Earlier this week Bill O’Reilly issued a challenge to the clerics of America to encourage their congregations to contact the White House regarding the threat of ISIS. Presumably that stronger, swifter action be taken by our country. His call, that pastors use their pulpits to stir their congregations into a moral fury of righteous indignation, was also echoed by Pastor Robert Jeffress.
I believe that would be a mistake. In light of eternity would it not be of infinitely greater value if every pastor stood up in his pulpit this Sunday and challenged their congregation to go? Go with the gospel to the ends of the earth. Go to the Muslim across the street, go to the Muslim in the middle east – in the name of Christ, for eternity’s sake. The church has no other standard to raise than the gospel.
Ever since President Obama took office my news feed is occasionally flooded by right wing Christians espousing the evils of the president. I even have a few friends who swing liberal , wonder of wonders, and they will weigh in with equal vitriol. Neither ‘side’ seems immune to strong human emotion. I get it. We face highly charged topics.
It’s important to recognize that we are in a place as a generation that is unprecedented, globally and historically. Heavy issues, great human need, constant change are our companions. Regardless of what you think of the president, politics, or religion I imagine we all feel the instability of the times. That reality should breed compassion for each other. We’re all swimming in the same soup.
I confess I find myself growing weary of the right wing, Fox News crew as much as the double speak, liberal crew. Tired I say. I don’t have a tent in either camp at all. And I’m tired of the Facebook and blog comment baiting. Shoot, I’ve done my own share of baiting over the years. It never ends well, rarely leads to redemption, and looks nothing like grace. I’m over it, I say.
And even though I claim no affiliation for right wing conservatism, I most certainly won’t embrace humanistic liberality.
What I long for, hunger for, is the gospel truth. For a wisdom that takes into account the reality of all that’s unfolding and puts it into an eternal perspective flavored with hope, genuine good will, and humility.
Truly, what’s needed now is not a forum on the evils of government, or a study of the founders original intent, or any such thing. What is needed now is an Esther generation.
When Esther, or Hadassah, was living with Mordecai in Susa she faced many of the same trials we followers of Jesus face today. Her people, the set apart ones, had been taken into a foreign land. Their Jewish customs must have been hard to practice. They endured turmoil, and war, real evil, and a capricious leader. They even faced annihilation at Haman’s hand. And yet the eternal God led them. He knew exactly where they were. As he knows the times we are in. We have the ability to respond to evil days and times in the same way Esther and Mordecai did. With faith. Even more so, because the revelation of Jesus has been made known to us and his Spirit is freely available.
In this generation, regardless of leadership or culture, economy or pressures, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 2 Peter 1:2-4
We are no mere pawns in evil men’s hands. We have everything we need to live pure lives in crooked times, without whining, complaint, or fear.
I need to stop and take an aside note for a moment. Following Jesus and being an American have nothing to do with each other. The founders of America came here to establish a free land for a variety of reasons and using different personal means. It was a good thing. I’m blessed for the heritage I’ve been born under. But we need to be careful to recognize that that was then and this is now. There is no reason to freak out over America changing. Nations always have. Until time ends they always will. We need to be careful not to run around like chicken little claiming the sky is falling. Our faith in the Eternal, All Powerful, Sovereign God is not served by ugly, vicious, suspicious, mean, terrified words. America is not the church and many Christians I know are confused on that point.
You will get no argument from me that the times in which we live are weird. Weird! Gender identity is up for grabs. A concept I could never have fathomed a decade ago. America is transforming and shifting at breakneck speeds. Global terror is the new norm. It’s possible to hear our country and even the world groaning under the weight of selfish desires, unwise choices, and full on evil. Sorrow is an appropriate response. But not hate.
What our culture, our very world, needs is the character of a beautiful Jewish woman who bent the rules of her religion to serve the heart of her God expressed in that tradition. We might question if Esther should even have been in the king’s palace, much less his bed. Should a good Jewish girl have refused such an “honor”? I can hardly comment. I am not wise enough. But I think a good lesson is that the kingdom of God can be served in any setting or time, and by any person. God will accomplish his purposes.
It is time for us to focus on the sovereignty of God not political leaders or talking heads. God is not unaware. The drama that is unfolding is ancient. It will take place whether we like it or not. It started in the garden. Truth and lies. Self or submission. To understand what we’re really seeing we must be astute students of the Story.
Do we understand that Ham dishonored his father Noah and was cursed? The people of Nineveh, Iran, have him as their ancestor. We are watching a blood feud, a curse, unfolding thousands of years later. Sarah and Hagar, are the woman of promise and the woman of the law God’s word says (Galatians 4). Their children are still fighting. You can almost hear the jealousy in the screams today.
No doubt we grieve the crumbling of our country, the suffering of people around the world, injustice in every nation. But perspective is necessary. We do not have the time to stew over what should have been. We must act rightly and soberly today.
If a believer in Jesus holds public office they should be Esther where they are; wise, just, and brave. If a believer serves in their home they must be sober, teaching children truth, pointing them to reverence of their Creator and respect of their fellow man. If a believer is in hard circumstances, fighting in the military, deprived of resources or freedom, wherever they may be it is time for gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, joy. There is no law against such things.
No doubt the president will continue to say things that will shock my sensibilities and the conscious of many. The rise of sharia law and Islamic influence, much less radical Islam and terror will continue. No doubt about it. What should our response be? Matthew 24 gives us clues. Do not be surprised, do not be deceived, take opportunity to proclaim the gospel, be ready and on the look out for Jesus’ return.
The salvation of America from herself, or the liberals, or the conservatives, or President Obama is not our primary concern. Our priority is to live faithfully wherever life takes us, whether in the king’s own court or in the president’s halls.
Xerxes was a pagan and capricious king and yet Mordecai saved his life and Esther showed him respect. When faced with violence Esther and her people did not petition, barter, or vote. They fasted and asked the God of heaven to act for their good. And so should we.
During this time of Lent I invite you to join me in turning off the news, in stepping back from Facebook, and to spend that time fasting and praying not only for our nation but for our world – that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done.