Categories
Commentary

Why I’m Politically Homeless

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

America who are you?
Am I asking for too much
America who are you?
Has your dream become out of touch
America who are you?
Do you get what you deserve
Between the violence and entitlements
Which nation do you serve?

These lyrics from the song “Looking for America” by Switchfoot and Lecrae encapsulate the feelings of many young Christians in America. We’ve felt this for a while. But murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests, riots, tensions, politicizing in DC, and media mess have brought it to the forefront.

We are looking for America. The idea of America, where all people truly are equal and free. Not just white ones. Where all people–particularly black people–have the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

And while many of us were raised to find it in one of the two political parties, we haven’t found it yet. We’re politically homeless. And sometimes, it feels like we are “asking for too much.”

It’s not just young Christians who feel this way, of course. A couple years ago, Tim Keller (an old, white pastor for those who don’t know) wrote in the New York Times that all Christians do not (or should not) fit into a two-party political system.

He exposes the problem of “package deal ethics,” as British ethicist James Mumford calls it. This means that a party says you can’t work with them if you don’t adopt all of their positions. So, it puts pressure on Christians to join one party or the other. And it prevents Christians from doing what is right in the name of politics. Like work to bring racial justice to our nation.

I’ve used another term for this problem in my conversations with friends: guilty by association. We think if we associate with anyone on one issue, we are guilty of siding with them on every other issue.

But that’s a lie from the pit of hell.

Keller gives a helpful example, “Following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”

Do you feel that tension?

I do. If I agree with a perspective or policy advocated by a Democrat, many Christians would (wrongly) assume I am “adopting the whole package.” And essentially forsaking the gospel itself!

That’s quite an oversimplification. And Justin Giboney recently tweeted something that shatters this fallacy to pieces: “Being conservative or progressive on every single issue is intellectually lazy & unfaithful…Make conservatism sympathize & pursue racial justice. Make progressivism acknowledge absolute truth & the sanctity of life.”

As ones who believe that Jesus is all and over all, and that our allegiance to him is infinitely more important than political affiliation, we should be leading the way. This should make the most sense to us. Our political convictions and ideas should be the most robust and nuanced. And it should cause both sides of the aisle find us attractive or repulsive at different moments.

This will leave us politically homeless. But this is the way of Jesus.

Categories
Theology

Who Is This King?

Brandon Levering, looking to the Sermon on the Mount, gives an answer:

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is portrayed to us as a new Moses, who comes out of the wilderness and ascends the mountain (5:1-2) to give God’s instruction. Jesus came not to relax or remove the Law, but to fulfill it (5:17-20).

And yet, Jesus is more than a new Moses, for he speaks with the authority of God himself (cf. 7:28-29). He is no mere prophet shouting, “Thus says the Lord.” Rather, Jesus says, “You have heard it said before…but I say to you” (e.g. 5:21-22). Throughout the sermon Jesus speaks on direct behalf of his Father in heaven (e.g. 5:45-48; 6:1-18; 7:7-10). He speaks as the divine law-giver and judge (7:21-23). And he speaks as the one in whose words we find wisdom and life (7:24-27).

Jesus is the King who speaks as God. Which means that there can be no real adherence to the Sermon on the Mount without first recognizing and humbly submitting to the authority of Jesus.

Read the whole thing.

Categories
Theology

Thoughts on Jesus’ Coming, the Rapture, and Vultures

I don’t like arguing or debating eschatology.  I think it is a colossal waste of time.  I take a huge risk in even posting this, but it’s about Jesus and the Bible, so I think I’m okay.

In Luke 17, Jesus gives one of his many messages about the kingdom being “already” and “not yet.”  In verses 20-21, he says that the kingdom “is not coming with signs to be observed” (v. 20b).  Then he says “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (v. 21b).  The first thing Jesus says is interesting.  It’s something that Christians who think they can predict Jesus’ return because of earthquakes, hurricanes, and wars should at least take note of.  The second thing Jesus says means, “I’m here.  The kingdom is about me.  You are looking at the kingdom.”

The confusing part comes in verses 22-37.  It would seem fair to me to say that Jesus is talking about his Second Coming.  Anyone who stops by this blog often knows that I don’t believe in any kind of a pre- or mid-tribulation rapture.  Each time Jesus talks about “the coming of the kingdom” in the Gospels, it’s plain that he’s talking about the Day of his coming when he’ll set up his eternal kingdom after the judgment.

For those of you who don’t know what the rapture is, here’s a rundown:

It is a secret coming of Jesus before, during, or after the great tribulation (which could be a literal 7 year period or not) in which he takes believers up to heaven (“raptures”) with him prior to his Second Coming.  Scriptures used to support this view include Matthew 24:41-42, Luke 17:34-35, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

The part I have a problem believing is that the verses that are used to describe this “secret coming” are all in the context of Jesus’ self-described Second Coming.  Let’s just focus on the Luke 17 passage for time and space’s sake.  In verses 34-35, Jesus says, “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed.  One will be taken and the other left.  There will be two women grinding [at the mill] together.  One will be taken and the other left.”  If you have read the popular Left Behind book series, you can picture this.  Two people are standing together.  One disappears and is apparently with Jesus, and the other stands there dumbfounded.  Verses 34-35 in Luke 17 comes after 12 other verses describing the day of the Son of Man (v. 24).  This appearing will not be private.  Actually, it is going to be quite alarming.  It’s going to be quite public.  It’s going to be loud and frightening (if you aren’t on Jesus’ team).  There will not be anyone on earth who doesn’t know what’s going on.  Jesus gives us plenty of evidence as to why this is the case.

The first is that Jesus says, “As the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (v. 24).  That seems very prolific to me.  It seems that everyone would notice a lightning flash that covers the sky.

Secondly, Jesus describes this day as the day when the rains came when Noah built the ark (vv. 26-27).  Everyone was “eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage” (v. 27).  These weren’t sins.  Jesus simply says, “It’s going to be a normal day — like today — when I return.”  Further, the fact that rain covered the earth is something to pay attention to.  People died because of it.  They knew what was going on.

Thirdly, Jesus compares his day to the day when Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt to a crisp (vv. 28-32).  Everything was status quo in Sodom, Jesus says.  People did their daily activities.  Then, “fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all” (v. 29b).  That was an event that was seen from miles and miles away.  The people in the city knew very well what was happening.

Finally, Jesus gives a very bizarre answer to a seemingly appropriate question from the disciples.  They asked, “Where, Lord?”  They wanted to know where all of this was going to take place.  Jesus said, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (v. 37).  If you are like me, you probably have no idea what that means.  But after consulting some commentaries, the meaning became clear.  Instead of over-spiritualizing this answer from Jesus, let’s take it at face value.  When vultures swirl in the air over a dead corpse, you can often see them from a long way off.  Think of any Westerns you’ve watched recently that have had this scene.  There’s a dead cow or horse or person in the desert.  The vultures gather over it, squawking at each other to decide who will dive in first.  It’s pretty public.  They don’t make any apologies.  They aren’t trying to be sneaky.  So Jesus says of his coming — that day when one will be taken and one will be left, “It’s going to be plain to everyone where this is happening.  Everyone’s going to be able to see it.  Don’t worry about missing it.  It’ll be impossible to miss, because on that day, I’ll be on center stage.”

More than anything, this passage awakens and stirs a desire in me for Jesus to return.  O, what a glorious day that will be when our Lord and Savior ushers in the kingdom in a way that is eternal and complete.  The kingdom of God is in our midst, yes, but it is not in our midst totally and finally.  That day is coming soon.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

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