Like I said yesterday, the only reason I would ever preach on U.S. politics is because it's needed for our context. If we were living in North Korea or China or Russia I would be teaching the same gospel truths in that context.
I'm actually not really talking about politics, I'm talking about faith. But faith impacts everything else, and here in the U.S. we're in the throes of a contentious election.
There's a lot of anger in the world. And a lot of fear.
I suppose there's also apathy about the election, but it doesn't seem like that's as prevalent as it has been in past elections. Even those who don't like politics are wondering what tomorrow will bring. Even our national neighbors (geographical and political) are paying attention. For whatever reason, as goes the U.S., so goes much of the world.
After tomorrow's election, life will not be what it is today. We will learn something about our nation and our neighbors. We will immediately start to forecast our future as a nation, and our futures as those affected by its policies. Even if the election results are contested, tomorrow we enter new territory.
Like I said yesterday, many of us have a sense that violence is coming.
Some say it with prophetic import. Others have complex interpretations of the apocalyptic scriptures (Daniel, Revelation) that they believe is the final word on how to understand such things. Still others simply watch what people are already doing and feel like violence is inevitable: If one candidate wins, it will be a sudden eruption; if the other candidate wins, the escalation will be more gradual, but violent nonetheless.
And whether by prophecy, scripture, or observation, that would be my sense. The Spirit just keeps telling me to be ready, and to make sure those in my faith family are also ready.
I believe this year is not insignificant. I believe we are going to see a shift that's way more significant than whether Trump or Biden wins the election. I believe we need to be prepared for hardship. I'm not a doomsayer. But at the very least, we need to be ready with a faith that can survive without the structures and systems that have propped us up organizationally for years. Like I said yesterday, if our faith can't survive underground, it doesn't deserve to survive above ground.
And if it's the kind of faith that can survive underground, it will thrive all the more if allowed to live fully above ground.
And so I keep calling us to remember the most difficult of Jesus' teachings.
It's easy to teach "love your neighbor" in times of peace and prosperity. It's easy to teach "forgive those who sin against you" when the example you think of is when that friend was inconsiderate that one time. But to teach "love your enemy" in a time of violence and hardship? That's absurd. And it's commanded.
May God have mercy and spare us that.
But may we in faith be prepared for that.
And just because Jesus told us to love our enemies, it doesn't mean there is anything noble about living where we are harshly treated by our enemies. Our prayer is that our enemies would come to repentance and be filled with the love of Christ! And so it's to that end that I keep preaching the gospel and applying our current situation to it, that we might be prepared for whatever comes along, be it blessing or hardship. And so that we might be a blessing to others in times of blessing and of hardship.
Immediately after the sermon yesterday, I called everyone to a time of prayer as we prepared to respond in song. As I entered my own time of prayer I flipped open my Bible and it landed on Jeremiah 29. I considered interrupting the prayer time to read it out loud, but just tapped my hand on it with a blessing for later, and gave it back to God.
Today is later. I want to give it to you to read. I am asking you to spend time in prayer with it. But with these two caveats:
So, with those two caveats, allow me to apply a very basic analogy to our context. As I read yesterday in 1 Peter 2:11, we are "foreigners and exiles" here on earth until God comes to bring us into our everlasting home. And if we can consider that this world is our temporary Babylon, consider how God might want us to live within it, as you read what he said to those exiled in actual Babylon.
I have emphasized certain words in bold.
(New International Version)
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
The word of the Lord.
May God hear our prayers for peace and prosperity.
May every prediction of hardship and violence be mitigated by God's great and bold display of grace, as he calls all people to repentance, and fills them with his Spirit, and with love, joy, and peace. And may we all long for his appearing, living as a blessing in this world, but living for the blessings that will surely be ours on that day that he comes to take us home.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.