I live in the mountains of North Georgia. The only way to get to my apartment is traversing many back roads, filled with fields of cows and abandoned farm houses. Astonishingly enough, even there, you will find Trump/Pence signs posted in front yards. The same was true when my parents and I made a road trip to New York this summer and camped at a KOA in Virginia; on every back road there were farm houses and fields with Trump signs out front for every passerby to see. I was amazed that these people who are (typically) so far removed from the outside world were so passionate about Trump that they took the time to order a sign and put it in their yard, which very little people would see anyway.
This election has truly polarized our country in more ways than one, but especially evangelicals. The Trump-Hilary problem is one that many famous pastors and evangelical teachers have been writing blogs about for months. It has raised some very important questions for us. The number one (I think) being: how do Christians bring about change in the world? What does it mean to be a Christian?
Now, who better to go to in order to answer this question, than the man who started it all, specifically, the God-man, Jesus. Before we look at any of Jesus’ life, consider this: Jesus lived in a time full of government oppression and turmoil. There is no doubt about it: the Jews were an oppressed people. Now consider America. In my opinion, I think many evangelical leaders are stirring up mass paranoia over us losing our religious freedoms. They are treating religious freedom as the ultimate good, instead of knowing God and making Him known as the ultimate good. Our government is NO WHERE NEAR the oppression of the Romans or the Nazis but I hear these comparisons being made everyday. Now let us consider how Jesus lived his life in the midst of a crooked and perverse world.
He came for the sick.
Matthew 9:9-13 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus hung out with fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He chose to identify Himself with the broken. And he taught us, “this is what it means to follow me.” He taught us that how we treat these people in society is how we treat Him (Matthew 25:40). He taught us that we should forgive, in light of the abundant forgiveness that has been given to us (Matthew 6:14-15).
The Jews were looking for a political hero. They were looking for someone who would charge in and conquer the Romans. Instead they got a meek man, who changed lives one encounter, one teaching at a time. However, Jesus was not lacking in boldness. Oh no, not at all. But Jesus was passionate about righteousness and repentance. Jesus rebuked his own “religious leaders”, not the Roman government. Jesus teaches us hypocrisy of those who claim to know God is the greater evil. Jesus is concerned with our hearts; what’s on the inside. He spent His earthly life begging all to come to Him and believe in Him to receive forgiveness of sins. He foretold of His death and resurrection. He had compassion on the multitudes and He healed many from their afflictions.
One of my favorite stories is in John 8, when the Pharisees ask Jesus if they should stone the woman caught in adultery. Jesus says “he who is without sin among you throw the first stone.” And everyone walks away. And then Jesus says, “did no one condemn you woman? Neither do I. Now go and sin no more.” The one person who was without sin, who did have the authority to throw that stone, chose not to. And that is the story for all of us. We are called to share this great compassion and forgiveness with the world. We like Jesus, are called to change the world one encounter at a time, as we act like Jesus and speak about Him to all we come into contact with.
Scripture does command us to pay our taxes, and to be cooperative with governing authorities (Romans 13), but it never encourages us to look at our government (yes, even our free democracy) as a means of salvation. Scripture never encourages us to put our hope in political candidates or elected officials, but only in Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, I am EXTREMELY thankful for religious liberty. But I’m not promised it in Scripture (in fact, we are promised the opposite; persecution). I am incredibly thankful that I have rights, and freedoms in this country found no where else. But far be it from me to cling to them so tightly that I forget the supremacy of the gospel. Far be it from me to talk about politics more than Jesus. Far be it from me to hope in America’s government to conquer sin more than I hope in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Legislation and political reforms don’t conquer the evil of abortion. The gospel conquers abortion. Political candidates can’t conquer racism (as we have SO CLEARLY seen), the gospel conquers racism. Whether men have guns or they don’t, the only thing that will conquer the evil desire in our hearts to harm others is the gospel. The Bible makes it clear that only the Holy Spirit turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
So, let me ask you, and let me ask myself, how do you live in light of this truth? Do we everyday hope in Christ, cling to Christ, and abide in Him that we might share Him with a dying world? That we might proclaim His truth with those we come into contact with? Or are you too caught up in the winds of politics that you’ve forgotten that you’re not just a Christian “first”, you are a Christian only. You’re whole identity is wrapped up in the fact that you follow Jesus. So act like Him. Go spend time with the outcasts, the misunderstood, the hurting and oppressed. Identify yourself with them. It’s easy to make a great political post on Facebook about how we need to take care of the poor, but it’s hard to actually go live among the poor yourself. It’s easy to talk about how our government needs to have programs for the mentally unstable, it’s hard as the church for us to actually go out and identify ourselves with them. It doesn’t look very pretty.
I’m not going to tell you how to vote. Frankly I don’t care how you do. God will still be sovereign at the end of the day and I don’t expect the government to take care of life’s problems anyway. I trust in Jesus, who clothes the lilies of the field and gives birds their food in due time. But what I am saying is this: the church needs to stop concerning itself so much with politics and we need to start concerning ourselves with loving others like Jesus loved. We need to start sharing about Jesus one encounter at a time, living with integrity, and that will change the world.
If you doubt it, all you need to do is read about this meek, but bold Jewish man who literally changed the entire trajectory of the human race through one simple encounter at a time. And as Followers of this man Jesus, our whole lives are about conforming ourselves more and more to His life.
In the midst of all this political passion it’s important to note that our Lord made the biggest impact on history, the world and us through refusing to fight back. He humbled Himself to die a death on the cross. He didn’t resist. He didn’t cry out for justice. Instead He took the justice we deserved upon Himself. He laid down His life for the sakes of us. In the same way, may we lay down our lives for the sakes of others. Even when it seems unjust and they don’t deserve it. And may we hope not in the judgment of our government, but in the judgment of our soon returning King, who will expose every wrong doing and make every wrong right. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and conquer evil forever. Church, let us press on to think and meditate on these great truths. And may we act like, hope in, and long for Jesus.