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Politically Righteous?

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Matt. 12:34

With the political season not only if full heat right now (yes, as disgusting as that image of a dog is), and Facebook filling up with snarky jabs that are easily made from the comfort of one’s keyboard, it raises the question of how Christians are to disagree with one another.  What is it about the “home team” that justifies sweeping judgments about all those associated with the opposing team?  When we scream that one political party is more righteous than the other, do we really understand what righteousness actually looks like?

Is righteousness singularly found in the protection of unborn babies or in the provision of health care for the under resourced among us?  Are tax payers more righteous than those who don’t pay taxes?  Is the particular cause closest to my heart more aligned with the heart of Jesus than the particular cause close to your heart?  Why do I hate and fear those who are not concerned about the same issues I am consumed by in our society?  Where is the Gospel in all of this?

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.  Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord.  Deut. 9:6-7

Why am I so quick to forget that I have never for a moment earned God’s favor?  Why do I act smugly as one who is superior when my need for His mercy is no less than any other’s?  Why do I fear and despise the sins of others but minimize my own?  How do I stand humbled before the cross yet turn in bitter judgment of the others in its shadow?

I can only despise and fear others to the extent God’s holiness is clouded to my heart.  In other words, I have to minimize God’s standards of perfection to such a level that I can attain them by my own efforts and simultaneously be compassionless to those who aren’t as disciplined, committed or faithful as I am.   If I knew how extensive God’s law actually is, if I maintained a truly high regard for His standard of holiness and righteousness, I would better grasp how impossible it is for me to ever come close to attaining it.  I would begin to be silenced by the Alps of His glory and my tiny position before Him.

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”  Is. 6:4-5

If I stood shaking before the Lord like Isaiah, so aware of His power and Holiness, would I stand shaking my fist at my peers?  Would I delight in the ruin and condemnation of others?

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’  “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  Matt. 18:26-33

I am not an undecided voter and I am as prone to roll my eyes and sneer at the other team as the ones I oppose.  But are these the teams which should identify us?  Are either of these two candidates the One I want to be clothed in before my Father?  I think I quickly forget that no, clothing myself in any form of righteousness other than Jesus is a losing choice for everyone involved.  And when I select a lesser form of righteousness out of which to live, I offer a lesser love, mercy, compassion and life to others, just like the unmerciful servant.  Can some of God’s redemptive work occur through the political process?  Of course.  But I’m seeing the first place that work needs to occur is in my own heart.  And I must trust patiently that His righteousness will do its work in His time, even as I foolishly wander to all other forms in the meantime.  He is faithful and He will do it.

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