Jesus Trumps Donald (and Hillary)
- John Hambrick Author
- 2016 9 Dec
Our country is still buzzing over last month’s election. Political commentators say they’ve never seen anything like it. Some of us are gleeful and gloating with the anticipation that a Washington outsider is finally going to “make America great again.” Others of us are horrified. How is it possible that a seemingly unprincipled reality TV star has been unleashed on the White House? The people who create political drama for television are hard-pressed to write something more intriguing than the plot unfolding before our eyes on Fox News and CNN.
As these political hopes and fears fly back and forth over the Internet, there’s both an amazing opportunity and a dangerous temptation facing us Christians. The temptation is simply this. It would be easy to allow our voice to melt into the roar either for or against Donald Trump. We could just add some more volume to the angry and fearful rhetoric that’s coming from both sides of the political fence. To settle for this would be to miss an important chance to demonstrate the relevancy and credibility of our faith.
Then there’s this incredible opportunity. It’s significant. It’s available to Christians who are for Donald Trump. It’s equally available to Christians who bemoan the fact that Hillary lost the election. And it doesn’t have much to do with our political platform. It has everything to do with the tone we bring to the discussion. It’s not so much about what we say. It’s about how we say it. We have a chance to move our country’s political discourse away from the harsh adversarial tone that is sapping our strength. We can model a more reasonable approach. This is no small thing. We’ve watched an ugly, angry political polarization pretty much paralyze Congress. We have a chance to demonstrate a better way to work together. Employing this collaborative tone constitutes a unique way to be the salt and light Jesus mentions in Matthew 5. Whether Trump is an unqualified success or an unmitigated disaster, it’s an opportunity to serve our country well.
There are 3 things that need to be in place for this distinctive tone to gain some traction among American Christians. First of all, we have to be clear that our hope is based on Jesus, not on the President. Of course we all hope that the decisions a President makes will impact our lives positively. But to expect those decisions to provide us with the life we’ve always hoped for is to ask more of the Presidency than it’s capable of delivering. The President just isn’t powerful enough to guarantee that kind of future. Fortunately, God is.
And the good news is that God is in charge. Someday He will make all things as they should be. When we’re clear on that, the desperation that fuels the angry political rhetoric begins to diminish. The pressure starts to ease up. The hope we have in God will not be eclipsed by a successful Trump presidency. Neither will it be lost should Trump’s presidency crash and burn. Simply put, Jesus trumps Donald, just as He does Hillary or anyone else who aspires to be President. So we can take a deep breath and relax. Maybe the next 4 years will be wonderful. Maybe they’ll be awful. But the Kingdom of God is not in trouble. And so neither are we.
The second thing required to be political salt and light is a refusal to allow our political differences to divide us. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no division among you . . . “ (NIV)
Paul is asking us to avoid divisions. But how is that possible? We don’t agree about who’s fit to be the President. We have different ideas about our country’s foreign policy. And we’re not on the same page about global warming. So what on earth can we agree about? Well, for the past two thousand years Christians have agreed that Jesus is Lord. And that is exactly where Paul wants us to land. Jesus is the basis for Paul’s appeal regarding unity.
If we are united at the core of our faith, we can escape being divided by all those things, like politics, that are on the periphery of our faith. This doesn’t mean we have to agree politically. It means we have to allow our faith in Christ to hold us together when we bump into these troublesome political differences. If the body of Christ can model a respectful unity in the midst of political diversity, that could make a big difference. And by the way, this is not some sort of unicorns and rainbows appeal to hold hands and sing campfire songs together. This is a gritty, tactical necessity.
Here’s the thing. Benjamin Franklin said, “If we don’t hang together we will surely hang separately.” He was referring to one of the most effective political and military strategies ever devised. It consists of a brutally simple agenda, “Divide and conquer.” So, while we haggle with each other and turn each other into enemies, our real enemies are quietly making progress. When we are consumed by fighting with each other, we have little energy left to creatively and effectively counter those forces in the world (both spiritual and political) that seek our destruction. It turns out that unity is a necessity if we are going to survive.
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Washington hasn’t done a great job lately with this idea of unity. It’s not that they’re fiddling while Rome burns. It’s worse than that. They can’t even agree on what kind of violin to use. Our country needs to pull together, regardless of who’s President. Christians can lead the way. It’s kind of a big deal.
Finally, our opportunity to be political salt and light requires us to stay in the game. This is particularly hard because the latest political campaign has been so nasty. At times it sounded like fifth graders shouting crude insults at each other on the playground. Understandably, many Christians are on the verge of saying, “I’m done with politics.” If you’re one of those, please don’t go. We need you. Our country needs you.
The point is this; we can’t be political salt and light if we’re not involved politically. If we take the hope we have in Jesus Christ and withdraw into some sort of holy huddle we will have very little impact on the world. Jesus anticipated this desire to check out. That’s why He said to not put your light under a bowl but rather to let it shine so everybody can see it. (Matthew 5:14-15) The world can’t see your light if it only shines on the inside of a Christian community. To follow Jesus requires getting involved in a very messy world. But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He moved toward the mess. And there is no mess like a political mess.
So get out there! Read. Listen. Discuss. Vote. Allow God to give you some passion about the issues facing our country. But remember where our hope lies. And remember that unity is a treasure we can’t afford to lose. These next four years might be wonderful or they might be a nightmare. But either way, wouldn’t it be amazing if our fellow citizens said, “We don’t agree with you on everything, but we’re sure glad you Christians are involved. You’re helping make this a better country.” That’s the opportunity that lies before us. It’s worth our best effort.
John Hambrick is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church (the urban campus of NorthPoint Community Church). His experience in Pakistan, London, South Africa, and inner-city Los Angeles has given him a unique perspective on what God is doing in the world. Move Toward the Mess is his first book.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 9, 2016