One thing’s for sure: The times, they are a’changin’. Even for those who don’t believe everything the press bleats about the latest “crisis” or “unprecedented” event, this year was a doozy: the Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump won the Republican primary against an “unprecedented” lineup of solid younger candidates, and, in a still-unexplained rift in the time-space continuum, the Democrats, after getting the first black President elected, put the car in reverse and jammed pedal to the metal to showcase just two candidates, both octogenarians – one an avowed socialist and the other an angry white woman.
And then Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. There followed the most uproarious reactions to a political event we’ve had since the Sixties. Businesses were damaged and people were openly disrespected or assaulted for how they voted. The entire country, it seemed, was all (quite literally) a’twitter about the election.
Christian ministers had to stand before congregations a mere five days after the momentous election and try to make some exegetical sense of it all. One message began, “we woke up [the day after the election] to a nation more divided than ever…so many attempts to console, frustrations, declarations, insensitive boasts, impatient exhortations to move on…”. I, of course, took issue with the “than ever” part – notice above that I said “since the Sixties.”
As these things do, the events, the news about the events, and the messages about the news about the events caused me to roll my eyes and shake my head so much I felt like a Millennial at an Eighties party. There were enough cries of “Everybody Just Calm Down!” that I didn’t feel the need to add to the chorus. The range of emotions is wide, their depth cavernous. But regardless of what side we’re on, we have heard this all before. After the elections of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, I heard a steady chorus of “this country will not survive;” and when Ronald Reagan and then George H.W. and George W. Bush were elected, I heard those same cries, but from the other side.
For Christians especially, whether we’re elated or dejected should make little difference in how we live our lives going forward. But not only that, events like this always present an opportunity to reassess how we think. Any regular reader of this blog knows how dead-set I am against Christians being overwhelmingly politically motivated (see my “Sick of Silly” category and other posts), and for Christians keeping The Main Thing the Main Thing.
I often find myself looking at the early history of Christianity as a touchstone for the way we probably should think of Christianity today as it relates to our priorities and conduct. When that scourge of Christians, Nero, died in 68 AD, there undoubtedly was a lot of relief and exultation. But it wasn’t because he “ran up the debt,” or “promoted the LGBTA agenda,” was anti-minimum wage hikes or anti-affirmative action, or did (or didn’t do) any of the things that are so all-consuming to many Christians. His death (by suicide) was heralded because the Empire was “a dangerous place” for those who professed Christianity. Their very lives were at stake.
That fact alone sheds a little softer light on our “travails” today: the threat of imminent death tends to clear one’s mind. No doubt there are many similarities between the modern American church and the early church: read Corinthians and you see how “normal” many of today’s churches are in our sins, proclivities, and bad attitudes that attach themselves like barnacles. [see 1 Corinthians 3:1-8; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20]
Even with these similarities, true hope for any Christian has never been rooted in politics; the early Christians didn’t stake their joy on the ascension to power of a less despotic Roman leader. They, and we, may be happy that there’s some political reprieve in store, but ultimately everyone gets disappointed. The Christian’s hope, and the message, is the same as it’s always been: regardless of the political situation in any moment in history, God is in control, and always will be. And His one desire is that we keep our eyes focused on Him – His message, His provision, and His plans for us individually – regardless of the political situation in which we find ourselves at any given moment.
Two things are without dispute: First, there’s no doubt that Trump supporters will be disappointed by something he does or doesn’t do. And his opponents will try to take advantage of his errors for political gain. That’s politics, and it was ever thus. Second, whether you’re at this moment holding your breath or shouting from the rooftops, four – even eight – years are a blink of an eye in the span of time. If we live another 20, 30, or 40 or more years, we’ll look back with perspective’s advantage and most likely see an entirely different world than the one we currently view.
And in the final analysis, when we stand before our Creator and are asked to give an account of our lives during this tumultuous time, what do we really want Him to say? “Great choice on November 8, 2016! You really saved us!;” “Bless you, child, for your stance on gays; you held back the tide;” “Congratulations on electing your first black President – you did well!”
Somehow I doubt that that’s what we’re going to hear from the Almighty. Rather, He’s going to focus on how we lived for Him; how we used the gifts He created us with; and how much we allowed Him to affect our conduct and outreach to the wider world. If we get all that right – regardless of our politics – that’s when He’ll say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” When it’s all said and done, I think we can agree: to hear those words should be our aim.
Categories: Biblical Babblings