Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on where things stand following the 2012 election cycle. Part two will focus on where we stand spiritually. Part one is about where we stand politically.The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament gives a very difficult but encouraging truth: “The LORD chastens those whom He loves.”
No one wants to be chastened. It is not fun to be disciplined. Yet when God allows such accountability and suffering to take place, this truth teaches us it is because He loves us enough to correct us when we are wrong, lest we continue doing what can ruin us and those whom we love. It is when God no longer holds His people accountable for their actions that we should really be concerned. Consider a parent that is so frustrated with his own child’s disobedience he stops disciplining him because it’s pointless. That is the scariest place for any child to be because he has essentially been abandoned.
I have heard from so many Christians that believe God is judging us by allowing Barack Obama to rule over us for another four years, as if Obama is a modern-day Nebuchadnezzar and we are an oppressed people. Granted, Obama represents almost everything I don’t believe to be true and righteous, but he’s hardly a tyrant. Tyrants don’t sweat out the outcomes of free and (relatively) fair elections. When we attribute such language to liberal Democrats we cheapen the true persecution under tyrants so many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world suffer from.
It is our natural human impulse to believe that if God does not give us what we want then He is punishing us. Almost never do we believe God can reward us by not giving us what we want, because we assume we are basically good therefore so is what we want. Yet only God is good, which is why Christ himself prayed “not my will but your will be done.” Sometimes we forget that it’s never about God being on our side, it’s always about whether or not we are on His.
The Bible is quite clear that God does not see things as we see things, and His perspective is not our perspective. Sometimes what we think is good God sees as evil. Sometimes what we intend for evil God uses for good. There is no better evidence of that then the fundamental event of the Christian faith itself: Jesus lives the sinless life we could not live, dies the atoning death we could not die, and then just when all hope for humanity seems lost the tomb is empty.
It is very dangerous for us to assume we know God’s will outside of the specific descriptions of it in His Word, because we tend to see things through the filter of our contemporary culture as well as our desires—both of which deceive us quite often.
Do you know anybody who’s heart was broken by somebody they loved, but later they found joy in marriage with someone else that seemed like they were the one meant for them all along? Do you know anybody who ever had an unplanned pregnancy and that child ended up being the greatest blessing of their lives? Did you ever not get the job you thought you had to have, only to get an even better one out of the blue later?
God specializes in delayed gratification, because it is in that perseverance that He builds our character. I think the Bible is very clear that God cares much more about that Christ-like character than an election. I also think the Bible is very clear that God cares more about why we do what we do, and who we do it for, then what we actually did (and how we react after it happens). Motives reveal more about our character than our mere actions.
I won’t pretend to know exactly how that works itself out in the context of this particular election, but in light of the fact we know “the LORD chastens those whom He loves” I think the following questions are at least worth considering:
1. Is God more angered or grieved when those who claim to be His people are dishonest, distort the truth, and pressure their fellow Christians to compromise their integrity, or is He more angered or grieved when those in a political party that do not know Him remove His name from their platform?
My Bible says “judgment begins in the house of God” and “it is better to not know God’s Law than it is to know it and still disobey it.” In the Bible, God always holds His covenant people to a higher standard than He does His children that are estranged from Him.
Sadly, I can’t tell you how many Christians – including some Christian “leaders” – were peddling partisan propaganda as truth, distorting the records of candidates to make them appear heroic when they are not, and then pressuring their fellow believers to compromise their testimony and integrity when they wouldn’t go along with the sellout.
Why would we ever expect God to bless such godless efforts? Does God lie and distort to accomplish His will? Does God manipulate us into doing what He wants? Does God overlook the sins of some because the sins of somebody else might appear to be worse? The answer to each question is, of course, no. So if we are His people called by His name, why would we act in such a way? And then why would we expect God to bless such efforts when we do?
2. Before pointing out the speck of dust in our brother’s eye, should we not remove the plank from our own?
We complain about liberal liars, yet in the name of Christ we have allowed charlatans like Ralph Reed to continue living off of the good graces of God’s people as if they are parasitic leeches. These wolves in sheep clothing enter our houses of worship as proxies for the Karl Roves of the world, who consistently betray us and all the issues we stand for. They beg for our money while chauffeuring politicians coast-to-coast in their private jets, all in the name of saving America (defined as lining their pockets). For too long we have allowed political pimps for both political parties in both white and black churches to manipulate us. It is long past time to turn over the money changers and fashion the whip if not a jawbone. Before we ask God to let us clean up America’s house, we should maybe clean out our own.
A hurricane threatening the Tampa area caused the Republican National Convention to be trimmed short by a day, as well as the loss of lots of free media and publicity for the GOP. A hurricane hammering the East Coast a week before the election right when President Obama was on the ropes gave him a chance to get off the campaign trail and back to appearing as a leader. 15% of people in the exit polling said Hurricane Sandy was the top issue they voted on, and 70% of those people voted for Obama.
Let’s face it, if a hurricane cut short the Democrat Party convention as they were booing God, and a hurricane helped a Republican candidate look good at a time in a campaign when he most needed it, many of you would be bombarding my Facebook page with comments that clearly God has intervened on our behalf. Am I saying that God intervened on Obama’s half? No. I’m saying that we make dangerous assumptions about how righteous our cause is that we assume no matter what we say and do God is in favor of it.
3. Is God more concerned about the Kingdom of Christ or the fate of America?
One of the most respected ministries in America removed any references to the differences between Mormonism and Christian orthodoxy from its website about the time it endorsed Mitt Romney for president. I had Christians tell me Romney was a Christian because “he believed in America.” One popular conservative commentator said to vote for Romney because “he still believes this is a Christian nation.”
Romney is not a Christian, and said so himself when he spoke at Liberty University and said we were “of different faiths.” Until Romney got the Republican nomination, there wasn’t a single respected evangelical ministry or organization in America that considered Mormonism to be Christian. But after Romney clinched the Republican nomination, several seemed to stop talking about it.
Who knows, some souls may have perished during the campaign believing in a false gospel, but never heard the real one because there was an election to win and apparently Obama is more to fear than Satan himself.
I understand we live in a religiously pluralistic society. I share and respect many of the moral values of Mormons, and value their assistance in the fight. But a theology that says the same Joseph Smith who married multiple wives (including the wives of other men), taught that all of the Christian Church throughout history was apostate and only Smith knew the true way, and rejects core doctrines of the faith like the trinity, is not Christian. You can’t reject Christianity and be Christian anymore than you can reject mathematics and be a mathematician. It’s simple common sense.
That doesn’t mean Mitt Romney wouldn’t have made a good president anymore than it means a Goth grease monkey wouldn’t make a good auto mechanic just because he dabbles in the occult with a Ouija board. Both may be effective at their God-given skill set in a way that serves the community well, but neither are Christians. I have voted for candidates with different religious beliefs from me because they understood the “laws of nature and nature’s God” and were effective and honest men. But when they ask me if I agree with their religious beliefs I am always honest with them, because I love them and want to see them spend forever with their Creator.
When we start determining who is redeemed and who is not by whether or not we agree with their politics, and not by what they actually believe and why they believe it, then we are becoming idolaters of party and putting their souls at risk by selling them on a false assurance. Not to mention we are perpetuating the very decline in the church that has led to America’s decline in the first place.
Do you think God cares more about the condition of Romney’s soul, or the condition of his campaign? How many Christians capably served Romney during his two presidential runs or endorsed him, but never shared the Gospel with him? We probably don’t want to know the answer to that.
Given all the questions I just raised, imagine if God would’ve “rewarded” us on Election Day. When a parent rewards a child’s unruly behavior, the message sent is always the same—the child has been incentivized to continue it in order to get his way.
In the Bible there is a story of two brothers, one named Jacob and the other Esau. Esau as the first born has the birthright to his father’s legacy, but in immediate need of gratification he sells it to his younger brother, Jacob, who eventually takes that birthright and becomes the patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel.
In my book We Won’t Get Fooled Again: Where the Christian Right Went Wrong and How to Make America Right Again, I lay out in pain-staking detail how the Christian Church has tried to fight for the soul of America the Esau way, putting immediate gratification ahead of legacy and integrity.
A generation later we have nothing to show for it, except the likely implementation of Obamacare and a culture that increasingly sees us out of the mainstream. One party has kicked us out, and the other party would like to. We have brought enmity between Christ and his creation through our partisan and hypocritical actions.
Maybe that’s why God didn’t “reward” us on Election Day. Maybe He still “chastens those whom He loves.” If I’m right, then the good news is God still loves us enough to hold us accountable, which means He isn’t done with us yet.
The only question is, like Esau, are we done with Him? They that have ears to hear, let them hear.