August 15, 2012

Dancing Through Fields of Grace

Here we go again—another presidential campaign! This is a time when brother belittles brother and sister vilifies sister, all in the name of good citizenship. While demonizing a political opponent is not new in American politics, the Internet, e-mail, Facebook, texting, blogging, and tweeting have spawned a generation of wannabe Paul Reveres charging through cyberspace announcing that the British (fill in your own enemy) are coming.

From the perspective of the gospel, the exciting avenues of communication are revolutionary. Imagine what the apostle Paul would have given to tweet his message of hope and love to the farthest corners of the earth. Or the number of theses Martin Luther could have nailed to his Facebook page. Or think of how the humblest of believers can announce the good news of salvation to the entire world. In our generation, “every eye can see His return” on a computer screen as well as in the morning sky.

Never before in history has so much power been in the fingertips of the common man, woman, or child. Consider how quickly the Western world heard about the Egyptian uprising. Within the hour we saw live images of the Libyan rebellion and the Syrian revolt. Misuse of such potency, however, can result in lives destroyed through Internet abuse, flash mobs committing crimes, hackers stealing personal identities or raising havoc for companies and kingdoms, and child pornography skyrocketing from epidemic to endemic proportions. These communication advances have developed so quickly that governments haven’t had time to enact all the laws needed to protect against their misuse. Christians, however, need not wait for governments to respond.

Two Simple Rules
Our supreme commander, Jesus Christ, provided two simple rules to govern the behavior of His sons and daughters, whether we are speaking, writing, or living their witness. He said, “?‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ . . . And . . . : ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40).

2012 1523 page28Should these simple directives not be clear enough, there are more than 70 additional verses in Scripture on how His children should treat others. And every one of these commands is as applicable today as when it was given to the Israelites through Moses.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” These guidelines apply to the funniest, cleverest, and most negative political e-mail ever conceived, as well as to the most disingenuous cartoon or disparaging half-truth purported by those who are out to make a fast buck or to win an election.

“Snacking” on Poisonous Fruit
When radio and television commentators dupe the public with reckless rhetoric, they increase their audience and therefore their profits. If they can convince their followers that it’s an us-against-them world—that those espousing the other side of the issue are bent on destroying America—their advertisers’ sales of everything from gold bullion to orthopedic mattresses climb.

When believers read a titillating tidbit dehumanizing a candidate running for office, it changes them spiritually, because they are snacking on the poisonous fruit. Their ability to maintain a pure relationship with their Savior is compromised.

Physical Versus Political Porn
Physical pornography is so anti-Christian that most would be embarrassed if caught viewing it. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote:  “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”1 What is the difference between physical and political pornography? Not much. Both affect the nature of the beholder in a similar manner. Both titillate the mind. Both produce an adrenaline rush, momentarily exciting the viewer. As does any addiction, both cause the participant to hunger for more.

James warned, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. . . . Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (James 3:9-11). Or as The Message paraphrases it: “A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next. . . . You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?”

Living in the World
To avoid the rough and crude world of politics, should Christians wear political blinders, eschew the governing process, be cookie-cutter Christians espousing political directives ordained by church leaders? No; we are to live in the world but not be of the world—an important difference. God didn’t intend for His beloved to be automatons. If that were what the Creator wanted, He would have made only one gigantic computer from which to maneuver His people’s thoughts and actions.

The opposite is true. The God of love is a God of free will. He designed us to think; to have opinions; to make choices—good and bad. But when our partisan political zeal comes at the expense of eternity, the price is too high.

Ultimately Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Instead, His kingdom is one of love and grace. He pours out mercy and grace on His children so that they, in turn, can grant grace to others. The apostle Paul encourages: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths [or fingertips], but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen [or read]” (Eph. 4:29).

The day will come when God’s family will behold the face of their returning Savior. Diverse political views, and financial and generational prejudices, will be cast aside. Christians of different hues and backgrounds will fall to their knees in awe. Brothers will kneel beside brothers; sisters beside sisters. Michele Bachmann could find herself beside Barak Obama. You might be surprised to be kneeling between Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner—Christians all.

The skeptic might claim, “A Christian is not necessarily a Christian because they say so.” That is true, but Jesus told us, “Do not judge” (Matt. 7:1). We cannot know a brother’s heart, a sister’s motives. That prerogative belongs only to God.

Heavenly Grace
Behind my childhood home there was a grassy field in which I used to love to twirl and dance, especially during a spring rain. I felt totally free! Nothing could equal the joy of feeling that fresh, clean, cool water splashing on my face and arms. The same experience is mine today when the Father forgives my sins and showers me with heavenly grace. In return He asks that I pour grace—not mud—on my brothers and sisters.

I’ve no time to wallow in a political pigsty when I can be rejoicing  with my brothers and sisters in the fields of God’s grace. The price for missed true joy is just too high.

1 Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964).
2 From The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Kay Rizzo is a writer, speaker, and radio host living in Visalia, California. This article was published August 16, 2012.