Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Don’t think it coincidence that Jesus talks about trouble and Heaven in the same breath. Yes trouble existed in His day and yes it exists in ours. Yes, riots and coups and corrupt government officials tried to swing big sticks in His day and yes, they are still doing it today. Yes, some of those officials wreaked havoc and they will continue to do so until Jesus returns. Lawlessness is not something that surprises anyone who is looking for Jesus. We will forever find ourselves tied up in political mayhem. One thing we will also find forever is our invitation to join Jesus in Heaven.
I believe I speak for most of us when I say my emotions were all over the spectrum last week. As I watched the people storm the capitol I felt like I was watching scenes from a third world country. This is not how people in our country are supposed to act. But neither are the riots we’ve experienced all last summer the way Americans are supposed to act. While I think both of these groups are extreme fringe groups, their feelings are beginning to stir the larger populace. Part of me wants to stand up and shout “NO! This is the way it’s going to be!” Part of me is ready to condemn all sorts of groups. A big part of me is angry that the Church is even linked to this (there were signs carried that said “Jesus Saves”). The patriotic part of me wants to fight somebody. But the part of me that governs all other parts says there is another response I must have. As a believer I am bound to God first, not my country. There is something much bigger than the survival of the United States at stake here. Where does our allegiance lie? Is it first with the Constitution, the Executive office or the military? Or does our allegiance first lie with the Lord? We must not confuse political parties, law makers or flashy politicians with the will of God. He is just as much in love with the countries of Ghana, Haiti and Russia as He is in love with our own country. We do not need to be asking which political party God loves more but what would Jesus do in response to what happened last Wednesday. That is the question that plagued me most last week. How would He respond? What does He expect the Church to do as a result of this unrest? My only answer is trust Him, seek Him and wait on Him.
Jesus’ going away is supposed to strike joy in the hearts of believers, not fear. The fact that we cannot see Him right now does not mean that He has forgotten us or that we should abandon His promises to us. The fact that He is away right now is perfectly in line with all that He promised us. His physical absence means our future home is being prepared, it means that His love for us is as strong as ever and it means that He is coming back again! When we hear or see things that look like trouble, we must not forget Jesus’ words. Trouble will always be present in a world that is filled with evil. As shocking as Wednesday was, it shouldn’t surprise us. Just because it’s never happened in our country before doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened elsewhere. But this does not mean that Jesus has thrown up His hands or that His coming has now been set back a few years. What is our response? Trust God and resist evil; obey Jesus!
The verses I quoted above are from John 14. Later on in the passage Jesus says “if you love me you’ll obey my commandments”. God isn’t building robots here. He isn’t after machines that obey Him all of the time. He is after our hearts. We pray “Lord, I want to be right. Help us to be/speak/act rightly.” We pray this way wrongly. The goal is not to be right but to be obedient.I would suggest that the highest goal that faces us today is not the preservation of our freedom or our government but the clear presentation of the Gospel to a lost world. The fact Jesus promises to never leave us bolsters this idea. He is not shaping us for one particular task so that He can leave us and move onto something more important. He is shaping us for life. He will never leave us because we will never be ready to do life on our own. We will need His work in us until the day we die. We have to keep repeating to ourselves “This is not about me, Lord. This is not about me. This is about You making Yourself known.”
As these kinds of push and shove riots continue the larger population becomes more and more desensitized to their actions. We must not allow that to happen in the Church. We must never think that it is a faster, better or more efficient road to progress and growth if we fight our way through. That type of response will never be blessed by God and will never bring peace to the world around us. If those who don’t yet know Jesus will ever see Christ in us it will be because our actions are so contrary to their own desires and responses they will wonder why and begin to look in.
Will you join me this month praying a prayer similar to this one? “Lord, teach us to love you more than anything else in this world. Teach us how to respond to the ways of the world on a daily basis. Thank you for promising to never leave us! Now, Lord, show us how to respond to the violence and the hatred that we see in our country today. Give us boldness, not to get our way or to show the other side what is right, but to show the world what the humble grace of God is all about.”
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”