Aren’t you tired of being whipped into a frenzy every time someone insults us or infringes on our rights? Isn’t it exhausting to keep track of the media’s offenses against Christianity? I look forward to a dissipation of heat on November 7, the day after the election, but it’s probably wishful thinking to believe real calm will set in. Soon a new round of accusations and recriminations will begin (or the old round will continue). And in no time the 2016 campaign will be upon us.
Is this how Christians are supposed to live, tied to a political cycle, at the mercy of 24-hour news feeds? Of course not. And yet, it feels as though to be a fully engaged person, hyper-vigilance is the watch-word and righteous indignation the predominant virtue. Too many of us run hot during election season and cold the rest of the time.
D. A. Carson noticed the trend back as far as 2005 in a lecture on the book of Revelation. David Rogers of SBC Voices helpfully transcribed pertinent parts of the audio recording for his blog post, “D. A. Carson on Angry Christians and the Devil’s Tactics”:
If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America, listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the Left, demonize the Left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the Right. . . .
Now contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire. They were nobodies. They didn’t have anybody taking away their heritage. They were out to take over the heritage. They looked around and saw an extremely pluralistic empire, and they said with Caleb, in effect, “Give us this mountain.” And they kept witnessing and kept getting martyred, and so on, and there was a revolution, finally—a spiritual revolution.
But we can’t do that today. At least we find it very difficult, because we’re so busy being angry all the time that at the end of the day not only do we lose our credibility with people on the Left—they start demonizing us back—but we have no energy or compassion left to evangelize them. When you’re busy hating everybody, and denouncing everybody, and seeking political solutions to everything, it’s very difficult to evangelize. Isn’t it? Very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away “my heritage.” Do you see?
Yes, I do. More recently, blogger Don McBride sounded a similar note:
U.S. Christians are becoming more political and less evangelistic, and this is something they need to watch. It’s easy to wrap up in political anger and point out sin, but our call is to reach the lost. If we see the signs of the end fast approaching as they are, then we should be about the Master’s business of . . . preaching the Gospel, and being the light for Jesus. We are Christians, not Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, or Liberals. We need to be evangelistic. We need to shine Jesus, not politics.
The corrective, of course, will come from God’s word, this time in the mouth of James (1:19-20): “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Indeed, as we’ve seen in the past week or so, the misplaced anger of some who claim the name of Christ has made it tougher, more dangerous, or impossible for Christians in Middle Eastern countries to patiently and gently go about the work of reaching lost souls.
The trouble is, in making a call to bring Christians back from an over-reliance on political or social change, the pendulum is bound to swing over to an unreasonable and unbiblical abandonment of civic duty. Neither extreme is acceptable.
We must not fall for any of the “Six Myths of Cultural Engagement” that Jim Daly of Focus on the Family identifies. Myth 2 is that “we must be loud, vocal, and visible” and Myth 3, “getting angry is the path to success.” The truth is “if we truly want people to hear us, we must be humble, personable and subtle.”
And, while Myth 1 says “nothing can be done,” Myth 4 is that “we must fight the darkness.” Just because one position is false doesn’t mean its opposite is true. Instead, “we must increase the light by presenting the good, true and beautiful story that changes lives.”
It’s easy to be angry, apathetic, or even despairing , but we’re not called to the ease of giving in to natural inclinations. Rather than passion (intense emotion) or lack of passion (apathy), we’re called to self-control and to imitating Jesus’ life of compassion -- according to Merriam-Webster, a “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Rather than being right and having our say, we need to be wise and willing to give up some rights . . . for the sake of the Gospel.
We’re also called to be sober and alert in prayer, and I would suggest at this moment that we pray for those Christians on the frontlines who face death or being kicked out of their countries of service as a result of the misguided expression of rights here in America.
Also, in our appeals for God to bless America (or any country), we should admit we don't deserve it. Why should God bless a nation that exports abortion-on-demand? Rather we need His mercy so that the Gospel may flourish here and abroad.
We can be bold without being brash. As Rick Warren recently preached, the sanctity of life, sex, and marriage are "three aspects of the Christian worldview that are hated by this world. Most Christians clam up and shut up because they're afraid to even stand up." The stand we take in the voting booth is private and powerful. Don't miss the opportunity -- or shirk the duty -- coming up this November 6!
We are called to stand up for the rights of others by acting on their behalf and voting when we can. As we wrote in "Whatsoever . . . voting," a candidate's stance on abortion is more important than his or her position on the economy or the environment:
One could make the case that all issues affect the sanctity of human life, but none is more basic than the right to life itself. If there is no justice for the most vulnerable human beings, there can be justice for none. Candidates ought not pit “interest groups” against the unborn.
Some say, “If you’re really pro-life you’ll join the [fill-in-the-blank] cause!” But these are often the same people who refuse to also speak for the unborn. Why should the tiniest of little ones be forced to wait at the end of the line behind those with more money or a louder megaphone?
I suggest you download this copy-ready flyer and make it available to your church family before the election.
One other way we can diffuse heat is by building credibility through service. Our president, Tom Lothamer, spent several years serving on his local school board. He had to work alongside others who didn't necessarily share a "Christian world and life view" and succeeded by being prepared, participating fully in discussions, and being respectful. That meant listening patiently and responding calmly. There's no short-cut to civility.
Just as the historical perspective helps -- thinking of what the early church endured and how they responded -- so does the biblical perspective. Our God is in control. Psalm 33:8-11:
Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.