It was Saturday afternoon, so there was nobody else around the small, square, gray Baptist church – so incongruous from the soaring double-spired cathedral down the street – in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. Its pastor, my friend Zdenek, and I had just finished loading our team’s luggage into the church (a relief after three days of travel). It was 2013; we were preparing for an English camp the upcoming week.
There’s a book out there, Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. I’ve never read it, though having heard it cited by a number of teenagers hopelessly on fire, I’m intrigued. It seems to have inspired Christian youth to break out of comfort zones, live sacrificially and selflessly.
But I haven’t read it. So perhaps it is redundantly that I ask –
Are we really doing hard things?
A young man from our youth group preached a sermon from Acts 10 last night. I hope he will not think of me as simply regurgitating what he so finely said (is that illegal?), for something fell together for me in my own words, and I’ve got to get it out.
It was not ten chapters into our current era – the era of salvation through Christ, of his church on earth – that the gospel went from being “just for Jews” (in the Jews’ mind) to open for all nations. You’d think this turn of events would have been obvious from “and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth” (1:8), but whatever. To get his message across, God orchestrated an encounter between Peter and a Gentile – a centurion of the hated Italian Regiment, natch – and brought the Spirit upon him in full view of Jewish believers. After that, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, who would hear the Word and respond.
What’s crazy is that God had to send Peter three visions to get him into position.
Would Peter have gone with Cornelius’ messengers without the visions immediately beforehand?
Somehow I doubt it. It looks safe to say that Peter would rather take the Gospel to his own countrymen than to the Gentiles.
I don’t want this blog to become political. Every other post is about my journey to become more like Christ and share my discoveries. To that end, I solemnly swear that his will be my only Trump-related post this year.
But after last week, I had to say something.
I can’t pretend the following thoughts are my own, though the pieces were. What snapped my scattered thoughts together was an article by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent. His work was much more eloquent, but pack-a-lunch long, so if you want the cliffs’ notes from a blogger with a parallel journey, read on.
Throughout this election cycle, I’ve been disgusted by the choices laid before us. Most of you can relate. It’s the culmination of a political system designed to reward ambition and sectarianism. Yet I felt compelled, by both duty and my fellow man, to make a choice. And the refrain generally foisted upon me has been, “It’s your Christian duty to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. The church will not survive her. Vote for Donald Trump.”
Yet I seethed against this argument.
I admit, it seemed to have merit in one sense. I certainly will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I have to embolden that sentence before I get dismissed as a liberal plant. Hillary is not even in the same universe as trustworthy to be president, and her agenda, typical of the political left, carries the threat of eroding our religious freedom and heritage.
Yet my conscience fought against the idea of supporting Trump, because by doing so, I would be endorsing a track record that I do not see as any more Godly – quite the opposite, in fact. You can scroll to the bottom of this post for my concerns on Trump’s character – it goes beyond just “saying mean things”, or even the lewd revelations of last week – because I’d rather just get to my point right now.
Which was…how could I look an unbeliever in the eye, after endorsing this sort of man, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with any credibility?
I sat on my concerns for a long time. I stayed quiet as Trump pulled even with Hillary in the polls. The voice inside said, Don’t bother. You’ll be labeled one of those panicky rabble-rousers you’ve learned to avoid. Jesus wants you to be tranquil and gracious about things. Let it go.
And maybe I was overthinking things. Maybe I was being too young and idealistic. Maybe some of these sins were fabrications of the liberal media (doubtful). And…just maybe, that conversion that Trump allegedly experienced a few weeks ago, in the presence of several well-respected evangelical leaders, was genuine and would lead to a change in his ways.
Then, last week, three things happened.
The 2016 election season is fast approaching. It’s like Christmas; it starts earlier every year. (Kanye’s already getting into the 2020 season. I wish I was kidding.)
And with the season comes all the trimmings: straw polls, televised debates, talk of which presidential hopefuls have and haven’t a chance…and amongst Christians, which candidate (Republican, of course) might “lead our nation back to God.”
My politically-minded brothers and sisters have the right goal at heart. We desperately need revival in America.
But it is not the job of the President of the United States to lead us back to Christ.
Recently my small group has been reading Multiply by Francis Chan. It addresses an unconscious fallacy in the church: that teaching and evangelism are primarily the work of people more gifted and talented than we are. That the job of spreading the Good News belongs mostly in the hands of pastors, deacons, and those with a television audience.
It’s a crippling lie.