On the Campaign Trail With Jesus

usa-806576_1920Have you been following the debates and primaries around the nation? I have – like a nut. While I don’t promote any single candidate, I do very much care to see what happens and follow the process closely.

Have you noticed what happens after the results of every primary? What does the winner do? He throws a big party. Usually there’s a speech involved. What does the crowd do? They go BANANAS. The cheering, screaming, and chanting is something else. But in the midst of all the chaos we need to be asking ourselves three questions:

1) Are we following the right guy?
2) Are we following for the right reasons?

3) Are we willing to live with the consequences of following this guy?

This isn’t new to our political era. The scene has been the same throughout human history. From the beginning of time, we cheer and roar when our guy wins and comes out to celebrate. This is EXACTLY the scene we have at Jesus’s triumphal entry, the time we call Palm Sunday.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

The scene is an identical scene – a carbon copy – of the triumphal entry from many years before when the Maccabees defended Israel and defeated their enemy. And any Jew who knew his history COULDN’T have missed the parallels with Jesus’s entry. It’s no wonder people were going nuts.

The new Messiah was riding in the same way Jewish victors had in the past. In a nation occupied by Rome, the huge crowds saw a geo-political hero who was coming to set Israel free from Roman oppression. They had question 1 right – they were following the right guy (the Messiah) but they missed question 2 – they were NOT following for the right reasons.

humble-732566_1920They wanted a new political leader. They wanted to make Israel great again. They thought Jesus was the guy to make that happen. But their reasons for following were not Jesus’s reasons for showing up. Jesus wasn’t about geo-political power. He has NEVER been about geo-political power. Jesus is far too humble to care about such nonsense. In fact, when other leaders would march into town for their victory parade on a mighty steed, Jesus comes in riding on a donkey. Even in victory he is the epitome of humility.

When we make the decision to follow Jesus and understand the right reasons (vs. the wrong reasons) for following, we’re then forced to come to terms with question 3 – are we willing to face the consequences of following Him? It’s not an easy road. In fact, Jesus promised that in this world we WILL have troubles. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that Christianity is the easy way out. But even when we go through hard times we have a God who walks alongside us to comfort and care for us. The road following Christ may not be easy, but the rewards are eternally immeasurable.

Are you following the right person?
Are you following for the right reasons?
Are you willing to face the consequences of following?

A Church That Loves Politics More than It Loves Jesus

I enjoy following politics. I really enjoy political races for office. I believe that citizens in a democratic republic (like America, if you didn’t know what we are) have a duty to cast votes and play an active role in the political process. It is the primary means by which we hold our leaders accountable and shape the vision and future of our society.

I enjoy my faith. I really enjoy Jesus. I believe that citizens of God’s kingdom (all of those who claim to follow Jesus) have a duty to be loyal to Jesus and play an active role in the life of God’s kingdom. This necessitates we understand the breadth and scope of Jesus’s life, mission, and call to those of us who follow him.

One of my favorite stories from Jesus’s life takes place during a visit to the temple. Jesus sees a bunch of merchants and vendors trying to make a profit selling sacrificial animals to worshipers traveling from out of town. The mark-up would have been considerable, and the vendors were there not so much to help those who needed to offer sacrifices, but to line their own wallets with cold, hard cash.

This was simply unacceptable to Jesus, and he goes ballistic. He starts flipping over tables and driving out the cattle and animals, jesus-clears-the-temple

and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbersden.” (Mark 11)

Then this week I saw a very interesting phenomenon.

During the Iowa Caucus, I saw many churches that had opened their doors and had become caucus voting locations. Pews were filled with voters carrying flags, buttons, and banners promoting their favorite candidate.

It got me thinking…

I’m pretty sure Jesus would visit these church caucus sites in Iowa and start flipping over pews and tables…

No, it’s not wrong for Christians to engage in politics. I think it’s a GOOD thing to do.

What I have a problem with is people turning our sacred spaces into political grounds. How can we worship Jesus and worship candidates at the same time? How can our sanctuaries be converted to multi-purpose rooms used for secular political activity? I’m not cool with it.

Our call as Christians is to influence and change culture, not let culture influence and change us. One of my favorite Ed Stetzer quotations goes something like this:

When you mix faith and politics you get politics.

This is what I see happening during this election cycle. Don’t let it.

Yes, vote. Yes, get election-978904_1920involved in the political process. Yes, make sure the right candidate takes office.

No, don’t mix the two. Jesus doesn’t ride beside our politics. He needs to be above our politics. Because he’s the Lord of Republicans AND Democrats…heck, even of the Socialists. Jesus supersedes politics.

Don’t get caught up in the political movement and sacrifice our sacred spaces and our very faith.

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What do you think? Are you okay with churches being voting locations? How do you respond to the blending of faith and politics?