It's Inauguration Day... now what?
A month ago or two ago, I found myself tracking the election results and praying with our elders for our congregation, our community and our nation. We had a hunch that a new president would soon be inaugurated. In the midst of the chaotic dialogue and widespread feelings, we had to settle in our hearts, again, that God was sovereign and He has used all kinds of leaders throughout the span of history in all kinds of nations for His glory, our joy, and the good of others.
And Christian...BE READY TO STAND OUT like a sore thumb. Our UNITED States of America feels like a DIVIDED State of America in ways I never thought I would see. But they desperately need to see a UNITED Church.
One of my favorite war movies of all time is THE PATRIOT, starring Mel Gibson. I consider myself a Patriot. I believe the Constitution is the greatest legal document in government history. To read about the birth of our nation is a great and adventurous delight. But as I read the Bible and look at history, I see that…
Then came Babylon.
Then came Assyria.
The British Empire conquered for a while.
We should desire America to flourish. We’re raising our kids here. We want to preserve what is great about this country. We don’t want to think that our ancestors and friends fought to see the greatest democracy in history go by the wayside.
But whether America is great is never the end-game for the Christian. God is great. And that’s enough for the Christian. The Church has lasted longer than all those empires.
God is far less interested in our pursuit of democracy and far more interested in our pursuit of His Kingdom, no matter what the government says or does.
Matthew 6 tells us to - Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God… Unfortunately, I find myself seeking FIRST many other things. Especially these days.
In public life in the USA we have seen that unreason is a voracious beast. If that is not confronted, it devours not only the party you may identify with, but also your nation and your church. We’ve become weary with unreasonable rhetoric.
We have seen that overreaction in a season of weariness has been common among people we love and do life with. Although we are given a vision of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we soon realize that no state, no nation has the capacity to ensure that men and women are happy; but all states and all nations have the capacity to ensure that men are unhappy. The Christian’s source of happiness is not in a nation, but a person.
I vaguely remember Donald Trump’s inaugural address. I remember more of Obama’s inaugural address, but not enough to quote anything of significance. It gets cloudy from there. I remember parts of the Gettysburg address. I wasn’t there for it, but I remember “four score.” Unfortunately, I had to go to Google to remind myself what “four score” even meant.
But I remember a lot more about Jesus’ most famous address. It was a sermon, commonly referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” (Matthew 5-7).
It was a treatise on life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus described what citizenship looks like for followers of Jesus. It seems unattainable in our power and ability. And that’s part of the point. But to think it’s beyond our reach is to miss the point. God should have standards for his citizens, right? The Church is not a political society and will never be one, but its mission is to point to one peculiar and ultimate political society: a kingdom of citizens who freely obey and follow their King, who live in a city of which their Lord reigns and brings light on everything.
In the coming days, you will be tempted to direct your anger at those who may disagree and attempt to cancel others. Conservatives are “canceling” liberals and leaving Facebook and Twitter to join Parlor. “How liberal can you go?” sometimes feels like a competitive game show and the ruthlessness to cancel anyone not at their level of tolerance is seen as, well...intolerant.
You may go to church with some of these personalities. But the Gospel doesn’t have a canceled culture. It says none of us are righteous and as we come to Jesus, our sins are canceled and by his blood on the cross, we can be reconciled.
We can be sad or disappointed today. But if you are a follower of Jesus, there is a greater allegiance to a higher authority than a president. He’s the King of Kings and His Name is Jesus.
For those celebrating, any satisfaction felt today, will soon pass. It won’t last. You will be frustrated again.
One of the rich traditions I’ll be sad to miss today is the pageantry of “Hail to the Chief” played twice for the outgoing and incoming presidents. It’s a symbol that’s meant a great deal to many Americans. But symbols and institutions like this will all pass away in time.
The Word of God will stand forever. Self-preservation will mark those who are unfaithful. Christians are never about preserving their greatest desires, but desiring the will of God and the good of others. The greatest “good” that others need is the Good News that is TRUE. Truth will offend people of all stripes and colors. But if you know truth as a core conviction, you will have backbone for the days ahead. Detaching from friendships or groups is easy. Getting angry is too easy. A backbone is hard, but holds up far more than anger or detachment.
Just before every Great Awakening in America’s history, it looked far from a Christian nation. There’s no reason why God can’t use His people, His Word, and His Spirit to do it a third time. We should pray for revival.
We should care about our nation. IT IS A GIFT of common grace and there’s not an area of life that we can separate from God’s influence. As a Christian we simply can’t be “so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.” Christians should influence everything they touch. Politics, business, community, family. But our foundation for doing so is ALWAYS counter-cultural, because the way of Jesus is narrow. So if you ever feel that you are on a political island, it may not be that you are a centrist or moderate, but that you live in an altogether different kind of Kingdom.
As Abraham Kuyper said, “God wants his truth proclaimed everywhere.” That truth arrives in how we vote, how we help our community to flourish. But for the Church, our hope is never in policy, but in the presence and promises of God.
We often forget there was political diversity among Jesus’s disciples. Included in the 12 are Simon, a zealot, and Matthew, a tax collector. (Matt. 10:3–4). This is significant because zealots worked against the government, while tax collectors worked for the government. You might say Simon was a right-wing ‘small government’ guy who thought the state should keep out of people’s business, and Matthew was a left-wing ‘big government’ guy who made a career out of collecting taxes for the state. Despite their opposing politics, Matthew and Simon were friends, and Matthew wants us to know this. Matthew’s emphasis on a tax collector and a zealot living in community together suggests a different loyalty for Christians. Our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom must always exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda.
And here’s one of our challenges in the midst of this: It would be a tragedy to get the right president, the right Congress, and the wrong Christ in the process.
If this seems radical, take heart. As Charles Colson reminds us, “Jesus came as a radical to turn the world upside down. When we believe it is just about Jesus and yourself, we miss the whole point. Christianity is a way of seeing all of life and reality through God’s eyes.”
Jesus has inaugurated his Kingdom. So with that in mind, we pray for the newly inaugurated president, we weep for our divided nation, but our hope remains in the One who has never left His throne.