kingdom minded, our self isn’t at the center.
4. Always be about people. Never forget we are all human. At the end of the day our relationships and our bonds are what ultimately matter most. Take care of them. Invest in them because these are the true joys in life. It is how we experience the divine because we are all image bearers. People of the empire way of life talk about issues in a way that detaches us from humanity. Don’t be that way. Remember Issues are not people, but they are about them.
There could always be room for more, obviously, but I felt as if these spoke to me. The point is simply to focus on how we can bring more hope and less fear to the world.