I promise, this will be the last blatantly political post I do for a while. But learning opportunities like this only come around on rare occasion (every four years to be exact), so we need to take advantage of them while they’re here.
Additionally, I wanted to wait a week to comment on the election results. Generally, blogs are distinct from news sites. Bloggers usually aren’t as concerned about being the first to comment on an issue as much as they are with providing a more comprehensive commentary on an issue, with mine having a decidedly Christian/biblical worldview bias.
So I’ve selected “now” as the chance to catch some of the election ’12 fallout and aftermath.
My initial reaction to the election results was simply that, had you exclusively been paying attention to social media (which an increasing percentage of the world now is), hours after the election, you would have been convinced that the world was either ending OR that Jesus himself had returned to set the captives free, depending on whom you voted for. This all reaffirms for me the reality that Americans continue to struggle with politics as a real idol (By the way, I’ve previously written on this in Politics as Idol, which garnered some interest, and a comment, from longtime Minnesota politician Allen Quist.)
Anyways, I wasn’t at all surprised to see both the outrage and the euphoria of voters on Facebook and Twitter. It really comes back to a misidentification of main problem/main solution with the world. Around election time, many Americans become convinced that our biggest problems as a nation are specific forms of government, specific parties, and specific candidates for election. While I certainly can respect the idea that some forms of government could perhaps prosper more greatly under the inherent nature (i.e. sinful nature) of man, I’m entirely unconvinced that one form of government, ideology, or philosophy is morally superior to another. And therefore, as Christians, while we may be convinced that one policy or philosophy is more wise or foolish than the next, it’s even less wise to be dogmatic about the issues that are not biblically-addressed issues. The problem with stating morally neutral issues as doctrinal truth is the problem that the Pharisees, who created some 600+ moral “truths” for the Jews ran into – putting your opinion on par with God’s clear will. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18) If a Christian states their political ideology on non-moral issues with as much force as their Christian theology, they probably deserve to be rebelled against. So, for instance, you might not like the notion of the “redistribution of wealth.” Few with wealth do. And you can be fully convinced that stealing from the rich to give to the poor, via taxes, is an unwise practice for us as a nation. I’d probably agree. But if you defend your wealth with the same passion that you would defend your Savior Jesus, you’ve lost balance and perspective. Ask yourself, in the past month, which have you done more – complained about taxes or promoted Jesus? If it’s taxes, then you’ve touched on one of the biggest repellents to Christianity in our society today – “Christians” who value something as more precious than Jesus, and least in their practice.
So if it’s not bipartisan politics and it isn’t a political candidate, what/who is the main problem with the world? Why, it’s you. And it’s me. In general, the main problem with the world is sin. But, the catch is that I can do very little about “all the sin out there.” The only thing I have some capacity to regulate is the sin in my life. And only if I grow in the grace that God has shown to me and get control of some of that do I have any power to change the world, and change the admittedly (fairly) negative perception of Christianity in my country.
Consider a marriage as a building block or microcosm of society. Marriages end up in divorce due to selfishness. Most couples who end up in counseling prior to divorce have a long list of items about their spouse that they’d like to change. The list of problems they have with themselves is significantly shorter. The problem with that, of course, is that you cannot force another person to change. You have very little control over that. The only thing you can indeed control is yourself. Since a marriage consists of two human sinners, the reality is that both parties are putting strain on the relationship through their sin. Consequently, the main thing that I can do to improve my own marriage is NOT to change my spouse, but to use the grace God shows me to change myself. When both parties in a marriage treat themselves as the main problem in the marriage, improvement is almost inevitable. When only one party does this, improvement is still likely. If both parties treat the other as the problem, it leads to further drifting apart.
Now apply this to our country. We’re blessed to live in a country in which we have the privilege and responsibility of electing officials. Don’t let that trick you into thinking that you have more control of the world than you do, however. Your jurisdiction, your main circle of influence and control, essentially ends at your epidermis. And even then, there are regular riots within that you and I don’t always control very well. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19)
Using a term first coined by Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, lecturing on Romans 7, said that the biggest problem with this world was that my heart is incurvatus in se (“turned in upon itself”). Self-centeredness. It’s completely the opposite of the way God originally designed mankind. And this me-first disposition is what creates the evil that lurks within me and within the world:
Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.” (Johnston, Mark (2009). “6”. Saving God. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 88.)
The biggest threat that exists in my life is not President Barack Obama. It is not the redistribution of wealth. It is not enormous national debt and an unbalanced budget. It is not dropping test scores. It is not lazy people leeching off the system. One can freely make the case that each of those might contribute to national problems. But unless I first treat my own sin as the thing that is ripping the planet apart, then no one is going to listen to my case, because they won’t see wisdom, only hypocrisy.
I am my own worst enemy. I’m also the only one I have any true degree of control over, and this only because Jesus has redeemed me and placed his Spirit within me, a new self. His grace is so powerful that it not only saved me, but it empowers me to live in such a way that can show the world that Christ is a more beautiful path.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)