Today, Tomorrow and the Next Day

Trust

Gentle Reader,

Over the last month, there have been scores of articles written, stressing the importance of voting. This midterm election has taken on a weight, an importance, that I don’t recall seeing before. We are all Chicken Little, but instead of the sky falling, we fear, and even believe, that our country is coming to pieces.

I look out my front window. We have new neighbors. They’ve been here since early September. I’ve yet to get up the courage to go and introduce myself. They’ve been busy getting settled, anyway, running loads to here from whence they came. When I do cross the street and extend my hand, my first question will not be, “Who did you vote for in 2016? 2018?”

Because who wants to start off a relationship like that?

Politicians have sold us a great lie: The neighbor is the enemy. This simply isn’t true. Unless you live near a Neo-Nazi, chances are pretty good that those in the homes within shouting distance want the same things you do. A job, good schools, safe neighborhoods. Chances are also pretty good that everyone up and down your street disagrees on how to achieve those things, and just what role the government should play in the achievement, but down at the base level, where it really matters, people are just people.

We forget that. All of us, so tuned into what our leaders have to say, find our sinful, baser natures rising to the forefront. Fears of “the other” and “the different” and “the invader” have been stoked, and blatantly. It behooves those in power to stir us up and create suspicion. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, the house that is divided shall not stand. He uttered these words in 1858, on the eve of civil war, when brother took up arms against brother.

Do we want to repeat this history?

Yes, I believe that if we do not check ourselves, we will wreck ourselves. Violence is the natural, logical conclusion when people feed on fear and hate. Perhaps not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But eventually.

I won’t tell you who to vote for. I won’t even tell you to vote. As I write this, the polls open in less than 24 hours and I have yet to decide if I will be among those waiting for a ballot. Not because I think voting is pointless – I don’t. It matters a great deal. A couple of weeks ago I was sure; now, I feel a heaviness knowing that, once again, it will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

Is that a choice that a Christian can or should make?

Wrong is still wrong, isn’t it, even if varied by degrees?

You’ve read here of my love of politics. Long have I been fascinated by the history, the personalities and the processes. Today, I am sickened instead. Waves of nausea wash over me as I ponder what lies before us. Nobody knows exactly what tomorrow holds, but it is not too far a stretch to make an educated guess. More anger, more division, more trouble.

Unless we choose differently.

We legislate morality. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Murder, robbery, abuse – all sinful, all penalized. What we cannot do, and must stop attempting to do, is legislate Christianity. This marriage of faith and politics, this reckless and futile attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, right now, in the United States, as a distinct physical and political entity (read this as a jumping off point), must stop. There will be no utopia before the return of Christ. And His return certainly isn’t going to be forced by us.

Before you go to sleep tonight, examine yourself. Take a good, long, hard inventory of your heart and mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal both cherished and hidden sins. Ask Him to grant you the strength to repent. If you choose to vote tomorrow, be sure that you do so with His agenda squarely in focus.

Because that’s what we are to be about. Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Let us choose differently. Vote, don’t vote – that’s not an answer I have. What I can tell you is that, whatever the results are, we have to learn that sanctification is a process meant to change all parts of our lives. Nothing is to be held back from the refining fire of the Spirit’s touch. For some of us that might mean choosing to listen to the stories of an immigrant family (legal or otherwise). For others that might look like turning off the obnoxious cable news and reading the Bible a little longer than usual. I don’t know what God is asking of you, but I know it’s something, because that’s what He does.

Listen. Oh, please, let’s listen. Let’s choose Him, over and above all else. Like Hannaniah, Azariah and Mishael. Let’s not go with the flow. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated. Let’s not give into fear and hate.

Today, tomorrow and the next day.

Mediate on these words:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

– Psalm 20:7 (NKJV)

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A Change is Gonna Come

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Gentle Reader,

I’ve made no secret of my fascination with politics and my particular interest in (alarm over?) the upcoming presidential election. A love of history and news combined with hearing from both parents and teachers that it is a privilege and a duty to participate in the democratic process pretty much guaranteed that I would be a political nerd.

But I’m beginning to wonder if the Amish and Mennonites don’t have it right.

There’s no hard rule that I’ve been able to find that dictates non-voting for all Amish or Mennonite groups, but from what I understand they generally avoid the ballot box. This is based in the idea of “two kingdoms,” the worldly and the spiritual; while the worldly government is to be respected, Christians are to adhere to the laws of the spiritual kingdom, even if those laws bring them into direct conflict with the worldly kingdom.

I was first exposed to the “two kingdoms” doctrine as a young teenager, when I listened to a radio dramatization of the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It took root in me deeply. I do believe that Christians should respect governmental authorities, but I also believe that our first and lasting allegiance must be to God. We must do as He says, even if this winds up meaning jail-time or death (as so many of our brothers and sisters in other, less comfortable countries experience today). I believe that following Christ will almost inevitably lead to civil disobedience in one way or another.

I have publicly stated that I will be voting for Gary Johnson, as he is essentially a moderate. I do not agree with all of his positions, but I am a moderate as well. I hold stances that are both “conservative” and “liberal.” The two major parties are basically the same at this point, wrapped up in a gridlock that does this country no good. It’s time our officials, who supposedly work for us, look past these allegiances and begin listening to each other. A president that is beholden to neither side of the aisle may help to accomplish this.

And yet…I grow increasingly uncomfortable filling in that bubble and sliding that sheet into the closed-topped blue box and hearing the election volunteer somberly announce that “Marie Gregg has voted.” With a little over two weeks before that momentous day, I wonder if I will vote at all.

If I do, I have a strong sense that this will be the last time.

The “Christianization” of society will not be achieved through votes or laws or strategy. In fact, this will never be achieved at all. Point blank: Read the Bible, people. Get over your laziness and your anti-intellectualism and start studying. Further, take a look at some world history. There never has been and there never will be any such thing as a “Christian nation,” either here in America or anywhere else. It is a concept not taught anywhere in Scripture.

Does America need to be made great again? Is it great already? Does America need to be saved?

Should we not be more concerned about those who may drown in a foundering ship of state than we are about plugging the ship’s holes? Should we not be busily engaged in throwing out life preservers to the passengers than in attempting to become the captain(s)?

I don’t know if I can in good conscience participate in this or any other election going forward. I really don’t. Something deep within, the strong heart-fluttering feeling I have come to recognize as the movement of the Holy Spirit, whispers that my eyes need not be on the person in the Oval Office but rather on the One who sits on the throne. That I must be about His business.

Is His business to overturn Roe v. Wade or is it to quietly invest in the life of woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant?

Is His business to worry about “religious rights” or is it to share the Gospel, heedless of the cost?

I leave you with these words from the apostle. Wrestle with them as I am.

…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

– 1 Peter 2:9-17 (NKJV)

God, grant Your people wisdom.

Grant me wisdom.

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Addendum: I couldn’t figure out how to fit this into the above, but I am hearing some say that, if Clinton is elected, that all those who do not vote for Trump are guilty of everything that happens following. This is both straying very close to idolatry (if not outright engaging in it) and straight-up illogical reasoning. Please, do abandon this line with all haste. Neither Clinton or Trump is the savior of the country or any person in it. Nobody is guilty of anything Clinton or Trump does, says, feels, thinks or believes other than Clinton and Trump.

Not the Fundamentals: Politics

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Gentle Reader,

A search for the word “government” in the NKJV yields 6 results. The first, 2 Samuel 20:23, contains a list of King David’s governmental officers. Isaiah 9:1, 6-7 speak of the everlasting Kingdom of the Messiah. Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 each admonish the reader to be subject to the government. The same search in the NIV yields 4 results, Isaiah 9:6-7 included. 1 Kings 9:22 records that King Solomon did not enslave any Israelite, but made them leaders. Daniel 6:4 shares how officials in Darius’ government worked to entrap Daniel.

No results in either translation come up when searching for “politics” or “political.” The term “faction” or “factions” occurs twice in both the NKJV and the NIV, all occurrences negative. I Kings 16:21 tells a story of yet more unrest in Israel. Psalm 106:17 recalls how Dathan was swallowed up by the earth after incurring the Lord’s wrath. 1 Corinthians 11:19, taken in context, finds Paul condemning the factions and divisions among the people. Lastly, Galatians 5:20, also taken in context, lists factionalism as a work of the flesh (i.e., sin).

A search for “division” gets you 65  results in the NKJV, 97 in the NIV. Some references use the word interchangeably with “tribe.” Some refer to military units, others to the partitioning of the Promised Land. The Gospel passages record Jesus saying that He will bring division into families and communities. The rest of the New Testament portions warn against those who cause divisions (Romans 16:17) and urge unity in the Church.

Strangely, I can’t find the word “Democrat” or the word “Republican” anywhere.

In the Unites States, political affiliation has become increasingly intertwined with a profession of faith. It’s no stretch to say that significant numbers of Christians believe that this faith should plant one firmly in one party or the other. (In my bleeding-red home state, it’s Christian = Republican). Needless to say, there are major problems with this line of reasoning.

For one, insisting upon the faith = political party equation causes us to become one-issue people. Millions believe that life is created by God and therefore precious, and so hold that abortion is wrong. Since the Republican party has set itself up on an anti-abortion platform, many of these millions vote a straight ticket. They do so seemingly without realizing that the GOP is also pro-military, pro-death penalty and pro-big, deregulated business. Each of these stances can and do lead to the taking of life, whether through the barrel of a gun, the pinch of a needle or lack of health-care options. Is life outside the womb not created by God and therefore precious?

On the flip side, those who vote a straight Democratic ticket often do not seem to realize that a large governmental system with fingers in every pie can and does erode personal and community responsibility. Considering again the issue of the sanctity of life, if it is true that a woman has the right to end the life of her child, what does that say about choice and consequence in a Christian culture that is to be based on an understanding of sin and forgiveness? There are other questions. Has the great health care “solution” really solved anything, or has the government simply become a player in the current, broken insurance system?

The point: Our faith should be the foundation of our politics, but we have got to face the fact that neither the GOP or the Democrats have a monopoly on Jesus. The Lord is not the recognized head of either party. We who function as parts of Christ’s Body do live with Him as our Leader, our Master, and so must wrestle with living out His commands. Sometimes that means voting one way. Sometimes that means voting the other. Sometimes that means some combination of the two.

What it always means is that we honor our governmental leaders. Commenting on 1 Peter 2:17, Matthew Henry wrote:

Christians must endeavour, in all relations, to behave aright, that they do not make their liberty a cloak or covering for any wickedness, or for the neglect of duty; but they must remember that they are servants of God.

How does a Christian honor leaders when those leaders are clearly evil, as with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc? This is a question that each person must struggle with, but my conclusion is that a Christian stands against evil while accepting the consequences for that stand. For example, if it became illegal in the United States to read the Bible, I would have to disobey that law. I would also have to go to jail. If a public profession of faith meant execution, I would be executed. I may be a citizen of the United States, but I am, over and above all things, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I will obey all laws insofar as they do not conflict with Scripture and the Spirit. If disobedience becomes inevitable, I will still honor the governmental authority by accepting the punishment doled out and praying for the salvation of those involved. (This is something that I think Christians need to decide on before the situation arises. My process started with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, excellent examples of necessary disobedience and submission to consequences).

There is nothing in Scripture that grants license to attack governmental leaders either verbally (which I have been guilty of) or physically. In fact, we are to pray for them, as Paul writes, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NKJV). And if one truly believes that anyone in government is an enemy, there are the words of Christ Himself:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  – Matthew 5:43-45 (NKJV)

This command of our Lord is crystal clear, but there are some who claim to follow Him that say otherwise. Mr. Steven Anderson has this to say about President Obama (warning – the content of this “sermon” is incredibly vitriolic. The portion about the President begins at 5:49). Mr. Anderson has never met the President, but states anyway, “I hate the person. . .I hate him. . .God wants me to hate Barack Obama.” (And yet he also says, “I love all of God’s creatures.”) At :58 in this video, Anderson goes on to say that the President’s children should be fatherless and his wife a widow because of his stance on abortion.

I have never met Mr. Anderson, but I find in his words a fair warning about enmeshing politics with faith. A warning about being one-issue voters. Most definitely a warning about ignoring the parts of Scripture we don’t like. Try as he might, Mr. Anderson simply cannot make a case for praying for or working toward the death of the President or any other leader.

So, my friend, vote. Be active in politics if you enjoy it. Seek to bring about justice and godly change. But be careful to seek out God’s perspective. This world isn’t perfect and perfection will not be brought about by one party being in power over the other. Paradise will come only with the arrival of King Jesus.

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. . .

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” – Philippians 2:10-11, Revelation 21:1-5 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all the posts in the Not the Fundamentals series, go here.