On the radio this morning I heard a man speaking on behalf of Evangelical Christians in the political arena. He was discussing an upcoming meeting of former leaders of big evangelical organizations to scurry and officially endorse the evangelical candidate for president. Apparently back in the 80’s and 90’s these men were a stronger presence and regularly picked the candidate for all Christians to go with based upon, in his words, that candidate’s commitment to “fight for the issues that matter to us.” UGH! I was fuming all morning about it and how contrary to it sounds to Jesus’ method of laying His life down so that others may live. And then I realized that no matter what I believe, I live out that mantra regularly. Self preservation is always my first instinct. My rights being violated will get me provoked immediately whereas someone else’s rights being violated doesn’t often even capture my attention. “Looking out for number one” may sound crass, but it is so ingrained I can’t even see it.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt. 16:23-24
Peter was convinced he was fighting for God, battling the opponents of Jesus to save Him. He did not understand how deeply his own salvation was at stake.
Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Luke 11:42
He had no idea what it meant that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. He diminished the power and authority of God as he presumed to be defending it. Jesus needed no body guards. Nobody could take His life unless He gave it. Peter did not yet understand that the way up for Jesus’ followers is down and self denial for the redemption of others is not compatible with fighting for my own rights. Like Peter and the Pharisees, I am prone to staunchly defend the letter of the Law while missing the person to whom it points and how it directs my own heart to see its need.
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
I don’t have to venture into the realm of politics to see how committed to self interests I am, I just have to go to church. Take my family’s front row seats and leave us scrambling to collect four together somewhere else where my ADD will be plagued, I will be so disoriented and agitated I might miss the first two worship songs just fuming. When I start seeing people at church dressed in ways that conform to a set of values that I am fighting against, I grow resentful of the new direction of the church. Force me to worship in a style other than my own musical preferences and it seems I forget that the One I’m worshipping is still worthy of my worship in any genre…it apparently is more about the song and style for me. So, is it any wonder that when issues about school redistricting arise or allocating my tax money from one issue that effects me more than the one that impacts others, I am always more prone to vote for the kingdom of me.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phil. 2:3-4
And there it is, the old favorite. And this old favorite has become a warm fuzzy because I’ve reduced it, just like the Pharisees, to something that conforms to the kingdom of me. Selfish ambition is Wall Street and vain conceit is that girl in Hollywood, and since I’m not those, check. What if like Jesus, I learned to stay quiet in the face of accusation and slander, believing that washing feet was more powerful than cutting off ears? What if instead of seeing those who oppose the Bible and God and Jesus as my enemies, justly deserving my snide remarks and disdain, I saw myself as I stand before God apart from the person and work of Jesus? Am I willing to die so that others may live?
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. Matt. 18:12-13