Dear Christian friend, brother, sister, or contrarian, we need to get something straight about our reputations. To the best of my knowledge, admittedly not exhaustive yet fairly broad, we believers have only two ways that the world, the secular community, our unsaved neighbors, friends, and family, or even skeptics, will recognize the authenticity of our faith. One is explicit—our love for each other, for our neighbors, and even for our enemies and adversaries, not mere token love or only spoken love but active, get-your-hands-dirty, showing your compassion love. Jesus named it the greatest commandment, and obeying him is proof of our love for him; we who would be known as “little Christs” will love as he does, and people will recognize that. We will be as God in their midst, and we will be credible when we speak, assuming that we have the second, implicit characteristic. That is humility.
The good news we call the gospel is God’s mercy and grace by which he forgives sinners who are wholly unworthy but loved. “All our righteousness actions are like filthy rags.” The entire quote from Isaiah (Old Testament) is “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (New Living Translation). Based on Jesus’ death in innocence, God grants those who believe complete 100% cleansing. Praise God, what a gift! Our righteous holiness is a gift; we own it but we didn’t earn it. Furthermore, the Apostle John reminds us:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
In other words, God has provided a way to clean away the accumulation of sin and guilt in our daily lives. We are not perfect; we cannot claim to be perfect, or even near perfect.
Ever since my first year of college, I have experienced or observed non-believers trying to shame me and others into silence, as if to say, “You’re a hypocrite, and therefore you have nothing I need to hear.” Now to say one thing and do another is hypocrisy. However, as I have repeated often, I am a sinner. I need God’s grace. I am grateful for his forgiveness. Without Him I have nothing. That is the proper focus, and that is humility. After love, it is the key to accepting and understanding the gospel, and it is the manner by which we should share it with others.
I was in seminary when I learned of this misjudgment. My friend was doing campus ministry on a nearby campus and stopped by to talk with some students. They told him that an earlier visit from the same ministry had spent their time condemning their drinking and having beer in their room. They were unsuccessful, both in ending their drinking and in reaching them with the gospel! They had the “cart before the horse” and tried to reform people before leading them to Christ. That’s not our job. Nowhere are we instructed to straighten out other people’s lives. Rather we are humbly to love them and share with them God’s great gift that we have received. When we do anything else, we become just another religion, trying to sell our version of truth. We are not called to argue to defend our position, display our personal superiority of behavior or ideas, or try to change their lifestyles.
We are approaching another long, tiresome election season, and we live in a seemingly perpetual state of conflict over the last one. I’m afraid Christians do not represent themselves or their faith very well. I suspect some, perhaps many, think that their choice at the polls is vitally important, but from God’s providential perspective, I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong. I vote, and I do what I can as a citizen to work toward restoring and maintaining individual liberty and religious freedom. However, for believers, our loving and humble spirit should guide our interactions, not only during an election season, but also every other season of the year. We all recognize our culture’s growing departure from Christian values, but we will never recover them through an election. By now we should realize we cannot end abortion through the political process. The work that needs to be done will never be accomplished from the top down; government isn’t the solution, though it is often the problem. What needs to be accomplished must be done from the bottom up, the old fashioned way, one person at a time. We have amazing tools for communication, but we have learned that, for example, the more people use social media the less they are truly personally connected to each other. The gospel isn’t merely a message; it is an introduction into the most amazing personal relationship ever; through faith and forgiveness, by the love and sacrifice of Jesus, we enter the family of God. Yet, in this day of fantasy, science fiction, and profound unbelief, people need to experience Christ’s love, personally, in you and me, to really believe they are loved.
You know what makes me sad? It makes me sad that the best some of us Christians seemed to be able to do to “stand for Christ” was vote against Donald Trump (or for him!). Are you serious? Oh, you anti-Trumpers got lots of agreement from groups on the Left—feminists, LGBT, illegal immigrants, political elitists who want to preserve the status quo, etc.—but they likely assumed you’ve joined them. Stand for Christ? The Clinton’s political strategy was to humiliate Trump and drive away his support, but their intentions were far from holy, good for the Church, or even good for the country. They showed every indication of desiring only power and wealth (as do many on the Right**), to become/elect the first woman President, and to advance a far Left agenda, by whatever means it took to do so. And you find pride in opposing Trump (now President Trump) and supporting Hillary or what she wanted…for Christ??
I have long been intrigued by the tension under which we American Christians live. The Bible plainly says God appoints secular governments to preserve order and restrain Satan, yet in the United States we get to help choose our leaders. As always, when considering providence, one wonders how that works. In the story of Joseph, we learn that God used for good his brothers evil plan. Yet, he commands us to love our neighbors, says we don’t truly love him if we don’t love them, explains to us that the world will recognize us because we love each other like he loves us, says that we’ll be called God’s children if we are peacemakers (not troublemakers nor angry critics nor arrogant so-and-sos). It is my profound hope that those whom I know, am involved with, and who see me, see that which makes me a credible witness for the love of Jesus Christ, seeing his love clearly in me. I’ll leave the confusion of providence for him to explain when I’m better able to understand.
As for my vote, I voted for the one who seemed most likely to work to restrain evil and to preserve and restore the founders’ vision of the United States. My vote was not an endorsement of anyone’s sin, since all are guilty, certainly in the past and, if we’re honest, continuing into the present. I pray for all candidates, knowing God can break through to a heart not fully hardened against him (and I pray for him to break hardened hearts). I stand against the cynical manipulation of Christians by the Left, recognizing them for their hypocrisy, since they generally oppose Biblical morality and spirituality. I will hope and work for a Church, for believers, who care about their influence at times other than election seasons (although they do seem endless). I don’t mean political influence, which is virtually nothing. Rather I mean personal influence, living the love of Jesus so unbelievers are drawn to him, his love, his forgiveness, his rebirth, his glorious, abundant life.
Okay, so now I have to ask. Is opposing Trump how God wants us to affirm Biblical morality? God knows what we may think we know, but is that how our stand for morality is perceived by pagan Americans? Do they recognize our stand as principled and meaningful? Mostly, I fear, they laugh at us. We have failed to make the case for Biblical morality; indeed, most of us haven’t even tried to do anything. Many of us have quietly accepted the prevailing view of sex, relationships, marriage, and divorce. When we noticed how far the culture had gone with gay marriage and multi-gendered restrooms, we objected but without much effect because we have withdrawn into our enclaves and left the world to go to hell. How many of you anti-Trump Christians can even make a clear rational argument for Biblical values that might make sense to someone without a church background…or even with one? So you don’t want to have to tell your children and grandchildren you voted for Trump. Will you tell them the culture and much of the church abandoned Biblical morality, and you did little more than complain? A posture of self-righteous judgmentalism isn’t impressive or persuasive. It is especially unloving. The other side pulls our strings artfully, silently laughing at our willingness to give them the victory by destroying our own reputations.