Culture

The Sky is Not Falling

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“For some people the savior has come, for others the sky is falling, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

A friend said these words to me on the Wednesday after election day in 2008. Barack Obama had just been elected President of the United States. I had joined some pastor friends for coffee at The Maze, an eclectic consignment shop in our small Southern town with a coffee bar in the back. We met nearly every Wednesday for coffee. A group comprised of a Presbyterian pastor (sometimes two), a Southern Baptist pastor, and myself, a sorta charismatic, sorta evangelical, sorta Anabaptist, nondenominational pastor. We enjoyed coffee and conversation about theology, ministry, family, politics, life, and the like, but that Wednesday morning politics dominated the conversation. Disagreements were commonplace in our conversations, but never disrespect. We loved one another and learned from one another, even though our political and theological opinions did not always line up.

My friend was right in 2008. For some the election of Barack Obama marked the arrival of the one who would solve all our national problems, heal all our ills, unite everyone, and produce “change we can believe in.” For others the swinging of the pendulum from right to left meant the tragic “end” of America with a spiraling downward decent towards collapse and calamity. Despite the current political ads coming from the right and the left these days, I believe history will reveal that both were wrong. The savior did not come in 2008 and the sky did not fall.

Hopeful Words

The angry rhetoric surrounding this presidential election has grown since 2008 and now Donald Trump has been elected president. Some are shocked. Some are overjoyed. The words of my friend from 2008 need to reverberate in our ears today. The election of Trump does not mean the savior has come and the sky is not falling, at least not for followers of Jesus. Our hope is not in the politics of man but in the kingdom of God. I appreciate Tara Beth Leach’s hopeful words on Monday, the day before the election:

Why yes, the winds are howling. Why yes, things are chaotic. But let us remember, brothers and sisters:

King Jesus is the one who overcomes sin, chaos, evil, and darkness.

And that same King who overcomes, is among us. [1]

The good coming from this crazy election season is all this shaking has rattled the thick dust off the idol of nationalism, which is a disproportionate devotion to one’s nation. The sudden revelation of this form of idolatry has been painful for some people. The growing post-Christian culture in America has caused some in the body of Christ to forsake their primary allegiance in Christ for what Scot McKnight has called an “eschatology of politics.” [2] When our ultimate hope is in the candidate we vote for, when our primary concern is the preservation of a certain political system, when we “hold our nose” and vote for a candidate who stands in direct conflict to our Christian convictions simply because we do not want the other side to win, we have shockingly exposed an idol, a false hope for salvation. When we have exchanged our hope in God for hope in elected officials, we have unwittingly traded our Christian birthright for a bowl of toxic political soup.

We have unwittingly traded our Christian birthright for a bowl of toxic political soup. Click To Tweet

An Election in Heaven

The crazy, outlandish, revolutionary, rebellious, scandalous, incredulous, mocked, maligned, and misunderstood claim of Christians is this: Jesus is Lord. The Apostles and early Christians boldly proclaimed this impossibly good news in a world where people celebrated Caesar as Lord, son of God, and savior of the world. They didn’t hope for Caesar to bring the kind of life they were looking for. They certainly loved their neighbors and worked for the common good, looking to extend kindness to those who were dangling on society’s bottom rung. Their hope and confidence was in King Jesus who took sin, corruption, and injustice upon himself and took it into the grave where it met its final demise. Their undying hope was in this King who rose from the dead, triumphing over sin and death and putting the rulers of this present evil age on notice.

In the same spirit of that apostolic age, we too confess Jesus as Lord and this confession puts us at odds with the nationalistic elites. Nevertheless, we who are filled with the spirit of King Jesus can rest easy. There has already been an election in heaven. One vote was cast by God the Father. He voted for Jesus. It was a landslide! Jesus has been elected and is now ruling over the earth. Jesus is King. For life! Our hope is in his reign and rule. In the words of the ancient Christian hymn, and with the cadence of a Pentecostal preacher, we say:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)

Don’t allow the haters and cynics to cause you to abandon our common hope in King Jesus. We have rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s by casting a vote, but now let’s render unto God what is God’s. Caesar gets our civic-bound responsibility, but God gets our heart-bound loyalty. In some ways every election season becomes a test for followers of Jesus. Elections give us the opportunity for self-reflection, to ask ourselves: Will we remain faithful to the Gospel? Will we allow the Gospel to shape our political opinions? Will we allow the Gospel to guide our conduct and speech? Will we allow the Gospel to form our hearts together in Christian unity?

Caesar gets our civic-bound responsibility, but God gets our heart-bound loyalty. Click To Tweet

Those Dreamers the Prophets

The Christian realists among us may protest and say, “Yes all of this is true about Jesus. He is King of Kings in our hearts, but we have to live in the real world.” We do indeed live in the real world and it is the real world that Jesus came to save. John proclaimed to us that God didn’t send his Son into the real world to condemn the real world, but to save the real world. Any concept of the lordship of Jesus disconnected from the real world is a sentimental fantasy which denies the reality of the incarnation.

God didn't send his Son into the real world to condemn the real world but to save the real world. Click To Tweet

We believe Jesus came into the world as a fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets who spoke of a time when Messiah would come into the real world and establish both the worship of the one true God and justice between people. These prophets were dreamers. They dreamed of a day when all the nations would come to the mountain of God and encounter the knowledge of God and, as crazy as it sounds, wolves and sheep would live together. Lions will eat hay. Kids will play with cobras, crazy right? Those dreamers, the prophets, like Isaiah, envisioned a day of peace, real peace in the real world. Isaiah envisions the day of the reign of Messiah with these words:

They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9 ESV)

The Hebrew prophets were dreamers, but they were not the only ones. Mary the mother of Jesus was a dreamer; so were Peter, James, and John; so were Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius,  and the Cappadocian Fathers; so were Augustine, Bendict, Benard, Francis, John Huss, John Calvin, and John Wesley; so were William Carey and William Seymour. We stand in a long line of dreamers who believed the dreams of the Hebrew prophets were coming to pass in Jesus the Messiah as he rules through his church. Certainly not all of these dreams have come to life on earth.

We are still waiting for the appearing of Jesus when he will come again to judge the living and the dead, but Jesus has come. King Jesus the Jewish Messiah and the world’s true Lord has come announcing and demonstrating God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We believe the kingdom of God has been inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit of Jesus on the earth. 

A Spirit-empowered Life

So how should we go about our lives today, the day after election day? We should live as faithful followers of Jesus empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. Let us continue to depend on the Spirit’s work to produce within us fruitfulness: 

Love that is authentic

Joy that is contagious

Peace that heals

Patience that endures

Kindness that overwhelms

Goodness that is shared

Faithfulness that is seen

Gentleness that is felt

Self-control that cannot be questioned

Such a Spirit-empowered life is not “quietism,” ignoring the social issues and injustices of our day. Rather the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill our vocation to reflect God’s character and nature into the world and to express the groaning of all creation back to God. This mission is our God-given vocation. As N.T. Wright notes in his new book on the cross:

We humans are called to stand at the intersection of heaven and earth, holding together in our hearts, our praises, and urgent intercessions the loving wisdom of the creator God and the terrible torments of his battered world. [3]

On the day after election day, let’s love our neighbors, serve them, listen to and respect them. Let’s stand between heaven and earth and divided groups of people as makers of peace. We live in an unbelievably polarized time. Let’s build bridges and make disciples of the Jesus way. Above all let’s pray and rejoice in the hope we have in King Jesus. 

On the day after election day, let's love our neighbors, serve them, listen to and respect them. Click To Tweet

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[1] http://www.missioalliance.org/jesus-ready-wednesday/ 
[2] http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2008/september-online-only/scot-mcknight-eschatology-of-politics.html
[
3] N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began (New York: HarperOne, 2016), 80.

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