A scan of news headlines has the potential to leave us shaking in our boots, or at least shaking our heads. Actual headlines from this week:
- Clinton gains ground over Trump in new poles
- Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion law
- Clinton blames republican leaders for a ‘paralyzed’ Congress
- Pastor battles city over Jesus-related bus stop ads
These headlines don’t include the jaw-droppers from past months. Government policies are changing fast. Still, other policies aren’t changing fast enough.
Election years have the propensity to bring out the best in us all, don’t they? The people who are paid to talk about politics say so many things and leave us wondering what is fact, what is fiction, and what is straight up fantasy.
As Christians, we are tempted to enter the conversation with our Bibles open, our metaphorical Sword swinging. Social media gives vocal believers a platform to drop cherry-picked scripture like a grenade and then run for cover. Gone are the days of yelling damnation through a bullhorn on the street corner. The Internet allows anyone to shout “turn or burn” from their corner of the World Wide Web.
Headlines tell us our Christian liberties are a stake. Like our Founding Fathers who declared independence from England’s strong rule in 1776, we are at a place in history where our voices are needed.
What is the Christian’s place in the fight for freedom?
Do we focus our efforts on changing policy or changing people? Is the answer found in a greater power in government or should our hope rest in the transforming power of the gospel?
Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation when he penned his Ninety-five Theses. The Founding Fathers started a revolution when they placed their signature on the Declaration of Independence. Many godly men and women marched behind leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. in a peaceable fight for civil liberties. Even today, some elected officials stand on the principles of the Bible as they cast unpopular votes in the Capitol or veto a bill that is clearly contradictory to scripture.
Clearly, God can use his people in positions of influence and leadership to affect a change in culture or policy. Most of us, however, will never stand before the masses and give a rousing speech or lead a rebellion for freedom. Few of our names will ever appear on a ballot. Without great influence or power, we rely on our one arena of influence. We use 140 characters and catchy hashtags to throw our support behind one cause or another. We slap a bumper sticker on our car declaring our allegiance to an idea. We engage in (mostly) friendly debates over the worthiness or character flaws of this or that candidate.
My mind has never been changed by a tweet, a sticker, or a pundit. Has yours?
What would Peter do?
When we visit the two original street preachers Peter and John, we see a different approach to addressing political and spiritual corruption. By the temple gate called Beautiful, Peter reaches down to offer a healing touch to a crippled man.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:6, 9-10, NIV)
Upon seeing this miracle, the people came to Peter and John to discover the source of such power. Now that Peter has their attention and their hearts are open, he boldly shares the gospel message with them (see Acts 3:11-26). His preaching gets the attention of the religious leaders, landing our evangelists in jail. But the next morning, they are given the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in front of the Sanhedrin. Fearing the spread of Christianity, the leaders ask them to keep the good news of Jesus to themselves. Peter replies, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts4:19, NIV).
A beautiful thing happens after this two-day ordeal. “All the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old” (Acts 4:22, NIV). Not only were the people praising God, the believers cried out to God for the boldness to speak and the power to perform miracles in order to stand against Herod and Pontius Pilate. God answered that prayer by sending the Holy Spirit.
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:31-32, NIV)
The power to influence culture didn’t come through a changing of the guard. None of the disciples were appointed to office. No one led a riot or drafted a new law. The culture shifted when the hearts of the people changed.
What’s an ordinary person like me to do?
As an ordinary person living my ordinary life, I don’t have a lot of power to change much of anything that goes on in Washington. But I do have an awful lot of power in my own home. I can help shape the hearts of my children. I have a little influence in my social circles. I can live a life of integrity and share the hope I have in Jesus with those around me. I can care for the hurting, meeting needs and loving them in Jesus’ name.
Jesus said it best: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, ESV).
Some are called to put their name on a ballot. Some are compelled to work tirelessly to change policy. Still, others feel led to use their platform to persuade. We are all called to show the kind of love and mercy Peter and John showed at the gate called Beautiful. As we offer our hands to heal, hearts will open to the message of the hope of the gospel.
The healing and hope and goodness we long for is realized fully in Jesus, extended through His people despite hardship or distance or the passage of time or the changing of guards. No political party can see it through or take it away. It was finished on the cross, and the discussion is over. (Jen Hatmaker)
The day may come when we must choose between God and government. At that time, may God give us the courage to stand with Peter and declare, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29, NIV). Until that time, we have an assignment in the fight for freedom: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Mic. 6:8).