And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

“And in that day you will cry out because of your king,
whom you have chosen for yourselves,
but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
(1 Samuel 8:18 (ESV)

As you stand in the voting booth on election day, or as you fill out the early voter ballot, do you have to stifle that voice inside you saying, “meh.”  Lackluster.  Unimpressive.  Indistinguishable.  Pompous.  Arrogant.  Windbag.  Are these words that could be used by you to describe both candidates?  Cue up Simon and Garfunkel – “Laugh about it, cry about it, when you have to choose. Anyway you look at it you loose.”  With every election cycle I hear the phrase, “lesser of two evils,” and I wonder, have we become that jaded and cynical, or are the candidates always that bad?

Then I hear Sting singing, “You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians; they all seemed like game show hosts to me.”

So what do we do when we vote this year and we really don’t like the candidates on the ballot?  Samuel warned the Israelites that they could complain about their king once he came to power, because he would conscript their sons and daughters to national service, take the best of their crops and livestock in taxes, and lead them in places they did not want to go.  The people would cry out to God because of their king, and we are crying out to God because of our candidates.  Not much has changed.

But that should be a reminder for us, and is the first point of today’s devotion:

1)  We are a fallen people.

Since Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden, all of humanity has been subject to sin, and continues in rebellion against God.  We are a fallen people living in a broken world.  Even when we come together with a form of government that has checks and balances built in to help curb the corruption of power that flows from the pervasive sinfulness of the human heart, it is still a human government in which sin permeates everything.

We are a broken people led by broken leaders living in a broken society as part of a broken world.  Politicians will lie.  They will make empty promises to gain political favor and power.  They will disappoint, deceive, and disgust us.  Even when we find a candidate who is a follower of Christ and pursues the righteousness of the Word of God in his life and his politics, they will eventually let you down.

I don’t write this to make you more cynical and have you give up in disgust.  Rather, I write this so that maybe, just maybe, we can see our candidates and elected leaders for who they really are, and treat them with a little patience and grace.  Our political leaders are not, and cannot be our saviors.  If you are looking for a savior, look nowhere other than Jesus Christ, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Instead, let us remember to pray for our elected leaders and candidates, to pray for God’s grace to transform them (and us), and that God’s sovereign hand would guide them.

2) You will never find someone you agree with entirely

Think about this: when two people agree with each other on everything, one of them is unnecessary.  You love and adore your spouse, but you know you don’t agree with him or her on everything.  You appreciate and support your pastor, but there are areas where, after faithful study of God’s Word, you find that you disagree – not on things of primary importance, but on secondary things.

Friends, this is just a fact of life.  Put 10 people in a room and you will have 11 different opinions – yeah, because some people even hold conflicting views in their own minds.  Unless you are running for office, you will not find a candidate that you agree with entirely.  So give yourself, and everyone else around you, a break – stop looking for the perfect politician.

Instead, know yourself.  Identify what your key principles are, the values that you hold most dear, the positions that you feel are essential.  And keep the list short: If everything is an essential priority for you, then nothing is really an essential priority for you.  Maybe your top three concerns are, 1) A reasonable and balanced budget, 2) A strong national defense, and 3) The protection of the unborn child.  Find a candidate who supports these things, and bear “with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

3) Vote your Conscience and Faith

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of voting your faith, that is, letting your faith influence how you vote and for whom you vote.  If, then, your faith and conscience are at conflict with the candidates presented, what are you supposed to do?  Remember this, there are always more than the main two candidates.  It may be hard to find information on the alternative, “third-party” candidates, but they are out there.  There is tremendous pressure from the mainline parties not to “throw your vote away,” saying that a vote for the third-party is a vote for the “other guy” – both parties use this line.  We have become such a hyper-sensationalized society that everything is life-or-death, win-or-lose, “this is the most important election ever – until the next election, that is.”

Take a deep breath. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  When you go to the polls this year, your vote is precisely that: your vote.  You are answerable to you and to the Lord, no one else need know how you have voted.  As long as when you pull that lever (does anyone pull a lever to vote anymore?) your conscience is clear (Acts 24:16), then you know you have done the right thing.

May God’s grace and peace be with you!

SDG

Looking to the State

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.”
(Psalm 146:3 (ESV)

 Last week I made the mistake of saying what I would be writing about this week – so, begging your pardon, you’ll have to stay tuned until next week to read on the topic of “What to do when you don’t like either candidate.”  My apologies.

Today, however, I will write about something that I was hoping to put off because it’s a little more difficult to write about, because it touches every heart and makes us rethink our relationship with the state.  All I ask is this, bear with me here in patience and graciousness as I try to work out a very pressing issue.

It will come as no surprise to you, hopefully, to know that I am politically conservative, and that I tend to vote Republican.  So, with eager anticipation I tuned in to the Republican National Convention.  I was encouraged by the new, young, republicans like Paul Ryan and Marc Rubio.  It took a while for me to pick my jaw up off the floor after Eastwood’s “Empty Chair” routine – odd, hilarious (and considering the outcome of first debate, prophetic).  But the moment that made me take a step back from the edge of the cliff came at the end of Gov. Chris Christie’s speech.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed his speech.  His combination of down home wisdom and brash disregard for political cronyism when confronting corruption and dysfunction in his state was refreshing.  His was an inspiring message – up until the very end.  Here’s the quote that went down like a sideways Dorito:

Listen, there is doubt and fear for our future in every corner of our country.  I have traveled all over the country, and I have seen this myself.  These feelings are real.  This moment is real, and it is a moment like this where some skeptics wonder if America’s greatness is over.  They wonder how those who have come before the before us had in the spirit and tenacity to lead America to a new era of greatness in the face of challenge, not to look around and say “Not me”, but to look around and say “Yes, me.” Now, I have an answer tonight for the skeptics and the naysayers, the dividers and the defenders of the status quo.  I have faith in us.

Up until that moment, I was ready to buy whatever the Governor was selling, but when I hear a politician talking about faith, instantly my “spidey-senses” start tingling – and not in a good way.

I get what Gov. Christie was saying; this Great Experiment of freedom that is America requires free people to work hard for success and to persevere through adversity.  We are free people in America, and we are to use our freedom to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.  If we are to maintain that American Exceptionalism which has led to so many advances that have benefited not just Americans but the world, we need leadership that will defend our freedoms; someone that will ask the necessary questions and make the hard decisions.

But is my faith in America?  Is my faith in the American people?  No, and it cannot, it must not, be.

John Calvin wrote that the heart is an idol factory, we are always looking to create a god of our own choosing in our own image.  Idolatry is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.  Think about the delicate balance you have created for yourself; just enough money in the checking account, a safe and reliable car, a reasonable peace at home, and a good job that provides for your needs.  If anyone of those things were to disappear, would your joy, your security, your hope for the future disappear as well?  Have the things of this world become an idol for you?

Now let’s take that to another level. Do you look to the State for your salvation?  We may not put it in those words, exactly, but the meaning is the same.  “If my candidate get’s elected, then things will be right again.”  “The government needs to do something about this problem in our society…” Have you found yourself saying these things?

When we place that State in the position of providing our hope and security for the future, we have fallen into Statolatry; we have made a god out of our political system, demi-gods out of our politicians, and we will be sorely disappointed.  The Psalmist said, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3).  Isaiah wrote the same, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt [or over to D.C.] for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD” (Isaiah 31:1)  Just this morning I heard a podcast from R.C. Sproul who said, “the minute we exalt any authority over the authority of Christ, we have committed treason against him, for his is the highest authority.”

Let us be careful not to become American-Christians; a people whose faith is so intertwined with our political system that we cannot speak the truth of God’s word because we are always at the breast of government dependency, whose eyes look first to Washington for help rather than to the heavens for our Savior.

Let us, rather, be Christians first, whose allegiance is to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Let us remember that our freedom has not been given to us by Congress, but by God in Jesus Christ (“For freedom Christ has set you free” Gal 5:1) – Congress’ responsibility is merely to protect those freedoms.  Let us work together to share the message of Christ, so that all may be set free in Him, and so that in that freedom, our nation may be blessed and our God may be praised.

Grace and peace be with you!

SDG