Intrigue and allegations permeate the political atmosphere these days as we approach another Election Day on Tuesday here in our home state of Virginia. The indefatigable efforts of politicians and their willing cohorts in the press seem intent on keeping us in touch with emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, disgust, exasperation, disappointment, and even despair that most of us would rather avoid.
That leaves many followers of Jesus struggling with what to do and how to react in the political arena—or any other arena these days, for that matter. We’re pressured from all sides with demands for political correctness and conformity in a divisive culture where everybody appears to be branded with some kind of tag, title, ethnic association, economic class, affinity group, social cause, or political party. Too many Christians are left confused, angry, feeling verbally hamstrung, and nursing an overworked emotional apparatus.
Not a New Thing ~
If you’re one of those, cheer up. Those early followers of Jesus got angry and exasperated, too, so while we fight to retain some modicum of sanity, let’s consider an exchange Jesus had with a couple of disciples, because the context is familiar and the lesson is relevant.
Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem on what would be His final journey when an incident occurred that had inflammatory repercussions for two of His disciples. Since fast food and online registration hadn’t made it into their world yet, groups traveling together in those days would send emissaries ahead to arrange for food and lodging. But Jesus’ team ran into trouble in Samaria.
Samaria might feel familiar to us, because it was widely known as a region characterized by religious bigotry and racial division, especially between Samaritans and Jews. Though the text doesn’t include details, their prejudices may have prompted the negative response to Jesus’ emissaries. For whatever reason, the team was rudely repulsed. Luke doesn’t elaborate, but the context suggests that their rejection was more egregious than simply being inhospitable. Maybe racial or religious epithets or some outlandish allegations about Jesus were involved. Regardless, it was one offense too many for James and John.
Heated Attitudes—Deep-fried Solutions ~
They brought their complaint to Jesus, and it was clear that they had had enough, and drastic measures were called for. With apologies to Luke, let me humbly offer “Gallagher’s uninspired, culturally adapted, and contextually adjusted paraphrase” of how their request might have sounded…
“Lord, we’re fed up with these people. Samaritans are a bunch of arrogant, ungodly, egomaniacs, and they’re publicly mocking us—and You. They need a message they can’t misunderstand and that others will never forget. So… we want you to give us the power to call down fire from heaven just like Elijah did. We figure that if we turn a few of ‘em into crispy critters, just like Sodom and Gomorrah, the rest won’t give us any more trouble. What do you think?” (Luke 9:51-54 “Gallagherized”).
It’s tough when you’re expecting applause and get booed off the stage instead. In an embarrassing and unanticipated turnaround, the Master Teacher rejected what their human instincts craved, and directed their attention to the larger picture. He simply said. “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of…” (Luke 9:55 NKJV).
It’s noteworthy that even in the presence of the Lord himself, they were so drawn into the vortex of emotionally incendiary minutia that they lost sight of their purpose for being there. Jesus reminded them, and us, that the conflict we’re engaged in is not racial, political, cultural, or even religious. Regardless of the superficial trappings, the warfare we’re called to wage is spiritual and so are the weapons we use and the battlefields we’re called into.
Staying Focused in the Fog ~
Jesus’ response prompts a few suggestions as we consider the political decisions ahead and struggle not to get lost in the bewildering fog of allegations, accusations, and emotional clamor.
- Like James and John, we get angry and frustrated, and sick of the abuse hurled at those who adhere to Judeo-Christian values, and our natural desire to retaliate is understandable, but losing the spiritual perspective can be dangerous. Suffice it to say that the competing spirits here are never just “Republican” or “Democrat”, and our desire for victory must extend beyond that. Fire from heaven is definitely called for, but a redemptive fire, not a destructive one. We need a passionate determination to stay focused on our mission and committed to demonstrating a message that saves, builds, redeems, and preserves life. Expressing that determination with our vote is important, but it must not be the only way.
- Jesus’ response to His disciples was not a stamp of approval for anything the Samaritans did. Their twisted brand of Judaism was repugnant to God, but His desire was for their salvation, not their destruction. The condemning fire from heaven they wanted would be poured out on Jesus as He took God’s fiery wrath to make the Samaritans’ redemption possible. He had not come to cause them more pain, but to take their well-deserved suffering upon Himself.
- But keeping the cross in focus does not mean running away from challenges, political or otherwise. Jesus entered the enemy’s arena, and we are sent to do the same. Whatever the challenge, He always provides the weapons needed for the particular battle at hand and the faith to wield them. David didn’t defeat Goliath because a rock is better than a sword. It was the trust, courage, obedience, and willingness to die on the battlefield rather than hide in the hills that rendered Goliath’s sword pitifully impotent, and we are sent with the same Spirit that empowered David.
- The question in this election is not whether Republicans are better than Democrats. The question is which “spirit” are we “of”? Candidates who promote the slaughter of innocent unborn babies challenge us, and the issue is lives, not politics. Political “Goliaths” who advocate philosophies and policies that undermine God’s design for families and relationships stand up to mock us. Giants who would force acceptance of lifestyles and behaviors that clearly violate God’s principles are taunting us. These issues are not just political. They are expressions of the combatants in a spiritual war.
The polling place is the battlefield on Tuesday, and our weapon on that day is a ballot. Beyond that, calling for fire from Heaven might be a good idea, but the fire we need is a passion that transforms lives and fuels love that lifts us above the political strife and racial clamor … a fire that promotes life, hope, love, peace, and eternal reconciliation.
And a final thought and resource for our Virginia friends … Check out the Family Foundation’s Voter Guide, share it with your friends – and please, VOTE on Tuesday. It’s an excellent side-by-side comparison of the candidates’ records and where they stand on traditional values.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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