First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NASB)
Ladies and Gentlemen! I address myself to my American brethren primarily with this thought. Have you read any of the rhetoric in the press about Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or their respective political parties? I know, how can you not? And I don’t even live in the USA! I’m from north of that particular border, but we have a lot of American TV, Facebook is an American company, you get the idea. Who is right? Who is not? Who cares? (We should!) Who do we vote for? (It should be the one that best represents your ideals, because we live in representative democracies, or so they tell us.)
I’m not saying that character doesn’t matter, it does. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have opinions, clearly we should, and they matter. I’m not saying that I don’t have a preference, I do, and if I were American I would vote accordingly (Hey, we do this every 4 years in Canada too these days).
What really has me, well, agitated, are the personal attacks on men that you only think you know. For example, calling Barack Obama the Antichrist - folks, he doesn’t fit the qualifications. Ostensibly, he was born in Hawaii, and even if he was born in Kenya (I don’t think so, personally, but hey, maybe he was), that’s still the geographically wrong place for that particular individual to enter the world. (Yes, I actually do study this stuff, and I think everyone should!) Or calling Mitt Romney a ne’er-do-well with no real ideas of his own - come on, the man actually navigated some pretty choppy financial water successfully, and he does have more than basic intelligence.
I read a poster the other day that says it all for me: no matter who is President, JESUS IS KING. It really gets me that some of the idiocy I hear comes from the so-called “religious right wing” folks. Folks, I speak as one of YOU! There is no place for the demeaning personal attacks. They are designed to incite those who are driven by emotion (that’s about 80% of us according to research) to a point of view that they did not think of themselves for reasons that are not their own. This is not how Christians should behave!
The verse I shared at the beginning of this is how we should treat our political leaders. Because we live in democracies here in the western world, people have the RIGHT to voice their own opinion, regardless of how right or how wrong it is - and if we want to curtail or manipulate it, however subtly, we do so at our own peril - “do unto others,” Jesus said.
It says in other passages in Scripture that GOD HIMSELF engineers the governments that rule over our nations (Romans 13:1-3 if you demand to see an example of that). We need to pray for them, that they will allow us to live lives that are representative of Christ in the world, not jump on party bandwagons and lead marches toward legislatures or participate in civil disobedience because the government did or proposed something we didn’t like. (There is a time for that, and it is laid out in Scripture - and it has been done before, in the formation of the United States of America!)
What we need to avoid is political activism, brothers and sisters in the faith! We need to be involved in SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM! We need to KNOW why we perform actions, not just follow the crowd. In 45 years of life, I have NEVER come across a situation that could be made better by going to war, physically or figuratively. (I am, however, a proponent of si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). We should know the arguments! We should pay attention to speeches, we should question values and character, because the matter to GOD! Not because some bunch of guys in some political war room want to stir up your emotions, which let’s face it, don’t always respond the way they should. I’m not mitigating personal responsibility here, I’m encouraging it!
What we should be doing is quietly voting our conscience and living our lives publicly before God, as examples of the peace and tranquility that Christ brings to our lives. THIS is good and acceptable to God. And this is more effective than any other weapon in our arsenal on winning people to Christ - when they see YOUR life change in response to trials. William Toms said it like this: ”You are the only Bible some people will ever read.” Let’s make sure that they read one that is real with God, not some overstated and overrated version of it.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)
The concept of sacrifice in Scripture begins at the fall of mankind from innocence in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:21tells us that before banishing Adam and Eve from the garden, he clothed them in animal skins. God sacrificed the life of an innocent animal to cover the nakedness of the guilty. (As a side note, I don’t imagine it was easy. God loves His creation, every bit of it, even the parts that have turned away from Him.) This sacrifice is essential in dealing with our fallen nature as it turns out.
Leviticus 14:25tells of the sacrifice of a lamb without spot or defect to cleanse a leper of guilt, and the how the priest performs the cleansing ritual. Without going into the details of the ceremony itself, it is noteworthy that leprosy is a physical disease - but that the leper needed also to be cleansed of the guilt (other elements of the ceremony dealt with the physical presumably) he or she carried. The innocent lamb was slain to cleanse the diseased one of guilt.
There are other sacrifices of other animals in other passages of the Bible, and all of them have a symbolic significance of cleansing, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and other things that are common with a theme of redemption. Peter tells us that we were redeemed with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19).
Hebrews 9:26tells us that the sacrifice of Christ put away all sin for all time, and that sacrifice is different from all the other sacrifices in Scripture. How is it different? It was not merely an innocent being sacrificed. It was a willing sacrifice with full knowledge of what He was doing. John 3:16tells us that this is because God loves us so much that He could not leave mankind in a fallen condition. He had to redeem us from that state, and the only way he could do what His own justice demands is to take the penalty upon Himself to do it.
Revelation 7:14andRevelation 12:11tell of the power to cleanse and keep cleansing in the lives of those who will accept that payment on their behalf and choose to walk in its power. In the first reference, it talks about those who have come out of great trial and struggle and have washed their robes white in the “blood of the Lamb,” that is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. The second reference adds power. It tells of a band of believers that overcame because of the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony of that cleansing power, and that they did not love their own lives even when faced with death. That sacrifice made so long ago on a hill outside Jerusalem still carries that power today! If we will accept the payment made by Jesus’s willing sacrifice and choose to walk in the power of His subsequent resurrection from the dead, we can join the ranks of that overcomer band!
What does this imply for us as disciples of Christ, or followers of Jesus? Jesus willingly gave His life for others. We should follow His example. Does this mean we need to die like He did? Not necessarily, though He may call us to that. If you read about His ministry in the Gospels, He was always was giving His time, His abilities, His wisdom and teaching to others - He was giving His life before He ever gave His death for us. He did so tirelessly and without hesitation. We as His followers should do likewise. When is the last time you gave someone your time, or the benefit of your knowledge and experience? Or how much time during the week do you give to serving those that need counselling? Or those that need basic sustenance? Or healing of any kind? That should be our main driving motivation - to do as He did when He was here. It is not enough to simply talk about how Jesus saves without being Jesus for people. Scripture says we are His Body, the Church. If that is so, we need to follow the direction of our Head, Jesus Christ. James 2:16-17says that we must not be those who talk the talk only, but we must also be those that walk the walk. If we are the Body, why aren’t His hands healing? Why aren’t His eyes seeking where to help next? Why are His feet not moving us in that direction? As James says, Faith without accompanying works is of no value (paraphrase mine).
Let us be those that are seeking opportunity to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Jesus DIED for us, a most painful execution. How can we do differently for Him? Revelation 12:11 - “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (NASB)
Heavenly Father, I yield to you. Let me be, as it says in Your Word, a living sacrifice, and a vessel to be used to help others, just as Your Son did when He was here. Let me be a help for those that need help, an ear, a set of hands, whatever You need from me, right up until You come for me or until Your Son returns. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen - so be it.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)