Picking Up The Pieces, A Post-Election Reflection

Cynicism warning: This post may reveal my more cynical side, but stick with me. I need your feedback.

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Every morning at FaithWorks of Abilene we read a Psalm. The day after the mid-term elections this week, we read Psalm 52. It was spookily appropriate:

Why do you boast of all the trouble you stir up, O mighty one,
when the constant, unfailing love of God is what truly lasts?
Have you listened to yourself?
Your tongue is like a sharp razor, full of lies that slash and tear right to the soul.
You’ve fallen in love with evil and have no interest in what He calls good.
You prefer your own lies to speaking what is true.
[pause]
You love words that destroy people, don’t you, lying tongue?
You won’t be smiling when the true God brings His justice and destroys you forever.
He will come into your home, snatch you away, and pull you from the land of the living.
[pause]
Those who are just will see what happens to you and be afraid.
And some of them will laugh and say,
“Hey, look! Over there is the one who didn’t take shelter in the True God;
Instead, he trusted in his great wealth and got what he wanted by destroying others!”
But my life is abundant—like a lush olive tree care for at the house of the one True God.
I put my trust in His kind love forever and ever; it will never fail.
Because of all you have done, I will humble myself and thank You forever.
With your faithful people at my side, I will put my hope in Your good reputation.

Boast.

Lies.

Evil.

Destroy.

We live with a broken political system. It is made worse by a culture that communicates in 140 characters or less and absorbs news media that is motivated by ratings and not truth.

We argue based on party platforms. We think universal health care is an enemy to our freedom and economy instead of seeing it as a way to provide for the poor and needy. We think restricting abortion is a war on women instead of seeing it as an attack on the most vulnerable. We think our party has the inside track on what Jesus really wanted instead of acknowledging that there is little difference among the parties.

Those on both sides of the aisle are seemingly more interested with power and prestige than the will of the votes. Winning is more important than loving.

But the people of God should be different.

There are those who believe Christians should have no participation in civic government. There are also those who believe we should take over civic government. And people who fall on the spectrum everywhere between those two extremes.

So these days after the election, after the arrogant gloating of the people who win and the melodramatic whining of the people who lost, I find myself reading the above Psalm thinking we are the people the Psalmist was writing about 5 millennia ago.

So how do we make the move? How do we shift from people so consumed with a deceitful, boastful power that hurts others to being a people who trust in God and put our hope in Him?

Let me make these suggestions:

  1. We need to remove our nation’s flag from our churches. We are not American Christians. We are Christians who reside in America. Even when we are engaged and involved in local, regional, and national politics our primary allegiance should be to the Gospel of Jesus. One exception: if we are going to put up any flag we should put up every flag. Just as our primary allegiance is to Jesus and not a country, we should visibly acknowledge that all people from all nations are children of God and welcome to gather anywhere and everywhere believers gather.
  2. Vote, but not simply along party lines.* Republicans get some things right. Democrats get some things right. Even Libertarians get some things right! But they all get a lot of things wrong, too. Jesus has no political party affiliation. What’s more: no political party is closer to the heart of Jesus than any other. What is close to the heart of Jesus is to take care of the widow, orphan, foreigner, and people in poverty. So vote according to what will be better for the people Jesus cared for primarily.
  3. Speak up and speak out. The injustices that are taking place in Ferguson, MO, are awful. Michael Brown was murdered and the person who did it will likely not be charged. Poverty is being criminalized in cities all across America. People whose gender identity and sexual orientation are not what “civilized society” want them to be are bullied and abused.

Those who claim the name of Jesus should be on the front lines of these issues, and many more. Your community may not suffer from these things. But you can advocate for justice in your area as well others. Speak up. Don’t be silent when you witness injustice in person or on your twitter feed. Don’t be silent when your churches seem to ignore those in your neighborhood who are hurting. Be the voice of Jesus in your world. Speak His words when no one else will.

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What else would you add? What can we do to be the people of Jesus and not the people of the political parties who want us only so they can increase their coffers and claim to have more power and prestige?

 

*Full disclosure: I have not voted in any election since 2008. I have not yet registered to vote even though we have lived in Texas for five years. This current election and my reflection since then has led me to believe I should correct that before 2016.

Victorious Defeat

“Once again hear me; hide me in Your favor; bring victory in defeat and hope in hopelessness” (Psalm 4:1, The Voice).

I love reading Psalms with the FaithWorks of Abilene class every day of every semester. Although we only get to 92 and I read those 92 three times a year, it is a blessing to have different verses, different phrases, stand out every time I read them.

Today is the fourth day of the Spring class, so we read Psalm 4. In The Voice Bible, verse 1 adds a call to God to bring victory out of defeat and hope out of hopelessness.

How great to see God doing those very things again and again.

In order to see victory in defeat and hope in hopelessness, we need to change our definitions.

Defeat is pretty easily defined by our society: if you don’t look good enough, make enough money, have the right skin color, or dress the right way you have lost. If you have struggled with addictions you have lost. If you have been caught in a sin you have lost.

And there are other ways to feel defeat: the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a broken relationship.

We all define defeat as those times when our lives are not following the prescribed pattern we desire.

But that is not how God defines defeat. It is in those dark, painful, lost moments that God draws victory. Because defeat is not losing what the culture of our time holds sacred; defeat is losing all connection with God.

And He fights for us relentlessly.

God pulls His victory out of our defeat because He is not willing to give up as easily as we are. God pulls His victory out of our defeat because He is not limited by our human definitions of success. God pulls His victory out of our defeat because He is not willing to give up on us.

Which is also why He brings hope out of hopelessness: We feel hopeless when we live out of our definitions. We feel hopeless when we live out of our limitations.

God doesn’t do that. He is stronger than that. He is bigger than that. He brings hope when we have nothing left because He doesn’t know better. We tell ourselves all hope is lost. We tell ourselves our situation is unbearable and overwhelming. God says, “You think you’re hopeless? Well, let me show you what I can do.”

Which is good, because I can’t do this thing called life on my own. Please hear me, God: bring me Your victory out of my defeat and Your hope out of my hopelessness.