This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.
—Jeremiah 7:3-7 (NIV)
Smack in the middle of the land that surrounds my cottage is a tree that looks out of place amidst a sea of oak, pecan and pine trees. When I first moved in, I begged my Dad to take a timeout from his battle with the local squirrel population (that apparently has banded together to destroy his over a hundred pecan trees) and help me get rid of it.
I wanted it gone because 1) the tree was ugly, 2) we couldn’t figure out what it was to save our lives, and 3) it was blocking part of the treasured view from my living room.
I lost the fight on that one. Dad sided with the tree.
Then one day, to my surprise, dozens of small red buds appeared on those scraggly branches. Soon, I was competing with the birds for fresh pomegranates for the taking. And despite the fact that I still have no idea what to do with the fruit, I know it’s a pomegranate tree simply by what comes from its branches.
No matter how many times I try to paint a different picture of that tree with my words, a pomegranate tree is a pomegranate tree. I could stand before it all day and call it an apple tree, which would be immensely more useful to me, but it still wouldn’t change what it is or the fruit it bears.
Could I wake up one morning and see an apple tree standing there instead? Absolutely! Our God can and does perform miracles. But in the meantime, as one friend said, “we respond rightly and faithfully to acknowledge what God has placed in front of us as it is.”
So for today, no matter how much I wish it to be otherwise, that tree is still a pomegranate tree.
In recent months, many have stood with one of the two main presidential candidates, arguing that God’s blessing and sanction is on his or her chosen candidate. But, to even begin making a sound judgement, we have to look closely at the lives and campaigns of both candidates. And if the fruit that we see bears no resemblance to Him, why would we think our holy God has any part in it? Why would we assume that surely this must be the Lord’s way and this leader must be the one He’d have us to follow?
Christ is the one we follow.
No matter what. No matter the outcome. No matter the cost.
When faced with the choice of the lesser of two “evils” there is ALWAYS always a way to honor the Lord…without endorsing evil.
Think back through history. God’s choice for a leader is rarely our own. He chose a shepherd with nothing but a slingshot and an excess of wool to his name. He chose a young boy with little more than a dream and a rainbow-colored coat. He chose a King born in a manger who rode into town on a donkey. And it should go without saying that His ways are perfect; His choices are right.
When we, as Christians, make our political statements—do you know what the world hears? They “hear” Jesus, or they think they do. When they look for Him, they look to us. We are His face, His hands, His feet. When we share articles on Facebook and pull levers at the ballot box . . .the world sees Jesus doing the same. Just let that sink in.
What if, despite our sputtering protests that we have been given no other choice, that there is no other way—that same world watches us close our eyes, turn our heads, and place our best strategic bet?
What if—before this watching world—we who bear the image of Christ have called what is evil, “good?”
What if, in our desperation for hope, for some resurgence of goodness or greatness in America . . . we have latched onto what we deemed was the “lesser of two evils,” and held fast onto our best bet, rather than to our Almighty God?
I believe our good God offers us a way out of this predicament, that even in the middle of the most difficult, the most harrowing of impasses, there is a way to honor the Lord with our choices . . . without turning our heads. In parts 2 and 3 of this reflection, I’ll share how I believe we can do that. In the meantime, would you pray that God would show you what he wants you to do on Tuesday?
(Want to keep reading? For Part II of this series, check out HOW FAINT THE WHISPER WE SEE.)
SCRIPTURE FOR STUDY:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. …Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. …We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. 35 A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. 36 I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. …For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
…Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit…
“In the cases when I’ve voted for an independent or written in a candidate, I didn’t necessarily expect that candidate to win—my main objective was to participate in the process without endorsing moral evil. As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority. Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.
When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.”
“Buried beneath our panic is systemic disappointment but it makes us feel weak and pathetic so instead of owning our disappointment – in our country, our candidates, our options, our leaders, in one another and, God help us, in ourselves – we rage. Mad feels better than sad. It’s painful to long, in the words of Hebrews 11:16, for a better country and embrace the hard, cold fact that we are strangers and exiles on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
Grieve, mourn, and weep, James 4:9-10 says. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
But who wants to do any of that? So we rage.
We have become not only like the world but like the world at its social-worst: lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive…ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV)
Yesterday’s America, in all its honor and shame, is in ashes but, rather than exercise the faith and obedience and earnest prayer to see God raise some beauty from the heap, some gold from the fire, we keep trying to glue ashes back together. And they won’t stick. Yesterday’s America has become an idol to us. It has no more breath in it and the thing about idolaters is that, sooner or later, they become like their idols. (Psalm 135:18)
God could do something new but we’ve lo
….Legislation is not the only way we effect change. We seek it. We fight for it. But, if we don’t get it, it has never been God’s only means to change. Issues we care so much about – like protecting the lives of the unborn, like relief for the poor, justice for all, eradication of racism and inequality – don’t tumble off the table because the wrong person pulled up a chair to it. None of those are born of human concerns. They are God’s concerns. To oppose those things is to oppose Him.”
*Image courtesy of BIGSTOCK.