“The greatest sin of political imagination: Thinking there is no other way except the filthy rotten system we have today.”
Politics and Hope
There is a story in the Bible about a group of people who God called out as His own. This group of people (the Hebrews) were deeply committed to their families, deeply in love with their traditions, and deeply broken in their allegiances. This nation had been through hell and back. They had experienced oppression unlike any other nation. They had been beaten, spiritually abused, and socially ostracized.
One day, this broken people found freedom from their bondage. God himself delivered them. He set them free so that He could be their King, so that they could call Him Father, and so that He could give them a place to call home. This was all that they ever wanted and so they followed the leader God gave them.
It wasn’t too long after they began following this leader that they began to realize that when God is your King, you don’t always get everything you want. Before they could get to the place they would later call home, they would have to wander through a desert, experience the pain of hunger, and lose the one thing they held onto tighter than anything else: Their pride.
And so they rebelled.
Even though it was God, himself who rescued them, they rebelled.
Even though it was God, himself who fed them, they rebelled.
Even though it was God’s man who led them, they rebelled.
Their desire for their own god was greater than their trust in The God.
Their desire for their own king was greater than their allegiance to The King.
Their desire for politics as a solution was greater than their true source of Hope.
We Want Another King
They saw the other nations surrounding them and became very jealous. They saw these nations with plenty of food, plenty of health, and plenty of land to call their own…and they wanted the same for themselves. Now it wasn’t that these things were bad to want. But God wanted them to understand that, if they would just trust Him, He would lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey.
But they didn’t listen. And so they demanded their own king. No longer would they call God their King, they would look for a man to be king.
They kept their God and then they had their king.
They kept their religion and embraced their own politics.
The lost their faith in God and put it in human leadership.
Which leads me to my point today.
Our faith in American politics betrays our faith in God. Today I want to offer three reasons why this happens:
- We long for a better leader. The crisis in our nation is not a financial one, not a moral one, and not a social one. Make no mistake, we have a leadership crisis. The desire for power, for comfort, for approval…these are the driving idols of the human heart. Why would they not drive our search for a leader? But instead of becoming better leaders ourselves, instead of teaching our children about how to engage the world around us, we put all our eggs in the basket of political power seeking, hoping that if we put the right people in leadership “up there” that we will change the course of our nation. Of course, this sounds good, but it betrays a dire misplacement of trust and faith on government to solve our problems instead of us working to better the world that is around us.
- We prefer Caesar over God. Caesar was the leader of the Roman Empire. He was a man. He was visible. He ruled the world in the time of Jesus. One time, Jesus was asked who people should give their money to…Caesar or God. Jesus response was extremely important. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”. In essence, He was telling us that we need to pay our taxes, cast our votes, and work for the good of our cities. But He was also telling us that our heart’s, our families, our hands and feet, our very lives are God’s. Living an integrated life, being responsible citizens of our country and God’s Kingdom at the same time is critical for us to learn in this day and age. The subtle shift that happens though, is when we prefer this country to our Heavenly home. We are to live as travelers here not settlers, listening to God and letting him lead us into the future.
- We Listen To Our Wallets. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of living in a nation where consumerism is the predominant religion is that money is our true god. We can’t live without it. We’ve built our lives on the rise and fall of our economy. What happens to our money matters more to us than what happens to our own souls. We’ll even vote for someone who doesn’t hold our values because of the way we perceive that they handle money. The reason we have become soulstuck in this nation is because we have given over our hearts to the pursuit of personal happiness instead of allegiance to a King and a Kingdom not of this world. We live here, feet firmly planted on terra firma, and so we have a responsibility to be good managers of our money. But our misplaced trust in the way our leaders are using our money is going to hurt us in the end.
So what do we do?
I’m not suggesting anarchy, insurrection, or rioting. These methods only bring more harm than good. I’m not even suggesting a return to the “Christian nation” concept that so many of us have been led to believe.
What I believe we are being challenged with is the possibility of recovering the soul. We need actual change. But actual change doesn’t happen by putting all our hopes in the political system our nation has mindlessly constructed for itself. It doesn’t happen by inserting a religious person in the White House either (although personal faith is, I believe, important).
- Actual change happens when good people in neighborhoods, in schools, in religious institutions, in non-profit organizations and in homes all around our cities come together and serve one another and the least of these.
- Actual change happens when you bless people in your home, in your workplace, and on your street through random acts of kindness and service.
- Actual change happens when people realize that there is a kingdom not of this world that beckons us to learn the way of Jesus, the way of the soul on fire...not the political ways of people in power.
- Actual change happens when we do more than just cast a vote, but when we cast our pride away and submit ourselves to something Greater than ourselves.
Our faith in politics betrays our faith in God. When our faith in God betrays our belief that politics is the answer, then we will really see the change we all seek.
Until then, every election year, we’ll continue to be disappointed.