Most who know me can understand my disappointment with the results of our presidential election. I’m not deeply disappointed, as I had always felt in my spirit that the Republican party — regardless of its nominee — would face a steep uphill battle in order to reclaim the White House.
Of course, no two hills are exactly alike. And Mitt Romney’s climb would require extra strength and resolve as our fawning news media badgered, belittled, and demonized him, while at the same time shielding the President from his gaffes and his record. I could spend some considerable time on that one, but that would probably benefit no one. Many would agree wholeheartedly with me, and many would think me an idiot for saying such a thing. I am frustrated. I am concerned. But I am not without hope.
There was something particularly striking to me about this election. In past campaign seasons, Sen. John Edwards frequently referred to ‘two Americas.’ Well, regardless of the imagery he was trying to convey by his use of that term, the reality is that a tale of two Americas has emerged for the whole world to see. It would seem that the United States is something of a misnomer. We are a deeply divided nation. Ironically, the things that divide us are in large part due to the degree of diversity on which America prides herself.
The labels we have worn for years are now clearly obvious:
Haves, Have Nots
White Collar, Blue Collar
These labels, while easy to read in many ways, are not altogether helpful. They serve to cheapen and polarize us by forcing us to take sides and see all the ways in which we’re different rather than all the ways in which we’re alike.
Which brings me to Jesus. Yes, I always have to inject Him into the discussion. You see, in his time with us on this earth, Jesus lived in a way that brought glory to His Father. He loved people — all kinds of people — and pointed them to the Father while never apologizing for speaking the truth.
Too many times, the only real pointing we do is at others. Sometimes that pointing is lighthearted and playful. Other times it is hateful and rude. Still other times our pointing is acidic, burning the eyes and penetrating the soul.
Almost all the time, however, it is unnecessary and unhelpful.
I must confess that my fingers have sometimes been the ones pointing at others. And while rudeness was never my intent, the effect was likely just the same. That’s probably true for most of us to one extent or another — even those of us who belong to the family of God. Patriotism runs deep, and passions run high. Platitudes are plentiful . . . wise words, not so much. Our well-meaning attempts at persuasion lose value with each sweeping generalization and toxic insult, whether overt or implied.
Jesus understood the power of words and their ability to speak life or death to another. In James 3, the tongue is described as a fire with the capacity to contaminate and deprave the whole body — and a restless evil, full of deadly poison. “With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10)
As believers, we are called to be salt and light in an ever-darkening culture. Far too often we have used our light to expose the sins of others while completely ignoring our own. Far too often we have used our salt to burn the open wounds of those who most need a healing touch. Far too often we have demonstrated that there is very little difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who don’t.
And we wonder why Americans are leaving churches in droves.
One thing that our national election makes abundantly clear is that the United States is not a Christian nation. And unless the hearts of believers change, the morals and values of our society will continue to deteriorate. That deterioration was underscored yesterday by the advancement of measures legalizing gay marriage in several states and recreational marijuana use in two others. Of course, according to Scripture our world’s default setting is to decay and waste away. That’s why more than ever we need to be people of prayer and people of purpose. Now is not the time for whining and complaining. Heaven knows, all the grumbling the Israelites did in the desert accomplished nothing productive. And in the midst of their deepening woes and self-centered focus, they failed to notice the blessings of life that did exist. More importantly, they failed to notice the hand of God at work.
For years Christians in America have sat on the sidelines and watched as our nation gradually removed all evidence of God from the public square. Our courtrooms and our money still say, “In God We Trust,” but our lifestyles sure don’t. Gossip, gluttony, divorce, and debauchery are commonplace even among those who claim to be Christians.
We have used the name of Christ to excuse or protect us from our unhealthy meal choices, our irresponsible financial investments, our political affiliations, and our vast moral failures. At some point along the way, we apparently began to think that by merely mentioning the name of Jesus — whether in shallow prayers or carefully crafted mission statements — He would save us from ourselves. It’s almost as if we thought His name alone was all that was required.
Unlike the contestants on the reality show Survivor, we are learning that Jesus is no immunity idol. We can’t just sprinkle His name around our lives like fairy dust and expect His blessings. We can’t simply plaster our walls with decor from the Christian bookstore and think God will turn a blind eye to the sin in our homes and offices.
And the sad reality is that even the political party that never struck God from its platform never really had His blessing to begin with. We can say “God Bless America” at the end of every speech . . . We can pray before every meal and every meeting . . . We can bolster our packaged presentation with endorsements from world-renowned pastors and evangelists . . .
But until we get serious about living holy lives and demonstrating love to others, His blessing will not be ours.
I don’t know what the next four years will bring. Heck, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. That’s why Jesus said,
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:33-34, ESV
The solution to America’s problems will not be found in government or in politics, because our problems are deep-seated spiritual problems. Therefore, the only solution can be found in the person of Jesus Christ.
I can’t tell you all the things that America needs right now. But I can tell you that Americans need love, and Americans need Jesus — and not just the genie-in-the-bottle kind. We need the real thing. And that is something that true believers can offer.
As daylight fades in America we can take comfort in this: No matter what comes our way, we can rest in the promise of His unfailing love. Whether our two Americas ever become one, let’s show the world that the Church is up to the challenge of coming together to infuse our culture with salt, light, and love.
And let’s be faithful to offer prayers for all our nation’s leaders. They’re going to need them.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
What are your thoughts on Election 2012 as it relates to Christians?