I have tried to stay out of the current political storm for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t know a whole lot, so I don’t see much point in my making a less than fully informed comment. Second, I simply don’t want to add to the division, and I’ve got friends on both sides.
And it’s these “sides” that are getting to me.
You see, I’m taking a Jesus and the Gospels class right now, and we’re looking at Jesus’ message and life and how he didn’t fit into any of the political camps among the Jews of his day. He wasn’t a seize-back-control/power militant; he wasn’t a “maintain differences” but work-the-system guy; and he wasn’t a separatist who withdrew from politics and society completely.
He said things like the Sermon on the Mount and taught people to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for his will to be done on earth. He told stories about crossing ethnic divides and putting ourselves out to love our neighbors, and he ate with “sinners” and outcasts.
He didn’t fit into anybody’s mold. As soon as someone tried to make him a member of their camp, he said something that made it clear he wasn’t.
But he wasn’t a maverick, just out to find his own way, different simply to be different. He was adamant about that. He was actually following orders. He was doing his Father’s will, doing it all the way to the cross.
And Jesus encouraged his followers to do the same. “Take up your cross and follow me,” he said, in his invitation to a cruciform, God- and others-focused life.
N. T. Wright wrote this about Jesus’ call: “Jesus was summoning his hearers to give up their whole way of life, their national and social agendas, and to trust him for a different agenda, a different set of goals.”*
I don’t think Jesus is summoning us today to anything less than this.
Now I don’t want to simplify the political complexities of the United States. I don’t want to make it seem as if we shouldn’t have opinions or discussions about the current campaign and issues.
But I’m seeing a lot of anger on Facebook and Twitter, and behind the anger I see fear. There’s fear that the world ahead will not look anything like the world of the past—and there’s fear that it will look far too much like the past. There’s a fear of lost power, lost say and influence and majority control. There’s a fear that our agendas and goals might be set aside.
And this makes me think of this verse: Perfect love drives out fear.**
I know sentences are not like mathematical equations. You cannot simply flip the two sides of that sentence around and have it mean exactly the same thing. But I’ve wondered if many of us Christians have let “Fear drive out perfect love.”
When we fear (and anger is often, I believe, a result of fear), it is a sign of a lack of trust. Somewhere deep down we are not trusting in the perfect love of God. We are trusting in something else, something less certain, something other than God.
Because deep down I think we know God’s agenda and goals do not match up with our own. His agenda and goals are not about our safety and comfort; His agenda and goals are not about Christianity retaining power in our political and economic systems. They are not about America being seen as a great nation.
His end goal is that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven, that Christ reign as King, and God be worshiped by all.
And while he promises that all of the workings toward this goal will result in our good, he doesn’t promise that this good won’t also involve discomfort and danger and tribulation for us. In fact, he promises the opposite.
But that is perfect love: love that is perfect not only in character but also in foresight. It knows the good end and understands what trouble along the way is necessary for that end result.
This is the perfect love that can drive out fear.
But we must trust this Perfect Love.
We must trust this God.
Where does our hope lie?
If it depends on a candidate or a party or a human agenda, we will fear, and love will be driven out.
But if we trust in the perfect love of God, fear will be driven out.
We will know we are loved.
We will live without fear.
We will love…
*from The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Here’s a link to a recent Christianity Today article in which Mike Bird, author of What Christians Ought to Believe, interviews N. T. (Tom) Wright about his latest book, The Day the Revolution Began.
**Please follow the link to see this verse in context (I John 4:8). I have to admit I am taking the verse a bit out of context, as the fear it is talking about specifically is fear of God’s judgment. But in our modern, Western world, I feel we have swung so much to the other side of who/what we fear, that we must acknowledge that misplaced fear, remind ourselves that God is the one we SHOULD fear–and then take great comfort from this verse.