Is it just me or does it feel like some of us good Christians folk are trying to swim to a shore of sanity, respectful dialogue, and faith in our King while struggling against an irresistible undertow of confusion, verbal diarrhea, and fearful doubt? As the title of this blog post suggests, I’m referring to to current state of American politics.
Some of you who know me may think that I’m about to unleash all my pent up frustrations concerning Donald Trump. It would make perfect sense, seeing that the presidential candidate’s name is in the title and the dreadful word “diarrhea” is in the opening sentence. While I certainly have some strong opinions when it comes to Mr. Trump and his supporters, I’m not going to do that here. Whether or not my opinions are correct or not, I really want to take a step back and get God’s perspective on this whole crazy situation.
I need to do this because lately I’ve spent far too much time, energy, emotions, and breath on the controversial figure known as Donald Trump. I think many Christians have. I’ve read the statements of respected Christian leaders like Max Lucado and nodded enthusiastically in agreement. What he said was succinct and spot-on. I’ve passionately declared to argumentative co-workers how vile Trump is and how I simply cannot comprehend how he is wooing “evangelicals” to his side.
I’ve intentionally gobbled up any and all negative press about the man’s life so that I would have some righteous ammunition on hand when I discuss how he might “ruin” our country. I even found myself vehemently defending Jeb Bush for being the only Republican in the race that seems to have compassion for illegal immigrants. In other words, I found myself caught up in the undertow. It stinks and it’s exhausting. I wanna be done.
I came to the realization of my frazzled spiritual and emotional state while posting an edited section of Brennan Manning’s book, The Wisdom of Tenderness on my Facebook account. I wanted to use his words to proudly declare where I thought I stood in this year’s electoral drama. My aim was to point out how many Christians today have taken an “us against them” mentality when it comes to those who don’t share our values or who strongly oppose our way of life. My specific target audience was certain conservative Christians – the one’s who find themselves appreciating what “the Donald” has to say. Here is what I posted:
Another issue bewitching God’s people these days is the tendency to gratuitously give an monopoly on evil to a single person, a single nation, or a single institution. When one person, nation, or institution is declared to be Satan, logic rules: eliminate the source of all evil, and everything will be alright; when Satan is localized in a finite reality, the end of evildoing is just around the corner. And yet, as you know, one lesson we’ve learned from the history of civilized humanity is that when we kill our particular ‘Satan,’ evil doesn’t disappear from the face of the earth. In fact, it may reappear in the place we least suspect: ourselves. Labeling someone Satan gets the labeler off the hook. The face of evil has a specific face and shape. Many Christians today have discerned the speck in the eye of another, and they think they need look no further. Everyone has a pet peeve, a favorite target, a personalized ‘what’s wrong with the world’ speech. The villain may be televangelists, racism, the welfare system, the immigration system, the worldliness of the church – whatever. No one of us is immune from spreading evil, including those who pontificate about what the real problem is. American Christians revel in this kind of declamation. The tragedy is that the scorching words of Jesus in Matthew 23, ‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites,’ are now directed at other churches, authority figures such as the pope, the presiding bishop, politicians of the opposing party, the ACLU, and so forth. You and I know that we miss Jesus’s message entirely when we use his fierce words against anyone other than ourselves. Those words must be understood as directed to the self; otherwise, they’re perverted.
Stirring isn’t it? I believe Donald Trump has certainly inflamed this kind of attitude – one that seemingly thrives in some professing Christians. I thought I would generously provide “those types” with a bit of well-written and highly relevant food for thought. I realized fairly quickly, however, that I was guilty of the very same attitude Manning writes about, though it manifests itself differently from both Donald Trump’s verbiage and the specific conservative/liberal peeves Manning mentions.
What started as an attempt to shed some needed light on the unbiblical thinking of certain professing Christians ended up being a critique of my own inner world. While trying to make a bold statement about what the “real” problem is, I clearly missed Manning’s point about how we often take the teachings of the Bible or Christ’s words and direct them at anyone but ourselves.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t speak out against a man who calls himself a Christian and then displays a lifestyle that completely contradicts that statement. We have a calling to do that. We’re supposed to judge those who are supposedly in the church but act like heathen. Their eternal lives are at stake. As John Piper says, “Eternal security is a community project.”
What I’m saying is that we need to guard our hearts from ascribing to any person a “monopoly on evil.” It seems that a whole bunch of us believe that if Trump can be stopped then this country will survive and a cataclysmic disaster will be averted. I think we attribute far too much power to this man and I think this kind of labeling is a great indicator that our trust in God may be wavering.
Even if Trump loses the Republican primary or the big election in November, the “end of evil doing” is not just around the corner. Like Manning says, we’ve given evil a specific face and shape. Donald Trump certainly has. Just listen to what he’s said about Mexican immigrants and Muslims. Are we any better than Trump or his supporters when we make them the target of our “what’s wrong with the world’ diatribe?
I believe this is a gross error on our behalf. I think it makes our witness ineffectual. No matter what candidate we decide is going to bring the world to ruin, if we are born-again Christians, that kind of fear and frustration makes our faith in Jesus look extremely shaky. Let’s not play the same game as Trump.
Trump is not the real enemy, nor is any world leader, no matter how much power they have. Donald Trump is not Satan. And for that matter, neither is Hilary Clinton. I think it’s important for us Christians to examine our hearts when it comes to our political murmuring. We need to pay attention to what kind of attitude fuels our zealous crusades against this or that candidate.
If fear or dread is the primary drive in our daily lives, even if politics isn’t at the root of that apprehension, then perhaps we need to dust off our bibles to remind ourselves of who is sovereign, who loves us, who is on our side, and who has actually already conquered the “real problem.” First spoiler alert: it’s not Donald Trump! Second spoiler alert: if we are God’s elect, we have nothing to fear.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel. Genesis 3:15 (NKJV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (NKJV)
I could list several more passages of scripture that are relevant to my point. But for the sake of brevity I want to focus on these three amazing statements. You may think that these verses don’t have much to say in the arena of politics, but I think they speak volumes to the confusion and dread we may feel when we dwell on the possibility of our country being placed in the hands of a person we don’t like and don’t trust.
There are powers of darkness that we must wrestle with. While the scriptures say that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, we do interact with and are influenced by a world of people that are under the sway of dark powers. We are all, at times, susceptible to the schemes of the devil. All of us constantly sin and fall short of the glory of God. Politicians are no exception. The things they say and do as well as the policies they create and promote can be influenced by a being that hates those who are made in the image of God.
I’m not saying that all politicians are consistently incapable of passing laws or promoting causes that are for the good of our country as well as other nations. Good things sometimes do come out of Washington D.C. I’m simply saying that we all live in a world that has, for the most part, consistently listened to and believed the subtle lies of that old serpent, the devil. And unless we’ve made Jesus our treasure we will continue to believe the lie that there is good apart from the God revealed by and in the crucified and risen Lord and that we should seek our own happiness and fulfillment at the cost of everyone else.
The good news is that the dark power we wrestle against has already been defeated. We don’t have to live that way. After our ancient parents were deceived by this dark power, God mysteriously foretold of a day when the “seed” of the woman would “bruise” the head of the serpent. While the serpent would certainly do damage to the seed of the woman by “bruising” or “striking” his heal, the wound to the head of the serpent would be a mortal blow. The NIV employs the word “crush.” I love what Matthew Henry has to say about this text:
He shall bruise his head that is, he shall destroy all his politics and all his powers, and give a total overthrow to his kingdom and interest. Christ baffled Satan’s temptation; by his death, he gave a fatal blow to the devil’s kingdom, a wound to the head of this beast, that can never be healed.
When I came across these words from one of the best known bible commentators of all time I was delighted to see that he used the word “politics” when referring to the devil’s kingdom. Henry’s words have helped me see that Satan really holds no power apart from what has been permitted by God in order to accomplish God’s purposes. Satan has never been in control and this fact is most evident when we consider the slaughter of the Son of God – the “seed of the woman.”
God allowed the serpent to strike the heel of his Son. The crowds, religious leaders, and politicians had their way that day. God allowed the world to unjustly sentence Jesus to death. But it was in that very “strike” that the serpent’s head was crushed! God is absolutely sovereign over corrupt politics, religious hypocrites, and hateful crowds. He knows what he’s doing. He can use Satan’s politics for the good of his people.
Romans 8:31-39 is one of my favorite sections of scripture. In this text Paul’s offers a far better way of saying what I’ve been attempting to get across. As I said before, if we are God’s elect then we have nothing to fear. Who can be against us if God is for us? Nothing can separate us from the love of the One who was delivered up for us all. He prays for us even now. If we are his then we are already conquerors because of his love. We have everything.
There is no dark power in the universe that can condemn us or bring us to ruin. Jesus has provided a way for us to rise above the ridiculous fear that politicians like Donald Trump hold our well-being in their hands. Satan’s kingdom is dying. Jesus has wounded him in a way that means certain death. He is bleeding out and he will not recover. Let us not be afraid when he temporarily rears his ugly head in the form of any politician.
Whether you consider yourself conservative or liberal, a Republican or Democrat, or someone like me who is simply having a difficult time navigating dark waters of anxiety over who might win the presidency, we’ve got to have more faith in God than we do in the political system. No matter who or what has been the target of our lofty “what’s wrong with the world” speeches, lets put more energy into trusting Jesus and demonstrating his self-emptying love.