In our home, when there are disagreements, they always come down to values. (What? You thought pastor’s families didn’t have disagreements? Hah, welcome to the truth.)
I value order. One of my boys values order.
My husband does not. One of my boys does not.
Needless to say, sometimes the disorderly 2 in our home begin to take over. In any given moment if I value order over harmony and peace and you happen to be over—welcome to the fireworks show! I’m not saying anything new, really. James already said it himself—Why are there fights and quarrels among you? Because of YOUR desires that battle within you.
We tend to value what we desire. The tricky thing about values is that you can value one thing, I can value another, and neither of us is necessarily wrong. But humans often try to canonize their values. And sometimes that’s dead, dead wrong.
In fact the only, ONLY time it’s right is when we can attach scripture that speaks directly to that value. Then and only then is it divine because it’s source is God, not our personal desires.
So I live in a place where God and country are supremely held values. I live in a place where the words conservative, republican, and Christian are often considered synonyms. And I live in a place where truth is sometimes mistaken for a republican platform.
And don’t misunderstand me or my heart. I’m not pointing fingers. I love this land we still call Dixie.
But truth only comes in the person of Christ and his written Word. And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, than I have to wonder if we who claim Christ are certifiable. The louder we shout the less we are heard.
And unborn babies still die.
Because we are fighting for platforms instead of souls. We’re fighting Washington when the enemy is Satan. We’re fighting politics instead of making disciples. And to one another we speak a language that is understood and makes sense. We share values. We speak the values. We cheer for each other. It works. But only with one another.
Meanwhile, to a world that doesn’t share our values, we are a resounding gong and a clanging cymbal. We aren’t taken seriously not because what we value is wrong but because we’ve confused values and truth, platforms and inspiration. Our narrowly defined values are not reflective of the broad heart of God.
I’m in no way suggesting we change scripture to include things that go against God. I’m well aware that God’s Word is clear that it’s a narrow path to eternal life–But that’s because the path is a person–Christ. Access to the path is available to all humanity. What I’m saying, and hear me on this, is that WE AS CHRISTIANS NEED TO ADJUST OUR VALUES TO TRULY REFLECT SCRIPTURE and we need to communicate Christ’s invitation not our condemnation. We don’t change values from the outside in. God transforms values when He gives us a new heart and fills us with His Spirit.
Is it possible in our zeal to obey we’re coming across as self-righteous?
I’m reminded of the Pharisees. The religious right of Christ’s day.
Sincere people. Following the rules.
They crucified their Messiah.
But they had their values. They honored their sabbath.
And they missed the point.
Jesus. Anointed to save. Anointed to include ALL. The Messiah of not just the Jew but the Gentile too.
Jesus. Enough of Him for all mankind. Enough of Him to cover our failures in his cloak of righteousness crafted out of His shed blood. Enough of Him to take us as we are and begin the renovation of our values once we are a part of His eternal family.
God had Isaiah write these words.
Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote,”
They take my breath away–those words.
What exactly does my reverence for Jesus Christ consist of? What values have I thought were scripture when in fact they were tradition? Could I be guilty of having a heart far from the values of my Savior?
Indeed, I could.
I often wonder had I lived during the time of Civil War here in Georgia, would I have stood beside a black woman and held my hand out to her and her babies? Would I have invited her into my home? Would I have let my husband travel north and fight against the south? Would I have discerned the tradition of the south’s faulty thinking? Or would I have sipped sweet tea and blessed their hearts all the way to the cotton fields? Would my values then have reflected the heart of God or the culture of the day?
And where am I erring now, Lord? Show me. Because I understand that where my treasure is, there my heart will be also.
So that’s it, then, isn’t it?
I must treasure the things God treasures if I desire my heart to be near His heart.
Treasure the things God treasures.
And now I get the chance to vote for the things I treasure . . . the things God treasures.
And I have questions. Many questions as I consider this election taking place here in America.
- If I am to vote my values, then is voting for the lesser of two evils actually voting my personal values?
Is it? Is voting for a third party throwing away my vote because statistics tell me that is so? Or could it be that if I vote for someone who I do not believe is fit for the office, it is then I’m actually throwing away my right to vote? Is not a vote in its very nature the casting of a ballot for the person or thing which I most want and believe will be best? Is not this idea that I have only two choices a hijacking of my preference under the threat or fear of losing? Woven into the very DNA of democracy is the component of risk—I may or may not get what I personally want, but I will get what the majority want. Except if we keep buying into the idea that voting for a third party is a throw-away, than we are no longer even getting what the majority want. The majority is a fallacy created by a system perpetuated by fear. One person may place a high priority on the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will align with their personal values while another may place a high priority on quality of life that universal healthcare affords. Both are related to life. Both. So we vote. We say what we personally value.
I have to wonder if it is possible that we only throw our vote away when we QUIT saying what we value and instead say what we fear or worse, say nothing at all.
- Do we equate character with belief systems? In other words, if a person believes differently than me, does that automatically give me the right to call their character into question?
Here’s an interesting thought: Mother Teresa. My theology/belief system and hers do not 100 percent line up in every area, yet her character was without question pristine. I mean, hello? She probably has an entire wing of heaven designated for her. Character, it has been said, is what you are when no one is looking. Belief and faith systems are the hooks on which we hang out future and around which we shape our lives. Though faith can influence character, character can still be exemplary regardless of our faith system. In fact, ask a devout Hindu about character. A truly practicing Hindu will spend their life trying to make good choices because their reincarnation depends on it.
- Can God redeem both republicans and democrats?
I’ve often heard the argument that God can change Trump’s heart. True, and I hope my view of God is large enough to recognize that He is also able to change Hillary Clinton’s heart, because after all, He has worked in my own heart. Here’s God’s desire:
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
He loves ALL. I do not have the right or rank to assume only some are worthy of His redemptive power.
- Am I expecting the government to carry out the mandates of my faith? In other words, am I saddling the government with the instructions Christ gave specifically to me and the church as a follower of Christ?
If I demand healthcare for all and refuse to help the person without healthcare to cover their cancer treatment costs, am I not a hypocrite? If I demand welfare and refuse to help my neighbor find a job or pay their electric bill when times are tough, am I not a hypocrite? Is it possible that much of what we call “big government” exists because too many (not all) of us who claim to be followers of Christ care little for our neighbor and much for our own comfort. Is it possible that the very source of change I long for in my country begins with me obeying my God’s instruction?
- To what extent does God value life? Have I allowed culture within church or society to limit or direct the value that I place on life?
This is worth repeating-worth dissecting.
To what extent does God value life? Have I allowed culture within church or society to limit or direct the value that I place on life? In other words, am I concerned about black lives because culturally we see a trend toward movements such as Black Lives Matter? Am I concerned about abortion because traditionally, the church places high emphasis on this act? Am I less concerned for refugees because many people equate the word refugee with ISIS at worst and at best with a potential threat because of guilt-by-association-ethnicity? When God said to care for the foreigner among us, did He mean that literally? Did he mean it literally when he said the only pure and faultless religion is the one that looks after widows and orphans? Doubtless the republicans have shouted loud their disdain for abortion and Planned Parenthood. And rightly so. But let this be said: Hillary Clinton has stood for life too. She championed the cause of foster-children, at risk children, and healthcare reform for children. Were I ever to meet her, I’d thank her for that. I would. The living also deserve life. Children are a voiceless, defenseless lot worthy of a champion. And what candidate is willing to stand for those in sex-trafficking? What candidate is willing to stand for those in slave labor? What candidate is willing to stand for the refugee, the orphan, the homeless? Let us insist on life, PERIOD. And absolutely, let us fight for those precious unborn. All life. All of it. Because this is the extent to which Jesus valued life. He died for it. Martyred so we could all live eternally with Him.
I have come that you (ALL of you) may have life and that you may have it to overflowing.
Life for all.
- Is God concerned about making America great again? Is that a value He expressed in scripture? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that maybe, just maybe the rise and fall of America is lower on God’s priority list than, say, making His personal name great. In fact, when we work harder at championing America the Beautiful than we do sharing the Creator of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I have to wonder if our hearts are far, far from Him.
May I just say something specifically to my precious Christian friends knowing that you know my heart? We have to be far more careful than anyone else on the planet. The world is watching just as they were the day Jesus hung from a tree, thorns piercing his flesh and the air slowly seeping from his body.
He called no one a name.
He ranted at no one.
He asked only that God forgive.
His work was redemption and when it was complete, He said, “It is finished.” As followers of Christ, our work is the same—that of redemption. We ARE indeed ambassadors, but not for any political party. We are ambassadors for Christ. Jeff recently preached a sermon reminding our home church of that—put on the uniform of an ambassador.
How would Jesus want us to represent Him in this election? Were Jesus on earth, I wonder how He would refer to human beings. How would he refer to people with different opinions than himself? When being crucified he wouldn’t have been wrong to call out, “You murderers!” But He didn’t. He did not do that. I wonder, would he refer to people using titles that describe their belief system? Would he refer to people by their sexual preferences? Would he refer to them by the color of their skin? Would he reference them by their political parties? Their socio-economic status? It pains me that a human being, a flesh and bone creation fashioned to bear the image of God would be categorized by anything other than God’s category: Image-Bearing Creation of the Most High God who made each of us for His pleasure and fame. When we choose any label other than the ones God gives us as acceptable ways to refer to mankind, we are robbing ourselves and others of our God-given identity. Remove God from humanity’s identity and we lose. Every single time.
I think about the people who may read this blog, and I want them to know that regardless of my political perspective, my spiritual perspective is this: There is room in my heart and at my table for ALL of God’s creation. Sure, we may disagree on things. My belief system will impact how I live. It will impact how I relate. It will impact my values. It will impact how I vote. But it will never entitle me to assume I have the right to judge or condemn another human being nor will it entitle me to assume I am superior because my beliefs are different. In fact, my belief system puts all human beings, myself included, into one category–a being fashioned to bear the image of God, a being divinely loved and supremely wanted by a Savior who stopped at nothing, including death to have a relationship with all of us. Let us be so careful to recall our Savior and represent HIM well especially during this intense time in our nation.
And may our values find their source in The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
And may our platform be His Word.