My intention was to begin the year with a series of sermons entitled “Back to Basics,” addressing the foundational tenants of Christianity. I still think such a series is necessary. But taking a page from our brother Jude, who also changed his mind, “Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints… (v3). I, too, feel constrained to pursue another line of investigative study.
For anything to have any value it must be relevant to the times it purports to address. I believe Christianity is timeless. It’s consistently relevant because it addresses the basic human condition, and that’s not something that’s governed by the calendar.
As we make our pilgrimage through this life, we’re confronted with a constant variety of circumstances. As Christians, we are called to meet those circumstances in a way that reflects the Lordship of Christ in our lives. We don’t have a choice in this matter. Christianity isn’t an optional extra. It’s not something we adopt depending on the situation. We either are, or we are not. Jesus put it this way: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matthew 12.30).
The Political Climate Now
Currently, a circumstance which seems to be occupying much of our nation’s energy and creating a great deal of anxiety, is the present political turmoil. Americans are energized, to say the least, taking to the streets demonstrating in vast numbers for a variety of causes and issues.
I too have a moral and social conscience. I’m alarmed at what’s happening in our country. So how am I supposed to frame my response to what I see as immoral and irresponsible leadership and behavior?
To wrestle with that challenge I’m embarking on a new series of sermons entitled, “Having the Mind of Christ.” The title for the series is borrowed from Paul, “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5). In order to do that, we must return to the source – to the story of Jesus Himself – His life, His work, His words. Peter said He left us an example that we should “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2.21). That will be the focus of these coming lessons, to let the life of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, guide us through the uncertainty and turmoil that surround us.
The Political Climate Then
As we begin, I think it’s important we keep this in mind, too – Christianity was born in the midst of a corrupt secular environment (not unlike ours). Political position was bought and bartered by unscrupulous people who would stop at nothing to gain advantage. Gross immorality characterized the culture. The poor and underprivileged were exploited. Unwanted babies were literally thrown away as garbage. Christians were mocked and hounded and finally viciously persecuted. They were accused of being atheists by idolatrous pagans who bowed before a pantheon of false gods. When they observed the “Lord’s Supper,” they were slandered as cannibals for “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Married couples were charged with incest because they called each other “brother” and “sister.”
It was into that cultural chaos that Jesus called His first disciples to be “the light of the world.” They had no political rights; no voice in selecting who would govern them; and no forum for redress of their grievances.
We’re fortunate we don’t live in such a world – but make no mistake, we do live in a world that’s hostile to our faith and values. The warnings Jesus gave His early disciples ring just as true today as then: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake…You will be hated by all because of My name” (Matthew 10.16-23).
The principle of government is ordained by God as necessary for the function of an ordered society. Modern politics is a vicious game. Even the best candidates will say or do nearly anything to get elected. Rhetoric is cheap; promises made and positions espoused during a campaign are seldom kept once the candidate assumes office.
To become so invested in a particular candidate or political party’s promise to restore our values and morals only to be devastated when the election is lost is, in my view, naïve. Ours is a progressively secular nation. A gradual but definite culture shift has occurred over the last half century. While we hope and pray our government officials will honor and respect Biblical (Christian) morals and values, it’s a mistake to place our confidence in them to actually do it. “God Bless America” coming from the lips of most politicians these days is a hollow phrase.
The Mind of Christ: Timeless
Christianity is a personal religion, not a national religion. When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,” He literally meant you, me, us. Whether or not our nation values the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, or the natural role of gender is really beside the point – those are God’s immutable values, and that’s the only thing that matters. When Christianity turned the first century pagan world “upside down” it wasn’t because of an election, because they put the “right guy” in office. It was because Christian men and women refused to yield their faith, morals, and values to the surrounding culture regardless of the cost to themselves. They paid a high price – but they changed the world, one person at a time.
In order for us to be faithful to our calling, to have any influence in the world about us, it’s essential we “have the mind of Christ” in our daily conduct.