(Apologies for this post being a little longer. But it’s a serious topic that warrants more than a snappy title and a sound bite. Thanks)
Well it’s a brand spanking New Year! So, let’s jump into the pond with a big splash and make waves around a honking red button that’s going to be all over 2020.
It’s not hard to guess. Trump, politics, God’s anointed, and what it all means.
I’m concerned and disturbed. Not by President Trump so much (although there’s much to reflect on there), but rather the rhetoric coming from influential Christians supporting him. And let’s be clear, I’d probably write most of this piece if such rhetoric was used in support of any political leader.
My alarm bells went off recently when I listened to the podcast of a highly influential and respected prophetic leader. He was declaring that God’s sovereign will is for Trump to be leading America and that to mess with God’s plan is dangerous and we should ‘get out of His way.” The ‘prophetic word’ had little Biblical substance, a smattering of anecdotes, and too much presumptuous declaration with minimal authority other than a subliminal message: “I’ve been doing this prophetic stuff for years, trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”
One of the hallmarks of God’s Spirit is freedom. Freedom to listen or not, to choose, to hear Him or ignore Him, and to extend the same freedom to all others. God never bullies, harasses, manipulates, or even lords it over anyone. Yes, He’s the sovereign God, but He doesn’t throw His weight around to get what He wants done. It’s extraordinary, it’s a gift, and it’s a charge bestowed upon all humanity as we are invited to respond to the revelation in Jesus, God’s Son. “As the Father loved me, so I have loved you. Love one another……”
Christians often portray an angry God, sovereign and judge, all of which is true. When Bill Gates was head of Microsoft, rich, powerful and influential, that was not the facet of his life or personality presented to his children. To them he was first and foremost their dad. Through the revelation of Jesus human beings have the unique privilege of knowing God in all His glory as Dad, Abba Father. We lose sight of that wonderful ‘fact’ when religion and doctrinal truths are our source of authority or unity.
Satan was originally one of the most beautiful angelic beings who for some reason became envious and discontent. He desired to be God. In his rebellion against God he was defeated and banished from heaven together with one third of heaven’s angelic beings. Now look what happens. God doesn’t strip him of the power of an angelic being (as I’d have done). In this extreme example freedom to choose is respected and valued, even when it means the gift is turned back on the Giver and manifest as hostility. Instead, God works with the situation at hand to overcome the challenge and defeat the one declaring enmity.
By contrast, too many Christians think that their support of a particular political party or person will advance God’s Kingdom – on earth as in heaven. Such thinking is nonsense. Human politics and political power mongering are riddled with greed, self interest, myopic thinking, and short-term gains. We may be sincere, and try really hard, but only Jesus can bear the weight of the ‘anointed One’ or the Messiah. Human government is indeed a gift from God to organize and oversee life on earth between fellow citizens. That structure is intended to enhance our daily lives so that we may discover more of life’s true significance and meaning. The Kingdom of God is in its essence spiritual, flowing from the inside out. It can neither be legislated, forced, nor commanded into being – in anyone.
This does not mean we don’t vote for political parties and leaders as they speak their visions and outline plans. Democracy among ourselves in the best system we can muster in a broken world with all manner of dysfunction and mistrust in the hearts of minds of prospective leaders and electorate alike. If one adores Trump then by all means vote for him, if another prefers Hillary, or Jemimah, or Frank – then vote for whomever. Pray for them, pray for wisdom, pray for integrity and protection over leaders and in your decision-making. All within the context that these are people influencing and exercising power within their extremely limited and imperfect persons.
The end never justifies the means.
Some Christians think that a specific person should be in office because they will forward Biblical Christian influence over the nation and beyond. And there is merit in that thinking, but just not as much as we might think. More judges who are conservative, strengthen the anti-abortion movement, undo legislation protecting the LBGT electorate and…. Others take the exact opposite stance in support of their worldview and agenda. Democracy at its finest allows these various worldviews to be expressed and ‘worked out’. That’s not to say there’s agreement or even much truth, but there is freedom to disagree in the working out thereof. That’s also not implying that all paths lead to truth or even honour God. Consequences matter and Truth will prevail, but never through political movement, political leaders, or legislation.
Freedom is so tough for followers of Jesus to handle. We hardly receive it for ourselves and yet we too easily gravitate toward speaking for God and recycling His grace into more hardline ‘principles’. For instance, most have been taught that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments with the expectation that humans would actually keep them. Christians quote their favorite Commandments ad nauseum to one another yet fail miserably to keep any of them. I’d suggest that the deeper purpose of those Commandments is to reveal the person and character of God; to have us look into the mirror and reflect how unlike Him we are. And to respond to His invitation for us to draw closer to Him in order that we might become more like Him through relationship, not rules or legislation.
The foundational meaning of Christmas and the coming of Jesus is to invite those who have gone astray to return to a relationship with God who is a loving Father not a vicious vindictive schoolmaster. The “Bible-believing Christian” indignantly responds by saying I’m being too soft on sin and that God calls us to repentance. Of course, He does. Not by wagging the finger with threats and government decrees, but through His Son, His teaching, His grace, His Cross, His Resurrection, His Holy Spirit, His Word, His Church, His servants, His disciples, – all imbued with His love manifest in a wide variety of expressions. Rules and legislation create fear, submission, and religion. Love in the person of Jesus evokes thankfulness, repentance, and hope for transformation within the context of an accepting and supportive relationship – so that I can become what I never imagined I could be left to my own resources.
This is why I’m disturbed by Christian rhetoric that too easily declares what God is doing – too specifically – especially when it comes to politics. The secular and sacred are totally intertwined in all flesh, believers and unbelievers. To say ‘yes’ to God is a rebirth and the beginning of a lifelong process of rediscovering the depth and breadth of life with God, on earth as in heaven. But wherever we are on that spectrum of growth we agree with Paul that we still see through a glass darkly.
A few other reasons to be careful when tackling God and politics:
Truth is the bedrock of trust, that’s a fact. God has no favorites. Jesus identifies Himself as the embodiment of truth. Expedience, political correctness, and falsehood do not grow on the vines His Father tends, nurtures and prunes.
God cares about character. Adam and Eve disobeyed one commandment and were expelled from Eden. King David committed adultery, killed many people for a multiple of reasons, was called a man after God’s own heart (because he also knew how to repent), and was not permitted to build the temple he designed. John the Baptist challenged King Herod because his lifestyle was immoral, and John was beheaded. James and John were disciplined by Jesus for inappropriate expressions of anger and revenge toward a Samaritan village. Peter was rebuked by Jesus for taking matters into his own hands in Gethsemane when he chopped off a Roman soldier’s ear, sincerely trying to defend Jesus. Character matters.
The Kingdom of God on earth is not political. Even if the top leaders and government were all Christian, it would be wrong to legislate Christian principles as mandatory for those who don’t yet believe. That sounds heretical and controversial; it’s not meant to be. God, with all His authority, has outlined in the Commandments and His Word as to how we should live on earth. Yet He gives freedom to respond, obey, or rebel. And amid rebellion He sends His Son to win back the hearts of the wayward, the blind, the stubborn and the ignorant through a revelation of love; so that repentance is a response and change emerges from the inside and works outward.
Power corrupts and narrow short-term agendas fuel group-think, a herd mentality, and very wrong decisions. We need only read the account of the politics surrounding Jesus’ trial. Take note of the conclusions of the religious leaders of His day (we know how God works, and it doesn’t look like this), the vacillating of Pilate, and the fickle shouts of the crowd singing “Hosanna” one day, “Crucify Him” the next, and “We want Barabbas!”
If we can get it so wrong with Jesus on earth, surely there’s room for caution, humility, and more attention to character, integrity, truth, and grace? It’s an impossible task being a politician today. The intrusion on family and privacy is cruel and hypocritical but a hallmark of our times. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it despite all the imperfections and mixed motives. Let’s be grateful for those who do step up, but let’s also be kind and not elevate them above their calling. Vote and pray, participate and do what seems best while understanding that God in His mercy will work through, around, and even despite whomever it is we place in the highest office of our land.
In 2020 let’s be full of wisdom and grace. Less name-calling and mud slinging. Don’t be lazy listeners but question, test, and challenge with kindness and passion. Don’t easily receive and believe what you read, see, or hear from only one source, one channel, one party, one mindset, or one worldview.
There is only one Savior, one Lord, one Messiah, one King – and His name is Jesus. He is sovereign and He’s not subject to our politics, nor does He require our vote. Such a statement irks many as it exposes the core of human rebellion – we want no God but us. One day every knee will bow before Him and His truth will prevail with His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Until then, know this. He’s not angry with anyone one earth.
We are all His much-loved children (whether lost or found). Remember that foundational truth and let God be God as we work it out on earth with our politics and politicians.
Where politics and legislation can never reach, the Goodness of God attracts broken, bruised, angry, religious, non-religious, political, indifferent, jaded and judgemental lost and found sons and daughters….