Thoughts on Christ and Patriotism


“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” -Matthew 22:21 (NLT)

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law./Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. – Romans 13:8, 13

We live in a culture where patriotism is the marker of a good person. Whether it is the liberal or conservative version of it, it is becoming the beacon for good living more and more. Conservatives tend to say it’s about guns, taxes, and the way it used to be. Liberals tend to say its about public safety and progress. Both share a focus in one question, how can I be a better American?

There is not anything wrong with living in peace with America, but it is something that has consumed the Church’s American brothers. There are many churches whose sole platform is to promote the message of the moral majority or the religious right. There are others who think that God has called us to live out politically left positions. Regardless of the details, the sole primary obsession is how can I become the American that I need to be, but without first asking what would God have of me.

The problem this creates is that our first question is not what God’s Spirit is asking us to do. There are certain positions that, when approached as a Christian first, are subject to the question, “what would our position actually be if we truly tried to imitate Christ?” For example, when it comes to Pro Life issues, we tend to think anti-abortion positions are the only topic. However, we forget that if we truly value human life as Jesus did, then we must ask questions about war and capital punishment? What about owning guns for the intent of shooting other people? When we allow the life of Jesus and the guidance of the Spirit in our lives, we are challenged to question our own opinions

Even trusting in legislation (which almost everyone is guilty of) to produce a thriving culture that benefits the poor and needy does not reflect trusting God. Legislation can help make certain things better, but to truly protect the needy, those who are privileged need to value the lives of the needy and be willing to share life with them as directed by God. Just because things are on paper does not give an idea power. What makes something powerful is if a movement gets into the hearts of people and they begin to see why it’s important.

For the Church, the first and sole identity that we value is the one we find in Christ. It is not the one we find in a country. It is not the one we find in a political party. It is not due to race, gender, or socio-economic status. It is in Jesus that we find our example. Through the Holy Spirit, we can begin to understand where our loyalties really lie. It is not the flag we were physically born under. It is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the only hope of our world ever being made whole.

What Now?


Many of us are confused. We have a president that surprisingly won. Some of us are torn between acceptance and outright denial. There were things said by the president elect that were questionable at best and it worries certain Americans, but what do we do as Christ-followers? As Christians, we have a duty to hold people to the flame and call out a problem when we see it. Regardless of who won the election, we need to be ready to hold the winner accountable. Whether email problems and questionable financing or sexist and racist comments, we need to be brave enough to speak truth. We commonly feel afraid to do that. We tend to act as if loyalty to a party or nation is more important than virtue or character.  That’s a major problem of our culture today. Loyalty exists without virtue and character.

Loyalty is great, but by itself, it becomes blind and misled. One country in recent history that fell for that kind of loyalty was Nazi Germany. When Adolf Hitler came on the scene, he captivated his audience and they were loyal to him above anything else. Asking questions and challenging wrong was discouraged. If someone refused to honor what the country stood for or support its military, they were at best ridiculed if they were lucky. At worst, it will lead to mass bloodshed.

We are not exactly like Germany was in it’s darkest hour, but we could learn from their mistakes. The up and coming president will make decisions and definitely make mistakes. If we hold our leaders accountable with character and virtue, we can show any country light, truth, hope, and a way to love their fellow man. It is up to us to look at the parties and candidates and, while we may or may not have voted for him, say what Christ has to say to the culture today. There are times when Jesus will sound democrat and then republican, conservative and then liberal. Jesus never really aligned himself with one side or the other. Instead, he called us to align ourselves with Him. In the end, our voice has to sound Christ like. We are not call to be Clinton-like or Trump-like. This means we are to be open to confront as well as resonate.

In Samuel 12, Nathan, a prophet, confronted King David. David was leading a major military campaign against a group terrorizing the Israelites and was a national hero. This was also a time where anyone approaching a king and challenging his actions would have been killed by the king’s right hand men. I’m sure whoever was guarding David at the moment was thinking, “How dare this low life speak up like that. We should be behind him all the way. Go Israel.” Nathan was brave enough to stand up to a very powerful leader. At the risk of being killed on the spot, he stood up to the powers that be and said what God was saying in that moment.

Although, we have come a long way from beheadings, we still need bravery. We need to be brave enough to look at current politicians and say that certain things are not right. Today, we see so much rhetoric demonizing ethnicities, promoting war as good, and distracting everyone from taking important steps to deliver hope to the communities we live in. Don’t be tricked into being their pets. Speak up against injustice and oppression against the weak. Point out greed. Call the love of violence evil like it really is. Let the country you are in know that you are not afraid and will deliver hope to those who need it and stand against those who want to through others into fear.

Tribal America


In the United States, we have seen people divide themselves along party lines. The only titles that we allow ourselves are conservative right or liberal left. The only titles we allow each other are friendly if you’re in the same tribe or enemy if you’re on the other side.

The problem gets worse. When we do not trust each other, we think the other side is a threat to our survival. Much like warring tribes of the old days, we tear each other apart. We keep thinking that the other is a threat to survival and think that they need to be stopped.

This election was the prime example. One side kept saying the other was crooked. The other side said the opposite side was deplorable. Then goes the yelling, the fighting, and then violent expressions of hate and disgust.

It wasn’t always this way. Go back to the generation that lived through the Second World War. Most of politicians from that era did more to work together and get things done than our politicians today. There were more liberals who were republicans and more conservatives who were democrats. You didn’t need a third party because both parties were diverse. 

Christians are in prime position to show this. Jesus did not want us aggressively be against people who had different opinions:

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:46-48‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus did not believe in tribes warring against each other. He saw too much of it and it led to too much bloodshed between Israel and everyone else. When He started the Church, He meant for it to be a uniting tribe of peace. We have our beliefs that make us unique, but it does not mean we use those beliefs to make enemies. Even inside the Church, there are those that lean left and those that lean right. What holds us together is the Spirit of God in all of us.

When you feel the urge to talk about abortion, marriage, guns, or the stupidity those who threatened to leave if a certain candidate won, remember that if you claim Christ, you are claiming the Christ that the other side claims too. Speak with your convictions, but taper it compassion and love. We weren’t designed for prolonged conflict based on arbitrary divisions. We were made to be an expression of the hope that springs out of Heaven.

Jesus Centered Politics


Jesus is the center for all things a Christian should do. The problem with that is our records of what he said and did are around two thousand years old. People don’t talk or exist like they did back then. It then becomes easy to look at a verse and just use today to interpret something from a long time ago. 

The issue with that is that we put our own meaning into the Bible when the Bible is supposed to put its meaning into us. The remedy is to find out what Jesus is actually saying through the Bible. In a political season, this will make us look at politics with a new perspective and maybe some surprises too. There are a few things we can do when we look at the Bible that can achieve this:

  1. Pray: praying for God to open our hearts and our minds to His desires and not just ours.
  2. Be Humble: we need to realize that humans make big mistakes, even when many humans think the mistake is the right thing.
  3. Research: look into what was just read and find legitimate scholars along with views that differ from your own.

Back when Jesus was alive, religious leaders thought if someone had a chronic illness, they were being punished for sins they or their ancestors committed. There are many passages that reflect this, but every time this came up Jesus would correct the belief. We have the same problem. There are potentially terrible mistakes in our theology that Jesus wants to correct in order to make us more loving like him. If we practice letting him speak into our lives instead of us trying to control him, we will become more and more like him…

Even in the way we talk about politics.

Party Lines


Humans have tendency to draw lines when it comes to other humans. All throughout history we have made tribes, created enemies, and even been led to violence because lines were drawn. We have issues, and it becomes very clear when we have elections. The lines are drawn to point out who is right and who is wrong, but never with any good reasons. If you pay attention, all sides have claims to what makes them the right choice at the expense of making the other person evil, whether they are evil or not. The definition of good and evil becomes about whose side you are on and not about your character. 

We have done this before. We can look at the Civil War in America (or many other wars) as an example of positioning our side as right and their side as wrong. Although elections have not evolved into firing live rounds at the opponent, our words are powerful enough. They destroy relationships.

There is a way away from this. Peace is attainable and we can erase those lines. Disagreement does not have to destroy relationships. One of the darkest times of our days was apartheid in South Africa. There was a very strong separation of the whites and blacks in that country for a long time. That status quo was so strong that acts of violence were committed to defend it. When Nelson Mandela came into power, everyone was worried about retaliation due the history of violence and oppression by whites, but an amazing thing happened. Mandela, with the help of other great leaders like Bishop Desmond Tutu, organized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Instead of going after the people who had caused problems, he allowed them to participate by giving confessions in exchange for forgiveness. All you had to do was confess your crimes and all was settled. It took so much grace and love for everyone to get through it, but the country was better and stronger for it.

We all need our Truth and Reconciliation moments. How many of us have started little civil wars with friends and family because of differences over politics or something else? Who do you need to sit down with to confess wrong doing and set new expectations for a better future? Do that today. Jesus once said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬) As a Christian, you can have a God that is greater than any president or congress person. He has ruled his people for over 2000. America is not even 300 years old. You have access to a God who can give you peace with your neighbor and give you a confidence that the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Socialists cannot. 

Take advantage of that gift. It is the only gift that will be eternal.

I’ll vote when…


If I vote:

I’ll vote for someone who shows confidence in their beliefs, but who is also open to other opinions. They should be bold, but also should practice servanthood in the purest sense. They should appeal to our better selves and not our fears and insecurities. They should be focused on making lives better and not just protecting national interest. They should reflect Jesus, even if they do not verbally reference him. If I see that they do or say things that are opposed to the basics of decency God made us for, I cannot in good conscience vote for them. Dogma will not be the criteria factored in my voting. 

A step towards the will of God will determine my vote, unless no candidate moves us in that direction. In that case, I cannot in good conscience vote because that would be a vote for evil. My vote must reflect the will of God for peace and less violence, love and less hate, compassion and less greed. Vote your conscience. Vote with God’s hands and not your own.

Love/Jealousy


1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Jealousy is a very dangerous thing. Many of us are aware that this is a very blinding thing, but not aware of how subtle a thing it really is. Take a look at Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Mary and Martha are thrown into the middle of this type of situation. Martha was being the good host and preparing things for the guests. She was doing the right thing that was expected of her. Mary on the other was doing something different. Women during that time were not supposed to sit at the feet of Jesus. That was reserved for men who were learning from the rabbi to one day lead their own students. Martha was being allowed to sit their and learn.

We all have moments where we are doing what everyone says is the right thing to do. Yet there always seems to be someone who seems to be getting a better deal. They don’t do what’s expected of them, yet God seems to take them into incredible moments of blessing and opportunity.

Martha asked God to set Mary straight. She needed to be put in her place. I don’t think it had to do with her doing something wrong. It had everything to do with wanting to be in Mary’s shoes. Martha was trapped by a desire to do the expected right thing, but was missing out what was actually the best thing. God incarnate was in that house ready to share His wisdom with her. Jealousy is never about someone doing right or wrong. It’s always about us not getting the good experience we expect. We expect that when we do the right thing we get blessed. Chances are, the exact opposite happens. Something breaks, a medical situation comes up, or money is drained from your account due to the bills. All the while, someone else we know is getting blessed with opportunity to grow.

Jealousy is a natural result of seeing someone else get the blessing you think you deserve, but what jealousy turns into is worse. It first robs you of your worth. Most people attach their worth to their circumstances. When life is good they are good. When life is bad, they are bad.

Jealousy also robs others of worth. Try talking with someone or about someone your jealous of. It’s really difficult. What happens is the jealousy in the end disrupts unity. You can’t be united with someone you’re jealous of.

Jealousy in the end does three things…

  • Robs you of your worth
  • Robs others of their worth
  • Tears down unity

To get rid of jealousy you have to buy into love first. Choose to be proud of another person’s achievements. God followers should never be jealous of another follower. If you pit yourself in a them vs me mindset, you will eventually find yourself jealous of them. But If you join together with them in the same movement and truly focus on the same goal, then you have no reason to be jealous because you are sharing the success and glory. Martha pitted herself against Mary and not only was jealous, but was missing a moment of divine opportunity.

There’s always somebody that has more money, a bigger house, a faster car, or the coolest gadget. There is always somebody who seems to have it better spiritually also. We can either choose jealousy and experience loneliness, or embrace community and find a reason to rejoice together.

Love: Kindness


1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is expressed as kindness. Have you ever wondered why being kind was so important or why we practice it as believers. There actually not a logical place for it. Kindness is something that could hurt you in a fallen world and should be distributed with utmost caution. Christianity teaches otherwise. Our kindness is very open and even unexpected at times

Jonathan’s kindness to David (1 Samuel 20:1-23) was an unexpected kindness. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and was expected to be the next King of Israel, but God had decided David should be anointed for the position after Saul died. Saul wanted his family to reign over Israel, which led him to  go after David in order to kill him. Jonathan, however, decided to be kind to David. This made no sense to Saul and many others who thought Jonathan was going to and should be king. It was at these moments that Jonathan was being most like Jesus.

Love that is of God will choose kindness despite what everyone expects. Jesus always practiced this kind of love. Everyone expected Him to kick the foreigners out of Israel and lay down the (Mosaic) law. The problem was that Jesus was laying down a law of love on our hearts. He wanted everyone, even the foreigner to accept him.

Here are a few points based on Jesus to help understand what kindness is…

…Evidence of love – people are very smart and can see if you love them

…Builds love – when people see your love, they will be drawn to that

…Recognizes worth – lack of kindness/love tells people the have no worth

God made us to show kindness and to give kindness with other believers and with unbelievers. One run through one Gospel will show you a Christ who practiced this kindness. When God told us to love, He was including kindness. Christians have been saying that they love others through Christ, but kindness has been absent for far too long in some circles. Our calling is to show kindness, recognize worth, and love people into the kingdom.

Love: Patience


1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be patient? It’s hard. Even at a fast food restaurant we tend to get anxious waiting for our food to be ready. Although most things get to us pretty fast, patience is hard for most of us. Relationships are one of the most difficult arenas of life to practice patience. The reality is, however, love is expressed through patience.
One example of patience is David. When we look at 1 Samuel 16, we find that David is thrown into an important role at a time when Israel’s leader is not doing good things. David finds himself in the court of King Saul. Eventually, Saul get’s jealous because he can see that God is blessing David, while he was not living in sync with God. (1 Samuel 18:28-19:1). Here an apparent rift in their relationship happens. At first Saul and David’s relationship was good, but by this point, they were apparent enemies. We would expect David to take up his sword and defend himself, but look at 1 Samuel 24:3-11. David give Saul the chance to redeem the friendship. David knew that Saul was out to kill him. Even coming up to Saul and bowing down to him was a dangerous act, but David believed that the love of friendship leads to patience towards those who fail the relationship
This is the kind of patience is more than what some people would be willing to do. Try being patient with someone that cheats you, embezzlers your money, lies about you, or even tries to kill you. It’s not the first thing you want to do for these people. Patience is part of the higher calling to love, however.

Patience is…

  • Pointing to love
  • Willing to accept another person’s failures
  • Holding to a higher standard
  • Believing in people

Relationships of patience include friends, family, church, and even God

Patience will call us to act contrary to what we may think is in our best interest. Patience will call us to think about more than ourselves and will ask what does love do in the presence of sinners. Having patience means fighting for others and their well-being regardless of how they treat you. It means believing that no one is beyond the hope that love can bring them to hope in Jesus and healing in the Spirit.

Purpose


We all feel that there is a purpose that we are all supposed to live.It’s that thing you feel you’re supposed to do or that dream we are supposed to chase. It just feels like something was placed inside of us that drives us towards what we should be. But have you ever had a moment when you thought your purpose was lost. That job fell through. That relationship didn’t work out. That business didn’t launch. Most of us have experienced a loss of purpose. That has been true for humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Most of us have had things that have led us to give up and not believe in purpose. Some of us have experienced this in our faith. We have tried to live out our faith expecting success, yet what we found was failure. We thought that we would experience the utmost joy in living out the laws in the Scriptures, but somehow those things never quite turned out in our favor. The people who followed God in the Bible were no strangers to this feeling, especially when Jesus arrives. Take a look in Mark 1:1-8.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!

Israel was a nation that struggled with its purpose. Israel was once great. It had land, money, and some power. Israel had a reputation. Fast forward to the date that this passage was talking about, Israel was in a rut. They had no land of their own because someone came in and took it from them. Wealth was not quite what it used to be because they were taxed heavily. Israel just was not in their glory days anymore. As a matter of fact, most Israelites were asking, “How long do we have to wait for God? Where is God? Is God even aware of what’s going on?” It was not a good time. This nation that was brought out of slavery by great acts of God was brought so low that they wondered if God would ever show up again. They tried so hard to follow their purpose by turning to their law to get back to their greatness. Many had decided they had waited on God long enough and started to take matters into their own hands. Great revolutions were organized to bring back the greatness Israel once had. But all of them failed. Israel was feeling let down. They felt dead. Without a purpose, people can feel dead and defeated.

John the Baptist came into this reality. He came delivering a familiar message. Someone was coming who would free everyone. He was declaring “Get ready. Someone is coming who will make us all free.” Have you ever noticed those people that are way to optimistic? These people had heard it all before. Someone coming to rescue and fighting off all the bad guys. The ending of the story they experienced many times over was a tragedy. The men who tried to fight off the bad guys would always end up dead and their movements would always scatter. What was John so optimistic about? Didn’t he remember the last guy? But John kept spreading His message of hope. In dark moments, we have to struggle with hope to get to purpose. John knew about the years of disappointment. He too struggled with not seeing freedom break through and bring purpose. But John knew that hope was coming and was bringing purpose with Him. Someone so great was on His way and there had never been anyone quite like Him before. John was going around getting people to turn away from sin and be baptized with water. He was preparing them to find their purpose again. The one who was coming after him was going to baptize in the Holy Spirit. He was going to baptize them in power, freedom, peace, etc. John wanted to see freedom pour into his life along with everyone else he knew and he wanted everyone to have hope that it could happen again.

It’s hard to hope when we have lost our purpose. Our culture does not help us find much hope. We are driven to succeed. If we don’t, we’re told that there is no point in hoping for a new purpose. We become pessimists. Optimism is left to dreamers who never come to reality. John shows us that is not true. John lived in the same dark reality that everyone else was living in. He knew what the pessimistic people knew. He just chose to accept that the future could be better. The real difference between pessimist and optimist is not if they are connected to reality. Both of them can see that the glass is half empty. The difference is that the pessimist says I’m half-way out of water, but the optimist says we need a water source to make the glass full. Optimist know that there has to be a source where things can be made better. It says in Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” This is the vision of an optimist. In the middle of disaster or heartbreak, you can know that there is a future and a hope for you. It’s hard to buy into that sometimes. It’s hard to think there is a bright future when all the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. But know this, God is continually seeking ways to bring good things to His creation. He made all things good and wants us to fully experience that goodness. He would go to extreme measures to bring us that good which would show us our purpose. To see that, let’s finish this passage in verse 9-11:

“One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

So it turns out the person that John was talking about was Jesus. He was the hope that came to bring purpose back to everyone. Even God Himself split open the sky to say, “This is my guy. This is the one who will bring back your hope and will guide you back into your purpose.” Note here that there is not some great moment where the people who invaded Israel just disappeared and the Israelites automatically got their old glory back. The never quite reach those glory days again. We have a tendency to want our old glory days back. We want things the way they were, but God seems to have different plans for us. Purpose is never about going back to the way things were. It is about finding the better future that could be and going towards that. Purpose takes us to new places. As we continue in the Mark, we will see that Jesus is not what everyone expected. His vision of freedom and purpose went far beyond what anyone else was dreaming of. He brought hope that things could be better than they were. We need to come to a point where we no longer think that the way things were are the way things need to be now. We don’t need to go backwards. If we keep trying to go back and relive the old ways, we are going to keep being disappointed. In Jesus, there is newness, hope, and purpose. There is a future waiting and ready to be created with God for us.

Some of you might think there is no way God is near. You might not even believe in God. You think this whole Christ following thing is nonsense. But somewhere deep inside you, something has been drawing you to a purpose. We all know that feeling of something calling us to better moments and to deeper meaning. I believe that that is God reaching out to you and calling you to better things. In all my experience, I have never found peace in trying to get back to something that I once was and thought I should be. I have found that God is not in the business of leaving us as we were. He loves us too much. So stop trying to fulfill your purpose by looking back to what you once were. Your purpose is who you will become and where God will take you. And He will take to the most amazing places. C. S. Lewis once talked about experiencing God in this way. He said, “…it is sort of (like the) Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.” If you go on this journey with God, you will find your purpose, a grand and yet unexpected purpose. You will be in for transformation that will be eternally for the better.