Saturday, May 20, 2017

Politics & Prostitutes

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

Quite frankly, this is an insult to prostitutes everywhere.

Is it any wonder Jesus had no use for politics, religious or secular? Yet politicians were certainly interested in Him—all for selfish reasons of course, just like today.

Matthew tells us that a group of politicians (“the chief priests and the elders”) confronted Jesus regarding the matter of authority (21:23). They wanted to know who gave Him the right to teach and preach; the implication being, He had no authority since they hadn’t conferred it upon Him.

Politics is always about power.

So Jesus asked them a simple question: The prophet, John the Baptist—did you give him authority or did God? Fearing the crowd, the politicians refused to answer.

Then Jesus dropped a truth bomb: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Why would Jesus say such a thing? Is He trying to embarrass or anger them? No, though He surely knew He would do both. Rather, He is doing what He always does—speaking truth.

The leaders already confessed that they did not listen to the voice of God as it fell from the lips of the prophet. But Jesus says prostitutes and tax collectors did. They listened and they believed.

We learn from this that entrance into Jesus’ kingdom has absolutely nothing to do with one’s social status, gender, wealth, race or any other worldly identifier or achievement.

It’s a kingdom of pure grace.

As such, the kingdom of God—which is in the world but not from it—is antithetical to and transcendent over all earthly domains. And Jesus would like for you to be part of it, to follow Him in His Way.

Would you seriously consider it?  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Prince & The President

Then the devil took Him up and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give You the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to You if You will worship me.” ~Luke 4:5-7

Without apology I imbibe as little news as possible. Nevertheless, this trickled in last week.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically, though the actual implications of the document appeared limited. . . .

[Trump said] “We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form."

Since reading this, I’ve had two nagging trains of thought—theological more than political.

Trump is quoted above as saying “we” (I don’t know if this is a magisterial we or if there’s a Republican in his pocket) “are giving churches their voices back . . .” 

As a Christ-follower this raises very serious questions.

First there’s a matter of fact: Were churches silenced prior to Trump?

Really?

Then there’s a matter of faith: Who gives the church her voice—the State?

Roll that around awhile…

Let’s board my second thought-train now.

Greg Boyd asks, “If Jesus viewed the desire to acquire political power to be a temptation of the devil, why do so many American Christians fight to acquire as much of this political power as they can?” (Keith Giles, Jesus Untangled, p. 16)

That’s a good question, Greg!

A few hundred years after Jesus, the church was seduced with secular power and she’s been hooked ever since.

Politics is the church’s worst problem. It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the prince of this world. ~Jacques Ellul

Dear reader, the devil’s promises are hallucinogenic poison.  

So just say “No.” Jesus did.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

God & Kenny Wallace

Last week Shelly and I enjoyed a baseball game at Busch Stadium (aka, “Baseball Heaven”) with some dear friends of ours.

Midway through the game, a gentleman struck up a conversation with my pal and we began to talk shop about Cardinals baseball. (Yes, I butted in because I’m friendly like that.)

Before long the game got exciting and we were all reveling in the thrill of victory. It was a glorious day, dear reader!

As we were leaving the parking garage my friend said, “Man, that guy looked familiar. It was his mannerisms and the way he talked. I feel like I’ve seen him before…”

A few days later he realized who it was: NASCAR driver, Kenny Wallace.

(After a walk-off Grand Slam, a jubilant Kenny shot this video. If you watch without blinking you can almost see us behind him and his wife.)

What?

I was yelling, laughing, and high-fiving with Kenny Wallace? I hadn’t a clue. But how could I?   

I’ve heard of him but I don’t follow NASCAR. I’d never seen his face. I wasn’t expecting to run into a race car driver. It wasn’t like he was carrying a sign or something. Kenny was incognito.

So how could I possibly have known?

Naturally, such an encounter makes one think.

My mind went to C.S. Lewis.

We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. (Mere Christianity, p. 50)

My premise is this: It’s entirely possible to meaningfully interact and connect with another person whom one does not actually know.

If this is possible with a human person, is it reasonable to think it’s possible with a Divine one?

It seems plausible, in fact it appears highly likely, that one could relationally experience God but not truly know who He is.

Of course, there’s a big difference between Kenny and us and God and us.

I didn’t know Kenny and Kenny didn’t know me. (I’d imagine if Kenny reads this he’ll think: “I didn’t know that was Steve Griffin!”)

But God knows the one who doesn’t know Him—and He loves this person immensely. Upon what levels does God mercifully and lovingly relate to those who sincerely, yet ignorantly, interact with Him?

Jesus is our only hope of salvation. He’s the only Way to the Father. But is it possible that the narrow way is wider than it appears?

I know some will label me a heretic for having, much less expressing such ruminations.

So…

If you find me burned at a stake, don’t believe the suicide note.