“…seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.” – Daniel’s prophecy to King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:25-26)
It’s easy to be caught up in the heated political discourse that is overtaking the nation. There is a sense that we are a culture in crisis and that the next president of the United States of America will seal the fate of the nation in our generation. For many people this presidential election has inflamed a sense of intense anxiety and fear – it is a crucible of sorts revealing political and cultural fault-lines – even within the Christian community at a national level. We’re a nation splintering under the weight of democracy’s promise – and Christian religion is splintering along with it.
For most of my politically outspoken friends there is a sense of foreboding dread – on both the Left and the Right. I hear from both sides: “If the other candidate gets into office – our nation is done for!” Another related, underlying trend that is saturating the American political spectrum is the growing disillusionment with corrupt leaders and a corrupted political system. In this state of disillusionment, dread, social discord, heightened anxiety, and multi-faceted fear – it is easy to get swept along by a collective tide of passion and emotional reaction.
Recently, as I was thinking and praying through all this and watching how politics in our time is driven by the bent arc of human ambition (as it always has been), the technological immediacy of social media, the contrived scripting of main stream media (that functions as propaganda on many levels) and campaigning theatrics – I sensed the Lord showing me a picture. I saw myself standing on a narrow body of land between two raging rivers. Each river was going in the opposite direction. One flowed towards the Right. One flowed towards the Left. Everyone was being driven along by reaction and strong emotion. It was the kind of rushing water that can take you far very quickly and if you do not stay afloat – can quickly drown you. And I sensed the Lord calling me (and us) to higher ground – not a moral higher ground – but a place in which we allow the Lord to take us outside of the cultural waters we are swimming/drowning in and speak to us of what is happening at a spiritual level. And no – I do not mean who you should vote for – I mean discerning the times and understanding how God is calling us to represent another realm – His heavenly government – in our everyday lives and local community. Vote as you may – political ascendancy is not the real work of the Body of Christ on earth. We need no political influence to accomplish our task of representing Jesus and His coming kingdom.
As disciples of Jesus we are called to be ‘in the world’, but ‘not of it’ (John 17:14-19, Romans 12:1-2) . Or as a friend recently alluded to – we need to be more ‘Christian’ than ‘American’. What could this look like practically speaking? Maybe it means re-learning political engagement? Maybe it means untangling our faith from political party platforms? Maybe it means refusing to whitewash and anoint political candidates amidst the religious fervor of the election season – is it possible that God does not endorse political candidates – and maybe we shouldn’t either? Maybe it means giving up our political affiliations so we can reclaim our Christian witness? Maybe it means repenting of the ‘pointing finger’ (Isaiah 58:9) and hellfire of the tongue (James 3:6). Maybe it means fasting from our steady diet of click-bait headlines, talk radio and talking heads – to reclaim our mental clarity. Maybe it means eating a meal with your political enemies?
But this is not a call to retreat to the white tower of esoteric detachment. What is needed in our time is a practical rebirth of the vision that we, as Christians are preparing the way for a Sovereign Ruler who is not coming to take sides. He is coming to overthrow the present, broken order of things. There’s no government to overthrow or even reform in this age – it is the human heart that Jesus came to overthrow and liberate. It is our pride and self seeking that defines the human heart – and in turn the societal systems we create. Our work is to dismantle and subvert unrighteousness as the Lord leads us but not by power or might. It’s “by my Spirit says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). This may mean political engagement at times – but to borrow a metaphor from J.R.R. Tolkien, it never means grasping the ring of power.
What can be said in summary about our current crisis? So many voices are speaking now that it is difficult to listen well and prayerfully think through the noise. Many voices are saying that God has spoken in one way or another. But I would raise my voice louder than all others if I could. Because I believe we are witnessing the collapse of an authentic Christian witness in American culture. I believe our hearts are on God’s scales – and He is weighing our trust against our fears. In my mind and heart I see only one way forward. Think past the election my friends. Vote or don’t vote – it is of no consequence to the work of God in the world. I know most of you do not believe this. But at the least – think past the presidential election. Pull your head out of the rushing waters and sit for a moment with the resurrected Jesus up on a vantage point beyond your current view. And look closer. He is building a bridge over the troubled waters.
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