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Keep it in perspective. It's a phrase that I need to tattoo on my forehead to be completely honest. I get so worked up about the gas pump I choose not having a catch to hold the pump so I don't have to do it manually - and people are starving in Africa. I get frustrated when my family is late to church - and people are dying in Korea for trying to hold secret church services in their house. I get madder than a hornet at some of the idiotic political decisions that are made in this country on a daily basis - and I forget the words of the old song:
This world is not my home. I'm just a'passin through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me, through heaven's open door. And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
That hit me anew last night as I sat at my computer after a long, tiring, and somewhat frustrating Easter Sunday. It wasn't a bad day. But it wasn't the best. And as I sat there and contemplated how I'd let the frustration get the better of me too many times, my mind was drawn back to the meaning of the word "Gospel." It means, quite literally, "Good news." And as simple as that may sound, it made me remember something beyond profound: because of Christ, I have hope. Real hope.
Not hope for political change. Not hope for better pay or working conditions. Not hope for less stress on the job. Real hope. The kind that transforms lives and makes people taunt the greatest challenge we face, "Where, O death, is your sting?" Now that's hope.
As I started to smile thinking about it, I logged onto the internet and started doing some looking. Not at the typical political stuff I look at every day. Stuff that matters. I found this commentary:
The Apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the fledgling and deeply flawed church at Corinth to address several concerns and offer corrective counsel. Toward the end of the epistle, he reminded his audience that part of the reason why they were so dysfunctional in their faith and practice had to do with what they had forgotten -- or at least minimized. He drew them back to the basics. And it all had to do with what Jesus had done a few decades before.
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (I Corinthians 15:1-8 NIV)
The author of this piece, David R. Stokes (freakishly, that is my minister's name...different guy, but tough to overcome the feeling like I was pre-ordained to be reading this last night), goes on to remind the reader what Corinth really was. This was a time after Jesus' death known as Pax Romana (Roman Peace). In essence, it was a time of peace from outside aggression. You were safe if you were in Rome (sound familiar?). And along with that wonderful peace came time to pursue other things - meaning decadence and immorality was rampant (sound even more familiar?). But what was in Corinth was actually worse than what we are experiencing here in America in terms of debauchery, hard as that may be to believe.
What Stokes went on to say hit me like a freight train, and I think it will you too:
Many of those early practitioners of the Christian faith, however, didn't seem to be intimidated by such a potentially daunting challenge, the problem-laden Corinthians notwithstanding. This was largely because they grasped the concept that the message of the Gospel was more about redemption than reformation. It was more about individual salvation than solving social problems. And it was more about a world to come than the world that was -- or is.
This is not to say that these souls on fire were indifferent to cultural or political matters. They just seemed to know that ultimate hope and change were never really possible via human means and methods. To bring about social justice, the kind implied in the command to love neighbor as self, required obedience to a greater commandment first. That would be the one about loving God completely.
Loving God fuels righteous deeds, healed relationships, and cultural conscience and stability. The attempt to truly love one's neighbor in a social justice sense without acknowledging and loving God tends to devolve into a mere struggle for power.
It's why the Founders encouraged the spread of Christianity in schools, in public and private life. It's why we should do the same. Christians must engage the political world because they have the only true solution that will heal our society: personal righteousness that comes through obedience to God. But we must engage it in a way that always remembers that the cross can do what politics can't.
As we stand for moral truth in our culture, may we never lose heart, give in to frustration, or throw up our hands in despair. Because ultimately our greatest calling is not to win a power struggle, but to set the captives free with the hope of all humanity. Real hope.