As I’ve been pondering and praying about our Christmas teaching series at Calvary, one of the phrases that sticks out are the words, “Fear not.” It was the standard Christmas greeting; interestingly it was also the standard Easter greeting. Of course as I think about it, those words are sprinkled throughout the whole Bible. In fact, if you put all the versions of “Fear not!” together — “Don’t Be Afraid;” “Be Courageous;” etc — it is the most common command in scripture. But here is the deal, we are empowered to obey the most common command, by virtue of out trust in the most common promise. God says, “I will be with you.” Fear not, for God is with us.
What do we fear? It’s not even 48 hours since the end of the election and I’m already tired of the “be afraid, be very afraid” messages coming from Christians. It’s as though we think that God has never been in a situation where He had to contend with a King, a Dictator, a President or a people with whom He disagreed. Fear not.
What do we fear? I grow increasingly skeptical of the transformative power of politics…and I started out pretty skeptical. Be assured, I applaud Christ-followers who feel called to invest in politics, as long as your primary passion is to see politics transformed by the power of gospel. Politics will not change the world, but the gospel can change politics. How often in the last decade plus have we commented about the flaws of our political system? Partisanship, negative campaigning, the continual quest for power, lost moral compass, lack of stewardship, and the list could go on and on. So why do we keep hoping that a flawed system with flawed people will save our country from whatever drain we believe we are circling? Politics is just as much (maybe more) in need of transformation as any other area of culture and life. But fear not, the gospel is even able to transform politics.
What do we fear? Don’t mistake my lack of passion for politics as a denial that our country needs change. Don’t mistake my skepticism about the power of politics for a lack of passion about the moral, social, and economic issues that face our country. I just don’t believe that the passing of any law will transform our country or stop the downward spiral. I personally find it difficult to passionately proclaim in the church, that the law could not bring life, while passionately proclaiming that the hope of our nation is to be found in a law?
I think our nation needs a hope that goes deeper than politics.
While I think we should keep our government accountable, and be involved at whatever levels we can, the real issue we are facing today is the need for the transformation of the heart. Of course our nation is in desperate need of change, but the change we need comes from the gospel. If we saturate our lives with the gospel, if we make the gospel our priority passion, then we need not fear.
Let me tell you what I fear.
I’m afraid that Jesus is more disappointed in his church, than we care to admit, and it has little to do with how we voted. We have too often thrown our hope outside the gospel, and in the process we have embraced a version of the gospel that has little hope. I believe that the church is the hope of the world, but only when the hope of the church is Jesus.
I’m afraid that we — the church — are far more responsible for any downward spiral of our communities or country than we tend to acknowledge. And again it has little to do with how we vote. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t vote. It’s a great privilege to live in a country where citizens can be so involved in the governing process. But where does Jesus or Paul list involvement in the political process as part of the strategy for transforming people, culture or country? What we need to ask ourselves is how close are we to becoming the church Jesus envisioned, when he said, “I will build my church.”
An Old Testament prophet named Isaiah said words that have been quoted every Christmas for thousands of years — how’s that for a retweeting record — “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders…” You know what I think? He’s got big shoulders. Fear not and follow close.