Friday, March 11, 2016

Christians Must Have the Courage to Lose this Election (if Necessary)

This election year has put Christian souls in more danger than just about any other I remember. The desperation to have the winning candidate for President, which people assume will save the country and turn things in the right direction, is all-consuming. I am stunned at how many Christians are saying things like: “It doesn’t matter who the Republican nominee is; we have to beat Hillary no matter what. No matter how bad Trump is, we can’t afford to lose.” Or there’s this: “I can’t stand Trump, but it looks like he’s going to be the nominee, so we have to join up and support him. Otherwise we might not win the election.” The same echoes can be heard on the Democrat side too. It seems that no matter how outrageous or shameful some candidates become, there is actually no point at which we’ll stop supporting them, as long as we think they will win.

Nobody likes to lose. When you feel like you are losing a fight for something important, the temptation to do whatever it takes to turn the tide and win the fight is powerful. It creates a desperation that clouds your judgment, making you too distracted to think about other consequences, even to your soul. Questions like “Am I honoring God by acting this way?” and “Can I really approve of that and call myself a Christian?” give way to “How do we get those final votes so we have enough?” We see things in our country at risk, and instead of trusting God, we go running to try to “save” the situation.

This is exactly what destroyed Saul as the first king of Israel. He was the Lord’s Anointed, handpicked by God to be king. He had God’s support in battle and in leadership. God’s prophet Samuel was supporting him, and had promised to come and offer sacrifices to God for Saul. But Samuel didn’t appear. Saul was nervous he was going to lose his protection in the coming battle unless he did something now. So he did not wait for Samuel, but dishonored God by offering up sacrifices without regarding God’s commands about worship:
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:8-14
Instead of gaining the advantage he wanted, Saul brought the opposite upon himself: God rejected him as king and took his favor away from Saul because of Saul’s irreverence and compromise. Because Saul stopped listening to God in response to events that made him afraid, God ceased to hear Saul. That is far more terrifying and heartbreaking than losing any battle or election.

No matter how saddened or shocked you are by the changes in our country, you must see an election as a small thing compared with your relationship with God. God is not in peril. He is not shaken or reeling from events in our nation. The purpose of the Lord stands firm, and He cannot be moved. But we can be foolish enough to move away from Him in our anxiety to make things the way we think they ought to be. So many Christians right now seem to be completely consumed by the idea that this nation must look a certain way, no matter who we give power to in order to get us there. They are ready to stand publicly and approve and praise politicians who dishonor God and swim in immorality as long as they’ll vote the right way on some major issues. But one of the basic qualities of a true Christian is being willing to lose rather than risk dishonoring God. There is actually a time to say, “I can’t join in this and still be completely faithful to the Word of God.” What really proves you’re a Christian is that you’re willing to stand firmly beside God even if it means you lose the world.

Do you have the integrity to choose to vote for a candidate who acts rightly and shows respect for what is good, even if he can’t win? Is the name of Christ important enough to you that you will refuse to publicly support or defend a candidate who says and does things offensive to God, even if it means you don’t get to be part of the winning team? Do you have the courage to stay true to God even if it means you have no influence at a convention? If you decide you have to vote for “the lesser of two evils,” will you have the courage to cast your vote in private but refuse to call the “lesser evil” good, or try to make excuses for it? Or will you do whatever it takes to win, because this election is just too important?

Nothing other than Christ can be “too important to lose.” Every time you are forced to choose, the answer must be the same: Christ or nothing. If I have anything else in addition to Christ, it can only be mine if it doesn’t diminish my whole-hearted devotion to Christ. Your citizenship must always submit to your Christian faith. Your political platform must always give way before your Christian faith. A person who sacrifices his grip on Christ in order to avoid losing hold of a culture or a country or a majority has cut off his own legs. He has sawn off the tree limb he was sitting on, and without the trunk it will not matter one bit that he has a firm grip on the limb when he hits the ground.

The Lord disdains and rejects those who try to proclaim allegiance to Him and at the same time put limits on their obedience in order to make peace with other gods or with men. (Zeph. 1:4-5; 2 Kings 17:41; Mark 7:6-13; Rev. 2:12-16). When you let go of Christ in order to grab hold of something floating away from you, you have just lost hold of the only life preserver in the middle of a raging ocean, all so you can save your wallet or car keys. Imagine how well your wallet will hold your head above water as you cling to it. No matter how precious or important a thing may be, it is never necessary or vital enough to be worth losing hold of Christ. Christ will bear you up even if you lose everything. Nothing else will.

The only way to honor God is to show that He is so precious to us that we won’t trade any part of our relationship with Him for any political advantage. If the expectation for our participation in a successful campaign is that we laugh off what is sinful or make excuses for what is cruel or dishonest, Christians cannot agree to participate. If people looking at what we support cannot recognize the character of Jesus Christ in it, we are in the wrong place. We can compromise political platforms and positions on legislation or policy in order to bring people together and make progress. But we will not compromise faithfulness to God.

What will that prove? If we lose, doesn't that make us irrelevant, and thus make what we stood for in Christ irrelevant too? No, because it is the fact that we remain faithful to Him that God judges and accepts. Success, if it comes, is a gift of God, not something we offer up to God to prove our value. And to the world, when we show that we would rather lose than compromise our love for Christ even once, we show we can't be bought or bargained away from what we believe. Further, we prove Christ's worth. Christ must be so precious to us that when others don’t take Him too seriously, we insist upon doing so. Lord, grant us the courage to be outsiders if that’s what is needed to remain true to you.

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