Psalm 118:8-9—It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lordthan to trust in nobles.
My first and most important premise is this: Everything belongs to God. Psalm 89:11 says, “The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours. The world and everything in it—You founded them.” In Scripture, ownership reveals authority. By owning the earth, as God’s subjects we are obligated to approach everything in submission to His will. This is why the passage of meditation is so insightful. We should take our refuge always in the Owner of everything before trusting fellow participants!
When Satan enticed Adam and Eve to sin, he gained temporary authority over the earth as evidenced by his offer to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him (Matthew 4:9). Therefore, my second premise is that what is corrupted and all that goes with Satan is in direct opposition to God. “For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:26).
My third premise is that “The Lord has prepared everything for His purpose—even the wicked for the day of disaster” (Pro. 16:4). In Matthew 13:41-42, Jesus reveals “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” God’s purposes for mankind will prevail and part of His plan will be an ultimate judgment upon those who are wicked and salvation for those who are redeemed through Christ.
My fourth premise is that God’s intent to redeem mankind was accomplished through Jesus. He delegated His authority to His Son. “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God” (John 13:3). All that Scripture prophesied about Jesus came true. “Then He took the Twelve aside and told them, “Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31). The disciples attested to the fact that Jesus was from God. “Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God” (John 16:30). By example, everything Jesus did was for our benefit. “They were extremely astonished and said, “He has done everything well! He even makes deaf people hear, and people unable to speak, talk!” (Mark 7:37).
We know from the New Testament that Jesus lived a perfect and holy life which gave Him the right to sacrificially die for our sins. Premise five is that all who trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord must be willing to lay aside everything so as to faithfully follow Him. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field” (Mat. 13:44). “Peter began to tell Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You” (Mark 10:28).
Premise six is that Jesus taught His followers everything He heard from His Father with the expectation of obedience. This was established by Moses centuries before the Messiah was even born! “Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He will say to you” (Acts 3:22). “ . . . I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father” (John 15:15). With that knowledge came very specific and prominent commands: I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34,35)
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Mat. 28:19,20)
We too are reminded of Jesus’ teaching through the Holy Spirit. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).
Premise seven is that through God we have everything we need to live life to its fullest on this earth:
By knowing and applying what God gives us we are equipped to tackle the most complex and controversial issues.
Therefore, given these seven premises, how as believers ought we approach the issue of politics? Bruxy Cavey wrote in The End Of Religion, “Whenever the church goes into bed with political powers, the church becomes the state’s whore.” That statement ought to grab our attention and rouse thinking. When I think about politics four points come to mind:
First, we must stop boasting in human leaders. This very practice sets up divisions, is earthly-minded and tied to worldly systems. I believe it is unwise to (label) ourselves Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists, etc. By doing so we make ourselves subservient to their systems and ideology. This does not mean we should not vote. Voting is a time-honored, recognized procedure our authorities have established and we are responsible citizens to vote wisely.
Jesus never identified Himself with a party (Sadducee, Pharisee, Zealot) nor did His followers. Today, the exception to this is those who feel spiritually called to enter into the political realm for the purpose of holding an office. In this case, unless elected as an independent, it is impossible not to be aligned with a party. However, the believer should foremost identify as a follower of Christ and not make prominent political affiliation—especially when such labels generate divisiveness (See 1 Corinthians 3:18-32). By putting politics first, we significantly risk turning people off from hearing about Christ.
Second, stop arguing. Arguing, grumbling and belittling those of opposing views does not honor God. Again, this is differentiated from debate. Debating is the process of discussing opposing viewpoints. Keeping the debate to the subject is of worth. Slandering and making accusations against the person holding views takes one down a pernicious path that creates resentment and causes harm. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day for their blatant hypocrisy. Their words did not match their actions. He called out what was wrong. But this did not stop Him from loving them and from associating with them. He did not demean people. Our nation has cremated civil discussion. Politeness is devoured by an obsession to be right that refuses to spare the dignity of the other speaker. Few seem to listen to understand but rather listen to respond. (See Philippians 2:13-15)
Third, beware of misusing words that have high-meaning. For example, if a person speaks or stands up against another politician today of whom we also are opposed, there is a tendency to applaud that person as one of character orintegrity. We should be reminded that character and integrity are earned by a tested and authentic reputation, setting a noble example, and living out traits like considerateness, courageousness, faithfulness, flexibleness, humbleness, loyalty, etc. If the person’s words attack another, infuse inflamed rhetoric, and arouse anger, yet are applauded for character, the very principle is devalued. I suspect this is why respect seems to be a lost concept because too many Christians have succumbed to the worldly philosophy that “I’m right so it doesn’t matter if I’m loud or obnoxious.” Network newscasts that shout out their opinions are not our model to emulate.
Fourth, use discernment before communicating. How many times do believers get angry by something read on social media or heard from a broadcast and react quickly with visceral words that serve only to stir up more anger or controversy? If Christ has enriched us in speech, knowledge and understanding it ought to be reflected as much in what we don’t communicate as by what we do communicate. Question any post that attacks the messenger or crudely disdains or distorts the message. We also know that it is immature and disingenuous to criticize, take out of context, or find fault with every action or word of those we oppose. Politics are so partisan that no parties seem able to recognize or admit anything good of their opponent. Considerateness is replaced by the practice of “piling on.” We know it is wrong if Jesus would not do it (premise four).
Let us now move on to a second topic, racism and prejudice. Racism is defined as:
a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others; a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
Prejudice is defined as: any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable; unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.
With the seven premises as our foundation, how as believers ought we to approach this incendiary issue? Nik Ripken wrote in The Insanity of Obedience, “The greatest hindrance to the growth of God’s kingdom globally is racism.” I remember as an Army Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) my first Battalion Commander was LTC Lowrey. He had previously served as a history professor at West Point. He recommended me for selection to be the Assistant Division Commander for Operations’ Aide de Camp. That assignment was life-changing and was a catalyst in me becoming a general officer. LTC Lowrey was a splendid commander. Unfortunately, he was relieved of command by a Brigade Commander ironically named COL White. It was a blatant act of racism. Later LTC Lowrey was exonerated but the damage was done and it ended his promising career. That was my first blatant experience with racism. As with politics, four principles come to mind with respect to racism/prejudice.
First, Christians should be clothed with empathy (understanding—premise seven). True empathy honors the feelings, attitudes and thoughts of another. My good friend, Mike, (caucasian), illustrated empathy when he wrote:
MLK’s and many others, peaceful work and leadership brought about sweeping legal changes in our Nation, yet an unarmed, restrained, peaceful black man can be killed by a white policeman in public without any interference. If that officer had been killing a dog in the same way, passers by would have tackled him to save the dog.
Empathetic believers do not rationalize, make excuses, or attempt to shift the blame—they own the problem. This means solidarity in decrying wrong behavior. Confession for standing by instead of for standing up. It also means not accusing a person of not understanding simply because they are not of the same race. If we don’t know a person’s upbringing, cultural exposure or education we should not stereotype that person as clueless. Empathy demands discussion, consists of prayer and thrives on love. It gives up rights to do what is right. “If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more? However, we have not made use of this right; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Co 9:12).
Second, prejudice is a deeply complex issue because of the number of factors which influence it: culture, personal experience, education, and trauma just to name a few. Therefore, it seems that we must do better as whites and blacks at coming together to create an even more effective strategy than trumpeting slogans. Permit me to address two contemporary slogans: white privilege and black lives matter.
The challenge as a white person when I’m confronted with the phrase “white privilege” is that it labels me because of my colorless pigment with no solution proffered and with intent that could be perceived as guilt-inducing. This is ironic because in itself this is a subtle form of racism. Jews throughout the world could easily cry “Gentile privilege.” Aborigines and native cultures justifiably may chant “Invader privilege.” Yes, white privilege is real and prevalent but I care about eliminating racism and I grew up overseas as a child where I was the minority. So, I do know something about this issue. Instead of marching under signs decrying white privilege why couldn’t we march under a banner stating, “All God’s Children!” This does three things—it unites, it brings us into accountability before the Creator, and puts Him into the place of prominence (premise one). Racism/prejudice will never be solved politically because, this at its core, is a spiritual issue. Legislation cannot change peoples’ hearts, only Jesus the Redeemer can do that.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” elicits from those who find this constraining “All Lives Matter.” The former is offended that the latter “doesn’t get it!” while the latter is offended that the former “won’t get over it!” Both positions speak truth. Neither position is ultimately satisfactory. What is needed is what Paul wrote the Ephesians, “Everything exposed by the light is made clear” (Eph. 5:13). Shining light on prejudice reveals a much deeper sin than white treatment of black. The truth is that humans since Cain murdered Able have an evil strand of DNA called violence. Many theologians believe that God flooded the world and started over with Noah because of the extreme violence of every persuasion.
What is needed is not a phrase response but rather a phrase understanding that should respect and defer to what was first initiated. Understanding bridges healing—shrewd comebacks elicit frustration. Proverbs 28:5 states, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand everything.” Discrimination is evil. So long as there is evil in the world there will be bias and prejudice. What makes discrimination particularly difficult is the sustained generational tragedy that causes one race to bitterly feel there is no hope in ever achieving true equality. Again, this is exceptionally painful because until Jesus returns there will be no true equality. To hope for change is noble but under Satan’s strategy of divide and conquer no true peace will occur until the Prince of Peace reigns.
Third, violence is never an acceptable solution to injustice or antidote for pain. What made Martin Luther King so brilliant was his effective ability to spotlight injustice without giving his enemies opportunity to find fault in his character or actions. Stating his dream had far greater impact than those who fabricate nightmares. His assassination would cost far more American lives than the prior killing of President Kennedy. Paul noted, “‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is helpful. ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything builds up” (1 Co 10:23). Violence is unbeneficial and unedifying. It pours cement on the fractured thinking of bigots and racists. It propels them to waive acceptance and embrace discrimination.
It is the intolerance of absolutes that allows authorities to condone violence as acceptable expression and the eventual effect is the death of society. Rationalism demands to party with no thought to food poisoning. Lawlessness burns down the store of the hard-working, slave-descended grandmother because it is easier to selfishly loot than to thoughtfully love.
Fourth, reconciliation always is preceded by confession. I can apologize for my white descendents’ treatment of Blacks and Native Americans, but it is without knowledge of their beliefs or behavior. It is better to apologize for personal sins of commission or omission. Before the Lord, as far as I know, I am not a racist. But I don’t know what I don’t know. So, to my black brothers and sisters, I apologize if there was action I should have taken but failed to take or for being passive when I should have been active. I do feel your pain as much as that is possible and I do want to understand. If you know of an offense by me please share it so that I can personally make it right. I don’t see color when I see people, I see family. That is why I count many of you as my closest friends and why I love you and feel enriched by your lives: Bobby, Rob, Carl, Mike, Luther, Consuello, . . .
One of my greatest life experiences was singing with people representing 67 nationalities in a church in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was a foretaste of heaven! We, followers of Jesus can make a difference in improving our nation and denouncing prejudice by immersion in God’s everything! Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, pointed the way, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
©2020 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)