Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Politics, and Real Answers

My friend Jack and I got into a discussion about politics the other day.  Being the reasonable person I am, as soon as he started telling me his opinions about the parties and candidates, I had to tell him my opinion too.  That's when
things got difficult. But one of the fascinating things about having friends who don't have the same belief system or ideas as you, is that election time gets intense!

I've had discussions lately with quite a few neighbors, friends and church members about our economy, the job situation, foreign policy and so forth.  And although I am non-partisan, I have an opinion about our system:  it's broken.  Jesus said "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse" (Matthew 9:16).  He wasn't talking about politics, but we are in a similar situation.  Most of our laws are designed to fix a problem, and that's honorable.  By nature, those laws favor one situation while limiting another, and they're never perfectly even-handed.  The imbalance needs to be adjusted, or new factors come into play.  Our system has become so complex that, when we write another law to patch a problem, we "tear a hole" somewhere else, then we try to fix that, and ... well, you get the picture. (If you'd like a real-life example, here's a news story illustrating this from the BBC.)

I have a much more fundamental question that you might find counter-intuitive at first:  Who is Jesus?  He is the Creator, the coming King of the world, our Savior, and the one who by becoming flesh along with us, has brought us into the heart of God for eternity.  Asking "how would Jesus vote?" obscures the real issue:  Jesus isn't running, and he isn't voting, he already IS in charge even though he hasn't yet fully imposed his will on the world.  When he does return visibly in glory, he won't be looking for your vote!  He, and he alone, will have all the perfect answers to all our tangled and competing needs.  If we try to work out our problems without looking to him for his solutions and his love, we're hopelessly lost.  And someday, he's going to return and we'll finally get to see what human life really ought to look like. 

What do we do in the meantime, then?  Here are some suggestions:
  • Pray hard for our leaders and system -- as though prayer is the only tool you have -- and be a responsible citizen.  See Rom. 13:1-7.  
  • Follow the simple advice in Malachi 6:8:  "this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
  • Get involved where you can to "do right and love mercy."   We have the right to vote for leaders and issues in this country, and I encourage you to cast a wise, prayerfully-considered vote.  About 20 years ago a friend of mine decided to get more involved:  he ran for city council because he loved his neighbors and wanted to do them some good.
  • Use a lot of grace in discussions with those of different opinions.  
 I won't tell you how to vote.  That's not my job.  But I pray you will find the wisdom you need to vote well. May the Lord grant you wisdom and peace!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where You Really Live

Where do you live?  Some people live in a house, some in an apartment or a trailer or a condo.  Some live in huge refugee camps, some in shanty towns, and some out in the open.  But the Bible says everyone lives in
God.  How is that possible?

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (and anybody else who would listen) told the people of Athens, recorded for us in Acts 17:28, "For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’"  Now, wait -- these were rank pagans, people who worshipped so many gods they had a blank altar out there, just in case they left a god out accidentally.  They had no clue about the true God, the creator of the whole universe, the One whom Paul was describing.  So how could they be "in him?"  And why would Paul agree with the poet, even if the poet didn't know who he was writing about?

Paul saw that the only way there is to live, is in God.  Paul saw God not only as creator and life-giver, but he also recognized the Son of God, the man Jesus Christ, as the source of everything, including our lives.  Jesus, who was God born into flesh, gave the entire human race a new starting place (Rom. 5:6-21), including life for everyone:  "Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone" (verse 18).  So the only place we can live, is in Christ.  Our only way of living is in him.  Our only purpose for life is in him.   

Our reason for living is to move outward from our center in Jesus Christ, and to be a bubbling spring of life and love and peace and hope for everyone we know.  Some of the people we know are probably like the pagans Paul met, with no knowledge of God and no love in them, and maybe they're hard to love sometimes.  But Paul said they "live and move and exist" in him just like we do.  They too have been given "new life" by God through the life, death and resurrection of his dear Son.  Like the Athenians, they don't know it yet, but if somebody will tell them, some of them will believe.

Like Paul, when we approach people graciously and patiently and lovingly, we'll find ways and times and even the words to pass along this wonderful message of peace.   When we focus on "living in" God, he will move us to love, and as we let him love others through us, we ourselves will experience more of his love and joy than ever. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jesus: Expert Consultant

The Lovely Joanne, in her systems-auditing business, sometimes visits client companies that have very complex manufacturing processes.  Sometimes she hires
an expert consultant to come in and handle the more technical parts of the visit.  That consultant has a high standard of training and experience, and knows whether the client is performing the proper tasks, and whether they're doing them properly.

How about you and me?  At home, sometimes we have to call a trained plumber or electrician for repairs we can't do on our own.  But when we run into trouble with relationships, what can we do?  I'll admit it -- my first reaction as a human is to get tense, blame it all on the other person and keep finding more reasons he or she is at fault.  That doesn't work well in my marriage, nor in any other relationship I have.  I need help!  Likely, so do you.  (There are important times when we need to call on trained human counselors who can give us specific tools for understanding others and responding to them, but right now, let's focus on what God has given us in himself.)

Rather than giving you "Three Simple Keys to Better Relationships" let me point you to Jesus himself. Jesus is the "Expert Consultant on Relationships" whom we can call in for help.  Let's look at his credentials, in the book of Hebrews.  Jesus:
  • Is "the champion who initiates and perfects our faith" (12:2)
  • Is the high priest "who is able to empathize with our weaknesses; and was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin" (4:15)
  • Had to endure "hostility...from sinful people" (12:3)
  • Is the One who could, once and for all, "remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice" (9:26)
Jesus is the only one who is fully God and fully man. He knows the heart of God for us, and he knows human weaknesses.  He is the only one who can help us through every mess we get ourselves into.  The Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ Jesus promised, "will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."  What is the mind of Christ that the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us of? It's love and forgiveness toward the other person, giving and forgiving -- even while enduring "hostility from sinful people" just as he did. 

As I said, my first reaction is to defend myself and blame the other person.  I have to stop and ask Jesus to help me see the other person from his viewpoint, not my own.  Jesus helps me see the person he loves, not the person I'm upset with.  Jesus gives me his compassion and forgiveness, and helps me learn how to give it away freely.  Jesus is my "Expert Consultant on Relationships" and I call him in a lot.  If you need that same help, I can highly recommend him.  Give him a call -- why not right now?