November 9, 2012

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My buddy Derek wrote a post yesterday about how it’s not inappopriate for Christians to either mourn or celebrate in response to a presidential election. I agree with what Derek had to say; it was a legitimate reminder to be gracious in responding to the emotions of our friends.

I do also think that all Christians regardless of our political views need to be called to humility and repentance. We have just been through a very acrimonious campaign season in which we have all sinned by saying hurtful and unfair things about blanket categories of people who are either “immoral and lazy” or “greedy and dishonest.” It is now time to examine ourselves and ask God to heal us from the spiritual damage of our sin. Most of my thoughts here are inspired by a recent sermon “Gratuitous Grace, Unfair Grace” from my favorite preacher Jonathan Martin of Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC, which you should listen to on his podcast.

What’s wrong with the world? The British Christian writer G.K. Chesterton had a two word response when this question was posed by a London newspaper: I am. The single greatest power that we receive as Christians is the ability to say that and mean it. When we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins, we can examine ourselves and unmask the ulterior motives that taint even the most virtuous of our deeds. If we engage in this task knowing in our hearts how deeply God loves us, then it doesn’t turn us into guilt-ridden, anxious people, but people who are able to have increasingly high standards for their behavior without correspondingly high opinions of themselves.

The more that we mature spiritually, our journey becomes less about living up to an abstract standard of correctness and more about removing all internal obstacles to being filled with the perfect love of an irresponsibly generous and forgiving God. This process of being reshaped into God’s image as God deepens our self-awareness is what we call repentance, which is more than just being sorry enough about a particular mistake not to do it again. True repentance is the spirit of one who “hungers and thirsts for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), which in both the Hebrew sense of tzedek and the Greek sense of dikaio has to do with being spiritually centered enough to treat other people with perfect hospitality and dignity rather than following a set of rules perfectly without any internal joy or mercy (Matthew 23:27-28).

Unfortunately, many Christians today are quite spiritually immature. We talk a whole lot about other peoples’ sins as the means by which we avoid the self-examination that is supposed to be the centerpiece of Christian discipleship. This especially takes place  during a political campaign season, in which we spend our intellectual and emotional energy convincing ourselves that everything bad in our country is the fault of whatever party or scapegoat we have chosen. It’s been tremendously embarrassing to see how Christians seem to do a better job of accusing and blaming others hyperbolically and irresponsibly than non-Christians do.

November 9, 2012

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