Quick-Blog #8 Tim Keller on the Way the Gospel Frees Us to Witness

I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s new book on church, Center Church and it is everything they say it is: amazing, rich, deep, helpful, game-changing, etc. One gem of a chapter so far is chapter 3,”The Gospel Affects Everything”, on the way that the Gospel has deep implications for all of life–it’s not just the “ABCs but the A-Z” of Christianity. In one section Keller takes the time to outline the way that the Gospel gives us a third way to think about various subjects (family, human authority, community, sexuality, etc.) It’s not moralism, nor relativism, but a different thing entirely.

One little chunk in particular chunk that caught my attention was the one about witness. Here’s what he says:

The moralist believes in proselytizing, because “we are right, and they are wrong.” Such an approach is almost always offensive. The relativist/pragmatist approach denies the legitimacy of evangelism altogether. Yet the gospel produces a constellation of traits in us. We are compelled to share the gospel out of generosity and love, not guilt. We are freed from the fear of being ridiculed or hurt by others , since we have already received the favor of God by grace. Our dealings with others reflect humility because we know we are saved by grace alone, not because of our superior insight or character. We are hopeful of everyone, even the “hard cases,” because we were saved only because of grace, not because we were the people likely to become Christians. we are courteous and careful with people. We don’t have to push or coerce them, for it is only God’s grace that opens hearts, not our eloquence or persistence or even their openness (Exod 4:10-12). Together, these traits create not only an excellent neighbor in a multicultural society but also a winsome evangelist. –Center Church, pp 49-50

For Christians looking to be salt and light, witnesses in the culture who don’t downplay the Gospel, or add unnecessary offense to it, Keller points us to the way the Gospel itself is the answer to evangelism–it is the power of salvation unto all who believe, (Rom 1:16) and even changes how we invite people to believe.

Take some time to think through your approach towards witness and evangelism. Ask yourself some questions:

Am I controlled by fear?
Is my approach humbly confident, or nervously arrogant?
Are their people in my life I’ve given up on because they’re “hard cases”?
Am I a good neighbor to those with whom I disagree?

Pray over these and see how God might be calling you to either move out of moralist arrogance, or relativist indifference. Most of all, meditate on the Gospel–let Jesus do the work of turning you into a witness.

Soli Deo Gloria

Have a very Hipster Indy/Metal Christmas (Or, the Spiritual Value of Christmas Music)

I have to confess that historically-speaking I have deplored Christmas music. (ducks) No, really, I just haven’t been the biggest fan. I liked classic Christmas hymns (“What Child is This?” Awesome!), and the occasional Jimmy Eat World song, but otherwise, I pretty much could do without it. Then a few years ago, I noticed that Christmas came and went without much of a fuss in my life. It was kind of just lost in the shuffle of the year. Like, I knew it was important. I probably understood it at a theological/spiritual level better than I ever had (Incarnation of God, Chalcedon, virginal conception v. virgin birth, etc.). Still, the experience of the season, preparing my heart, slowing down, and dwelling on the rich truth of Christmas was not something I’d encountered once I got over the “EHRMAGERD PRESENTS!!!” hysteria of childhood. I was missing something and I knew it. I felt like I’d lost Christmas. (cue Peanuts Christmas special music)

The Decision
In order to rectify this, I decided to listen to Christmas music the next year. Specifically, I decided to listen to Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas album Songs for Christmas every morning while I did my devotionals from Thanksgiving to Christmas to see what it would do. Kind of an informal Advent practice. I picked this album specifically because:

a. Stevens is a musical genius. His melodic, quirky, indie, whimsical-yet-pathos-filled compositions are not your average Christmas fare. For example:

b. The album has 42 songs which makes it harder to get sick of quickly. (42?! How does that even work?!)

c. Did I mention that Stevens is a musical genius?

It turned out to be a spiritually significant move for me. As I intentionally created space, embraced a disciplined rhythm to reflect on the season through the classic hymns and original compositions by Stevens,  I found myself drawn into a more worshipful awareness of the miracle of Christmas. I found myself longing for Emmanuel to come, to “ransom captive Israel”, and excited about the herald of the angels, proclaiming the birth of the Savior. When Christmas finally came around, I felt ready to welcome it; the month-long, discipline had prepared me. For the first time, I began to see some of the spiritual value of Christmas music.

This year, I’d encourage you do something similar. It’s so easy for the rush, the bustle, the technological hustle of life to keep us so busy we’re unable to reflect on what we’re celebrating: the birth of the Godman, grace incarnate, the reunion of God and humanity in one person. The mystery and the wonder of Christmas isn’t something to scramble past, or merely survive, but rather is something to be entered in, treasured, and cultivated.

If you’re trying to think of where to start, I’d suggest the Stevens’ album already mentioned. Also, here are two more options:

Sufjan Stevens “Silver and Gold” Yes, I know this is another Stevens’ album. No, this is not a mistake. Stevens just followed up his 2006 anthology this year with an even longer album (58 tracks) filled with more classics and something like 18 original compositions. I broke my usual “no Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving” rule just to check it out. Apparently I’m not alone in this as Christ and Pop Culture‘s Jason Morehead writes:

Call me a Grinch, but there’s absolutely no reason for getting into the Christmas spirit when Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet (Sorry super mega-department stores with your early Christmas decorations). But I will make an exception when it comes to Sufjan Stevens’ new Christmas offering, Silver & Gold.”

If that’s not enough of an endorsement for you, I don’t know what else to say.

August Burns Red “Sleddin Hill; A Holiday Album” Now, I understand that many of you might like a little more testosterone around the holidays. Being a semi-metal-head myself, I know I have. In the past I’ve mostly found awesome one-song pieces of genius like Becoming the Archetype’s “O Holy Night.” This year another one of my favorite metal acts, August Burns Red, decided to save the day and put out a full album of Christmas music. So maybe this isn’t the most reverent or meditative Christmas album you’ll find this year, but with furiously festive renditions of classics like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Carol of the Bells” this album doesn’t disappoint Christmas-loving metal-heads.

The point is, whether you celebrate in a hipster key, or a metal one, or maybe just some old-fashioned melodies, be sure to include some Christmas music in your life this year–it just might save your Christmas.

Soli Deo Gloria

Assurance in Ascension (Or, Why You Should Be Happy Jesus is in Heaven)

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I gave any real thought to the doctrine of Christ’s bodily ascension–the fact that after his resurrection Jesus took up a place of honor and power at the right hand of the Father in heaven. It’s not something that gets a lot of attention in contemporary preaching or in publishing, but it’s all over the NT (Luke 24; Acts 1:10-11; John 16:7; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:21-22; Col. 3:1-4; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet 3:22, etc.). What’s more, it’s a central doctrine of the Christian faith–so much so that it gets a line in the creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

This absence is a shame because, in fact, it’s something that we’re told to consider often.

Paul instructs the believers in Colossae to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). The command is not a one-time thing because the word “set” or “seek” is in the present, active imperative indicating continuous action–basically he’s saying we should be doing this all the time. Paul wants us constantly considering the reality of Christ’s life at the right hand of the Father. Why? Because through our union with Christ, what is true of him has become true of us. If Christ is risen and ascended, then we are risen and ascended with him. (Eph. 2:4-7)  If we don’t understand this, we’ll miss out on some of the deep assurance that comes from the truth of the Gospel.

While there is far too much to say about Christ’s ascension and current rulership of the universe, the Heidelberg Catechism helpfully gives us 3 benefits of Christ’s ascension to consider:

First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; (1 John 2:1; Rom.8:34.)

Secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; (John 14:2; John 17:24; John 20:17; Eph.2:6)

Thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, (John 14:16,7; Acts 2:1-4,33; 2 Cor.1:22; 2 Cor.5:5.) by whose power we “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.” (Col.3:1; Phil.3:14)

Christ is now in heaven as our advocate, interceding for us, lifting up prayers, presenting himself as evidence, as it were, of his accomplished work on our behalf.  There’s no need to doubt that our salvation is securely accomplished with Christ, seated after passing through heavens (Heb 4:14; 8:1). Also, since he is there and we are connected to him, we can be assured that one day we too will be seated with him, experiencing the fullness of God’s presence, ruling and reigning as God always intended us to be. He’s there “preparing a place” with the Father for us (John 14:3).  Finally, Christ has not left us alone, but has given us his Spirit as an “earnest”, a down-payment of the glory to come. And not only that, but as the catechism points out, he himself is the one who helps us to keep our eyes set on the reality of Christ’s ascended life.

Take some time this week to look up those verses; consider Christ, who is your life, risen and ascended (Col. 3:1-4). When you start to do that, all the petty things, the little things, the “earthly things” that Paul talks about, will start to take on their proper dimensions as your security in him is strengthened and your love for him grows.

Praise the living and Ascended one, our life and our assurance.

Soli Deo Gloria

Are You a Dualist? Is that Bad? Just ask N.T. Wright

I was a sophomore in college when I found out that there was more than one kind of dualism. I was sitting in my class on St. Augustine (it was my medieval philosophy class) when a fellow classmate brought up the issue of dualism and how interesting it was given that nobody believed it. I piped up and said, “Oh, yeah, I’m a dualist.”

Looking at me with surprise, “Oh really? I’ve never met one. That’s odd.”

I didn’t think it odd at all: “Well, I am a Christian so it’s not that weird.”

“Really? I thought the two were kinda not compatible.”

At this point I was truly confused. Turns out we both were.  See, I had been talking about mind-body dualism and he was referring to theological dualism a la Zoroastrianism where you have a good god and a bad god facing off. At that point I started to realize that the subject of dualism was far more complicated than I thought. In fact, I didn’t realize how complicated it was until I read N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God (NTPG)In that work he lists 9-10 different kinds of dualism that you could speak of when discussing the views of 1st Century Pagans and Jews.

I was reminded of this little discussion when reading this article by Wright on anthropology, or the theology of humanity, in the Apostle Paul’s thought. In it, he offers this helpful summary of his own discussion in NTPG.

So let’s run through these types of dualism or duality, beginning with four types that would be comfortably at home within ancient Jewish thought:

  1. a heavenly duality: not only God exists, but also angels and perhaps other heavenly beings;
  2. a theological or cosmological duality between God and the world, the creator and the creature;
  3. a moral duality between good and evil;
  4. an eschatological duality between the present age and the age to come.

All of these dualities a first-century Jew would take for granted. But none of them constitutes a dualism in any of the following three senses:

  1. a theological or moral dualism in which a good god or gods are ranged, equal and opposite, against a bad god or gods;
  2. a cosmological dualism, a la Plato, in which the world of space, time and matter is radically inferior to the noumenal world; this would include, perhaps, dualisms of form and matter, essence and appearance, spiritual and material, and (in a Platonic sense) heavenly/earthly (something like this would be characteristic of Philo);
  3. an anthropological dualism which postulates a radical twofoldness of soul and body or spirit and body (this, too, would be familiar in Philo).

Then there are three more which might be possible within ancient Judaism:

  1. epistemological duality as between reason and revelation – though this may be problematic, since it’s really the epistemological face of the cosmological dualism which I suggest ancient Jews would mostly reject;
  2. sectarian duality in which the sons of light are ranged against the sons of darkness, as in Qumran;
  3. psychological duality in which the good inclination and the evil inclination seem to be locked in perpetual struggle, as in Rabbinic thought.

It’s important to know about these different sorts dualisms in order to keep a clear theological head on your shoulders wading into these discussions–which I know you do everyday. But seriously, for Christians wanting to understand reality out of a properly Christian worldview, or theological framework, we have to keep in mind what Wright underlines here:

The radical rejection by most ancient Jews, in particular, of what we find in Plato and in much oriental religion, and the radical embrace of space, time and matter as the good gifts of a good creator God, the place where this God is known and the means by which he is to be worshipped – all this remains foundational, and is firmly restated and underlined in the New Testament. Creational, providential and covenantal monotheism simply leave no room for those four dualisms in the middle. In particular, I argued that such dualisms tend to ontologize evil itself, whereas in first-century Judaism evil is not an essential part of the creation, but is the result of a radical distortion within a basically good created order.

While we might not all agree with his judgments on Plato’s dualisms or body and soul, it’s important to keep distinct the things that ought to be distinct (God/creation, good/evil, present age/age to come, etc.) while avoiding tearing apart those things that should be kept together. That basic creational framework of a good God who creates a good world that gets distorted by sin is the backdrop of God’s redemption of all things in Christ. This is what the ancient gnostics missed when they created a Jesus who was simply a redeemer who saved people’s souls from their bodies–in which case, who cares what you do with your body? This is what is absent in pantheistic theologies that drag God into the world, who end up giving us a “compassionate” God that, in the end, is just as trapped in the world’s agony as we are, instead of being the distinct, but sovereign redeemer who can fix it. This is what modern Evangelicals sometimes miss with their tendency for evacuating from the world, despising creation, and simply waiting for Jesus to come back and rapture them out of their nicely air-conditioned churches they hide in most of the week.

God freely created the world distinct from himself, he loves it–he’s going to save it. He wants his people out in the world, in it, but not of it, proclaiming that good news, and working for it out in the world.

The bottom-line is: if you don’t keep your dualisms straight, you might lose the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria

Really Quick-Blog #7: Post-Election Blues and Celebrations

Welp, Obama won. Depending on which one of my friends and family you ask, this was either a catastrophe or a brilliant victory. I have my leanings in one direction, but that’s neither here nor there. Last night, as the results were pouring in, I had a bit of realization. I was on facebook, of course, and I was seeing both the dismay or the jubilation on full display in updates of varying maturity and I decided to start a post.

It was a post I still believe in, one telling people that no matter who won, the call was still the same, to pray for him and show him honor. (1 Tim 2:1-2) It was basically a rehash of one point in my post on what people should be doing on election day. It was at that point though, that a wonderful loved one, who shall remain nameless, called me out on my crap. See, in my haste to recover from my youthful, political semi-idolatry and my pastoral instinct to call people back to trust in Christ no matter what circumstance, I had forgotten some things: people are human and elections do matter.

What do I mean by that? I mean, people are human. They have human reactions like fear, joy, heartache, delight, hope, and dismay. These emotions are okay to have in measure. Yes, Jesus is still king, on the throne, ruling, reigning, and bringing all things to a glorious end, and yes, I believe that this election was part of his sovereign lordship of history. Still, some are legitimately sad, worried, and frustrated because of convictions about life, religious freedom, and economic decisions that will affect the jobs of people they know and love. And, yes, some are legitimately happy because of convictions in largely the same areas in the opposite direction. This isn’t to say they’re equally right. They’re not. Truth isn’t like that.

Still, it is to say that while eternal realities are to be our ground, our hope, our life, it’s okay to have reactions to human, historical ones–Jesus did too. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He was angered at the money-changers in the Temple. He was delighted by children. He was joyful at the faith of the Centurion. These were human, historical realities, none of which was a surprise to the sovereign God, but at which Jesus rejoiced and grieved.

Where am I going with this? Well, first, I’m saying that last night I was very close to being a sanctimonious ass (in the donkey sense). Me posting what I was going to would have been just a dumb, insensitive, holier-than-thou move. (Not saying anything about other posts of the same vein. Just mine.) I am also saying that it’s okay to grieve for a bit. It’s okay to celebrate too. It’s human and history does matter.

If I may still speak something into the situation, I would just encourage you to consider how you do those things.

To the jubilant, the rejoicing, those who believe that Obama is the right man for the job, and that his economic, moral, and social policies (or at least some of them), are what this country needs right now, it’s okay to be happy, but be careful who you boast in and how you boast.

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24)

Again, all righteousness, truth, justice that you think this President will usher in, the ultimate source is the LORD. Thank him, and don’t rub it in the face of those who’ve lost.

To the broken, the anxious, the grieving, those who believe that Romney would have been better, and that his economic, moral, and social policies (or at least some of them), are what this country needs right now, it’s okay to grieve, but I would remind you that in all the situations in which Christians should rightly grieve, Paul tells us that you don’t have to “grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thes 4:13)  In the context, Paul is talking about the death of loved ones and resurrection, but for the God who is sovereign over death, nothing is too small, not even American history. You can trust and hope in him.

Well, hopefully I managed to get that out with a minimum of sanctimoniousness. If I didn’t, well, this blog is Reformedish–He’s still working on me.

Soli Deo Gloria

Ps. If you are looking to pray for the President, Kevin DeYoung has written out a simple, faithful prayer as a model to use.

4 Sources of Wisdom (Or, How to Stop Being a Moron)

Proverbs was one of my favorite books in the OT as a teenager because it was just straight advice. Advice is a good thing when you’re a moron high schooler. I mean, I didn’t understand half of it, but the verses were short and it felt easier to read. When I hit college and went through my bitter realist phase (which I may or may not still be in) Ecclesiastes and Job jumped up the list. The reality that life doesn’t work out cleanly, that bitterness has corrupted our work and our play “under the sun”, and that our only hope is in Christ really resonated. It still does.

Still, now that I’ve got my own ministry working with college kids I find myself returning to the Proverbs. One of the things I’ve realized about my job is that I’m not just here to preach the Gospel. I mean, that’s my main job, but part of loving and discipling college students is teaching them some of basics of being an adult. Apparently, I’m supposed to teach them wisdom–the practical knowledge of living in God’s world. Go figure.

Since I’m still somewhat of a youngster myself, the Proverbs have been a blessing to me. In many ways it’s a biblical short-cut on the road to not being a moron.

As I started doing some more in-depth study, I picked up Tremper Longman III’s commentary on Proverbs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series. (Book nerd note: it’s excellent, readable, preachable, and scholarly.) In it, he notes that not only do the proverbs teach us specific bits of wisdom and practical advice like, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1), a key tidbit to remember in the blogging world, but also teaches the way to gain wisdom.

Longman specifically notes four sources of wisdom in Proverbs–where morons ought to look to become wise:

1. Observation and Experience. This should be obvious, but wise people are those who pay attention to life and reflect on the meaning of their experiences. In 6:6-11, the teacher tells the student to go look at the ant, observe his ways, and learn diligence. Wise people stop and think about which of their behaviors work and which don’t. They consider the actions of others, the way the world, history and draw lessons from it. This is why typically older people have more wisdom. Longman points out that in the Proverbs it is always the father or the mother instructing the son and never the other way around. (pg. 75) This not a universal truth–I’ve met some old fools–but it is a general one, that you will grow wiser as you grow older because you’ve experienced more. So, if you’re young and wanting to gain wisdom, listen to older people who’ve gone before and learn from their experiences. It’s the first step to not being a moron.

2. Instruction Based on Tradition. This last point is the essence of the next source of wisdom: tradition. In this passage, a father tells his son to cling to the instruction that was taught to him by his father, which apparently has served him well in his own life:

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.”
(4:1-5)

See, tradition is not just dead, trite ritualism. Over the years accumulated observations about successful and failed strategies for living, truths of human nature, and relationships end up becoming “tradition” that we can learn from. To some degree we know this instinctively. When we want to learn a new skill or a trade, we apprentice ourselves to someone who knows it–an expert that’s been doing it long enough to know the ins and outs of the business. Living well is also a skill, a practice that people have been working at for a long time, and the wise take advantage of the wisdom of their elders. That’s another great way to not be a moron.

3. Learning from Mistakes. Connected to the last two is the idea of learning from one’s mistakes. A great amount learning from experience and heeding the wisdom of the tradition has to do with finding out what doesn’t work. The sages know that you’re gonna screw things up as you go. That’s why two common words you’ll find in the Proverbs are “discipline” and “correction.”

“Those who love discipline love knowledge; and those who hate correction are dullards.” (12:1)

“Those who guard discipline are on the way to life, and those who abandon correction wander aimlessly.” (10:17)

The idea is that the wise are those who receive correction, learn from their mistakes, and do not reject the counsel of those who are trying to return them to the way from which they’ve strayed. This is why pride is so foolish; the proud never learn from their mistakes that eventually lead to their destruction. (Prov. 16:18) On the contrary, the wise humble themselves to the point of loving correction because it leads to wisdom. (Prov. 9:8) The bottom line is that a significant part of learning from experience and from tradition is figuring out what didn’t work and avoiding it. Only morons don’t learn from their mistakes.

4. Revelation. Longman notes that while these three sources–experience, tradition, mistakes–are key for gaining wisdom, nothing is more foundational than revelation, for “at the heart of wisdom is God himself.” (pg. 78) This is clear from the very beginning:

“The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (1:7)

How can you know how to live properly in the world, if you don’t know the character of the one who made it? Indeed, it’s not simply that God is an important feature of reality that one must account for in order to be wise. The Lord is the source of wisdom:

For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
(2:6-8)

Ultimately God is the one who teaches you through experience, tradition, and correction. Whatever you learn, you learn because of him. This is why, according to Proverbs, the way to gain wisdom, and yes, stop being a moron, is to humble yourself before the creator of the universe and ask him for it.

Wisdom in Christ

Finally, for the Christian the ultimate source of wisdom is Christ himself “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3) If we want to see the fullness of human life, to know what a truly wise life, a life lived in sync with the rhythm with which God created all things, then we must look to Christ. He is not simply wise, but wisdom from God himself, incarnate for us. (1 Cor. 1:30) Jesus is God’s gracious wisdom come to us–to help us stop being morons.

Soli Deo Gloria

Quick-Blog #6 – Some Things to Do on Election Day

Aside from some silly, live, Facebook commentary on the debates, I haven’t spoken much about the election this year. I had a few reasons for this:

  1. My job makes it so that people automatically connect my personal judgments with an endorsement by my church and I don’t want to do that. I am sick to death of people conflating the Gospel with some particular political program. If I hear one more pastor, or church perverting the good news by making it about some lordship other than Christ’s, I’m going to snap.
  2. I am a recovering political junkie, so I decided to take this election off.  (I am still voting, though. More on that below.)
  3. Let’s be honest, I’m too busy otherwise.

Still, I figured it’d be appropriate to very quickly jot down some things you might try this Tuesday:

1. Calm down and remember that no matter who wins, Christ remains Lord.

Seriously, this is not some cheesy “Oh, God is still in control” shtick that doesn’t acknowledge the real, political implications of these elections. I get it, there are serious issues at stake. Still, at the heart of the Gospel is the acknowledgement that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”(Rom 1:4) This is what you confess in order to be saved: that Christ is the risen Lord. (Rom 10:9) The good news is that he is risen and reigning over all things in heaven and on earth, even now, no matter who wins. Michael Horton reminds us that, “United to Christ, we should be the most responsible and the least fearful people at the polls on November 6, 2012, because our King already achieved his landslide victory in Jerusalem during Passover, AD 33.” So, no matter who wins on Tuesday, keep your head, Christ is Lord.

2. Pray for your leaders like the Bible tells you to.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Paul instructs Timothy to makes sure the congregation at Ephesus was praying for “kings and all who are in high positions.” If you’re going to claim to take the Bible seriously, then pray for your leaders no matter who they are. Paul was writing this about the Roman Emperors, not godly, Christian kings, but pagans who were persecuting Christians. Peter similarly tells Christians to “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.“(1 Peter 2:17)  In the context of great persecution, Peter tells them to “honor the emperor.”

Instead of freaking out and bemoaning the election, or re-election, of “that guy”, pray for him. If you’re really interested in being a witness in our culture, lay off of the conspiracy-theory emails about a take-over of the country by “them”, whatever that group consists of in your mind, and pray that God would give wisdom, grace, and salvation to whomever comes into, or remains, in office. Remember, we are to lead a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”, not a panic-stricken and hysterical one.

3. Vote.

I’ve got a buddy who’s got some decent reasons for casting a blank ballot this Tuesday. I hear him and respect a position like his. Still, I do think that part of our responsibilities in being a good neighbor is voting for the common good, seeking the welfare of the city. (Jer. 29:7) We don’t do this to give our allegiance to the candidates because, in the end, our ultimate allegiance is to Christ alone, the living Lord of the universe. We do this in obedience to Christ, for the same reason we pay taxes, in order to live quiet, peaceable lives, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (1 Tim 2:2; Mark 12:17; Rom. 13:7)

4. Ask Forgiveness, Repent, and remember the Body of Christ.

Let’s be honest, too much of the American church has jacked up on this election. Far too many of us have been quick to tear apart the unity of the body of Christ for the sake of a political program. Christ made us one in himself. This was his prayer for us (John 17:21), and instead of living out that unity, we’ve been quick to vilify, reject, oppose, and refuse to recognize the Christian identity of those we disagree with politically. Echoing Paul, Brian Zahnd asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Obama crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Romney?” No. Christ is the only one who has done these things. He is the hope of the world. He is the light in the darkness. His kingdom is the one that will never fail and has no end. His reign is the reality on which our lives depend. His life is the one that draws us together, in himself, and made us citizens of a better country. (Heb. 11:16)

So, after you vote, or before, or maybe even today, take some time consider this truth. Stop, ask yourself if, in the heat of the election, you’ve forgotten that, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:4-6)

If so, you need to stop, repent, and ask forgiveness. Remember that in Christ you all are one, no matter how you vote–so ACT LIKE IT. Love each other. Treat each other with respect. You know–act like you believe the Gospel.

Bottom-line is this: don’t forget the Gospel this Tuesday.

Soli Deo Gloria