Today, I am going to address how we ought to respond Biblically to our current political environment and there are a couple preliminary statements that I need to make before doing so. First, this is a time of Biblical exposition and not a time of political argumentation. During the course of our conversation, I will neither be defending nor condemning the actions of our new president. I will also neither be defending nor condemning those who are protesting the recent actions of the new administration.
It has not been long since our new president has assumed his place in the Oval Office and the responsibilities thereof. Within his first five days, he has signed some executive orders regarding the Second Amendment, regarding financial contributions to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and regarding federal employment. He is already beginning to renegotiate international trade deals just as he promised he would do. Congress is even introducing legislation to defund the Affordable Care Act. As a result, we have seen people with high praise on their lips and people who are dooming the nation to failure. We have seen young women marching for a plethora of reasons, most not realizing that the marches were sponsored by the biggest abortion business in the world (Planned Parenthood).1 According to the New York Times, Angela Davis, a political activist, had this to say about the next four years, “The next fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of the Trump administration will be fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of resistance.”2
Before I go any further, I do want to declare my position on women’s equality from a Biblical perspective. My belief is that, according to Genesis 1:27-28, and according to John Locke’s exposition and political philosophy (a philosophy by which the Constitution of the United States was drafted), all people are absolutely and wholly equal in their worth. This is why I believe that human government must be by the people at large. It is why I believe everyone’s voice must be heard. It is why I believe that women should receive equal pay as men for the same position, degree of labor, and investment of time (this is already required by federal law).3
However, because I believe in this type of absolute equality, I am also forced to believe that any group fighting for superiority over another is absolutely wrong. I do not believe there should be supremacy based on color of skin, gender, or political affiliation. Sadly, it seems to me that many self-proclaimed civil rights movements of our day are not civil rights movements, but instead supremacy movements. In examining the more recent Planned Parenthood marches, I’ve seen a movement that claims to be based on freedom, on equality and on all inclusiveness; yet it is a movement that denies people from participating because of their pro-life views. I saw signs that portrayed a clinched fist in the air, which was formerly a symbol used in the white supremacy movements of the Civil War Era and even stretching into our modern day. The indication is not that people are equal, but instead that there is one group of people that should be considered over and above every other group of people. If that group is not considered to be more important, then it will practice resistance; at least for fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days. Because I believe all people are created as equals, I cannot support this type of supremacy movement. I must also, though, consider everyone involved in such a movement to be my equal. It is important that every voice is heard. Here I want to clarify again that I am not defending or condemning those who protest, for some who protest may do so for good reason and there are issues that need to be discussed in our nation, today.
No matter where you might stand on current issues, we seem to have developed for ourselves a culture of blatant resistance and a culture of non-unity. I do not speak here of uniformity. Unity is not synonymous with uniformity. What I speak of is the tendency in our culture to create not only division, but conflict, where open and honest discussion would benefit us much more. Thus, I pose my question both for the Church and for anyone else who might read: How are we to respond to such supremacy movements that plague our world today, or rather, that have plagued our world since people first fought to have supremacy over one-another in the Garden of Eden?
Now, there was a time in Scripture where Jesus healed a man that had been blind from birth. When he was healed, he began to tell everyone that Jesus healed him. There was a group of pharisees that had the man (the one who was formerly blind) brought to them so that they could question him and turn him against Jesus. Both he and his parents testified that he was indeed born blind. This group of pharisees would not accept his answer and reviled him for saying that Jesus was from God. This particular group of pharisees threw the man out of their presence. After this, we arrive at our text:
When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked.
Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.”
“I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and asked Him, “We aren’t blind too, are we?”
“If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’ — your sin remains.
Before we dive into this text, we might remind ourselves of some things that we have discovered so far in John’s Gospel. First, Christ is the light of the world. John claims that people love the darkness and, because they love the darkness, do not come into the light. Second, we have discovered that without Christ, people are ill-prepared to live wisely and reasonably in the world today. Third, we have discovered that Jesus is the only one who can bring us forever sustenance and forever satisfaction. Fourth, we have discovered that when Jesus taught Hebrew Scripture to Hebrew people, most Hebrew people stopped following Him because the teachings were too difficult for them. If you have not done so yet, I might encourage you to read or watch the previous sermons of the current series through John’s Gospel.
As I think about these parts of the story in John’s Gospel as compared to our modern age, I see many similarities. One of the most prominent similarities is that many people today of every generation claim to love Christ and to love people until it requires something from them that they do not currently agree with or that seems too difficult. People care much more about affirming current cultural movements than they do about walking in wisdom and according to true and beneficial equality and freedom. We don’t often think about what these terms mean or the implications of championing these terms are. If someone disagrees with us, then we assume that they are the ones who must not think freedom or equality to be important. As soon as someone begins speaking with any degree of wisdom, he or she is labeled a hateful bigot by the new supremacy movements of our day. Here I want to clarify for the sake of love and grace that not all people who participate in protests are new supremacists and not all people in the current majority party are supremacists. I do not want to be guilty of hasty generalization. There does, though, seem to be a new supremacy movement in our day on two opposite extremes. If anyone, in fact, is to speak out against modern day supremacy movements, then he or she is argued to be “on the wrong side of history.” These arguments are fallacious, though. Popular culture has historically changed throughout time, which means there will be a time when everything we think or believe today will be questioned even if we believe it is correct (even if it is correct). Thus, we should not rely on what is popular at any certain time, but should instead strive to act in truth and wisdom in a way that is dependent not on popular cultural trends, but specifically and solely on the constant truth of Scripture.
There is a popular band today that wrote a song about a man who spent a period of time in prison and, when he was finally released, was released into a world that was completely different than the one he was taken from to be placed in a cell. The band is Imagine Dragons and the song is “Radioactive.” In this song, there is one specific verse that I think describes our current cultural condition quite well,
“I raise my flags, don my clothes,
It’s a revolution I suppose.
We’ll paint it red, to fit right in, whoa.
I’m breaking in, shaping up, checking out on the prison bus.
This is it, the apocalypse, whoa.”
A situation is described in which someone notices what looks like a revolution, and so he raises his flag and paints it red with everyone else so that he will fit in and not be left behind. Those locked into the modern supremacy movements seem to all claim to stand for what is right and seem to also claim that they are moving against the majority. The truth, I fear, is that most people are only painting themselves red to fit right in. So, this becomes the challenge for all of us. Let us not just do something because it might place us on the right side of history. Let us genuinely seek to do what is right and what promotes true equality, not supremacy. This will be a more difficult path and a path that less people take. Everyone else will raise their flags in some manner to fit in.
Scripture, for us, in all of the current political movements and disagreements, has very real and relevant teaching. Jesus restored the sight of the man who had been blind from birth. Then Jesus, after the man had been questioned by a group of pharisees who presumed to be on the correct side of history, revealed that the blind would see and those who were able to see would become blind.
What I find in John’s Gospel is this theme of light and darkness. Christ is in the business of bringing people who are trapped in darkness into the light and those without sight to a place where they can see. He illustrated this by physically healing a blind man, then converted the conversation to one regarding spiritual sight and wisdom. Those who admit that they do not have all the answers will be given wisdom. Those who believe they have everything figured out will become dogmatic. Most people will admit with their mouths that they don’t have all the answers, but then we live like we know exactly what is going on. Here, I might even say that if we live like we have all the answers then we will become dogmatic, not only in our speech, but also in our action. The one who has received sight from Christ will continue to search for understanding and answers whereas the one who claims to see on his own, either by word or action, will cause himself to be blind because he is not open to the thought of trying to understand others.
In many political movements of our day, activists and politicians alike are so dogmatic that reason has no place. By their own words and/or actions they have claimed to see and to know what is best, and as a result they have become blind. This blindness currently permeates our society. It is engraved within our culture. It is a sickness that cripples us as a people.
I do not know the original source of this quote, but I think it fits nicely into this part of our conversation, “I hope Donald Trump is a good president. Wanting him to fail, is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane that we ALL are on” (@clipperkyle on twitter).
Please understand that as a pastor and as a follower of Jesus Christ I cannot show favoritism. All we have to do is recognize James 2:1-6. This being the case, I cannot favor either Republicans or Democrats. This is why, at Eastside we choose to love and not condemn people of any political affiliation. This being said, there are some who will read this who are currently happy with President Trump and some who will read this who are not. If we are in the group that is not happy with the new president then, our response to his actions must be reasonable and must promote the things that God promotes. This means that marching under the banner of Planned Parenthood and under the fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of resistance is probably not a viable option when protesting the policies of the new administration. If we feel that we must protest, we have the right to do so, but as God’s people we cannot speak equality and speak freedom and then march under a banner that also declares supremacy through resistance and considers people who don’t agree to be so unimportant that they are barred from simple participation in the march. Much like the group of pharisees in today’s text, we throw out, unfriend and unfollow anyone who disagrees with us. This, brothers and sisters, is one of the greatest sins of our day, even in the church.
There is another side to this if we want to remain consistent in our line of thinking. If we do not agree with those protesting, then we must still treat them as our equals and as people whom God loves. We must seek to understand why so many have marched. We must have legitimate conversations about viewpoints because, the truth is, there are some God honoring ideas that have been brought up even if they have not been brought up in a God-honoring way. People from both political parties are guilty of some form of supremacy. Resistance against resistance does not help. It creates conflict that doesn’t need to be there and even leads to unnecessary wars in our world. If we truly follow Christ, then we must be committed to loving all people, and it is that simple. We need not complain about the marches. Instead, we let the genuine concerns that people have open the door for legitimate conversation about issues that probably need to be talked about respectably.
We might even consider Paul’s words in his second letter to Timothy, “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter” (2 Timothy 2:4 HCSB). The implication is that if we live to serve Christ on this earth, no matter where we are on the political spectrum, we content ourselves not to get entangled in the concerns of the world. We are to be about the business of sharing the Gospel, even if it means giving up some political, or otherwise, advancements in this world. Issues of social justice are important, but not at the expense of the Gospel, which is of eternal value. If we were as passionate about the mission that God has given us as we are about the political environment of our day, then we probably wouldn’t be in the political mess we seem to be in today.
Christ’s method of enlightenment
This spiritual blindness present in our current age can also be described as pride. The blind man received sight because he was humble and this group of pharisees became blind, according to Christ, because they claimed to see (they were prideful). This means that only those who are humble in Christ can possibly reason well and practice wisdom in the world today. Those who are prideful will always be stuck in the dogma that they find themselves in. This truth remains for those in the church, outside the church, and who are a part of any political party or movement. Christ raises up the humble and stands against the proud. Unfortunately for our current society, pride is the red paint with which we strive to fit in with everyone else. Those who remain humble do not have a place in this new age, but they are the only ones who are prepared to live in this age.
It is the pride of one political party, during any term, that forces another party to declare supremacy. It is that declaration of supremacy that causes the first party to double down. When the first party doubles down, the minority party builds a political war machine through organizations like Planned Parenthood. This is a vicious cycle and it has repeated throughout history no matter which political party has been in office. This is pride. It is not new. It will not necessarily destroy the nation. When we allow pride to take control, we destroy our own souls because we have loved the darkness.
When we claim to see
In our text for today, Jesus is specifically referring to sin. When we claim to see, our sin remains. If we are humble and admit that we cannot see it all (that it is possible for us to be imperfect), Christ, in His grace, in His knowledge, and in His mercy, forgives us so that we, like the blind man, might also say, “I was blind, but now I see!”
Our objective as God’s people, then is not to assume that we are the ones who know all and have the best and greatest viewpoint on any particular earthly issue. We must admit that our own faculties are fallen. We must remain open-minded. We must allow Scripture to be our authority on all issues. This means we cannot join any cultural bandwagon. It means we must give considerable thought when we respond to anything that happens and we must respond according to Scripture. It means that we must not strive to be on the “right side of history,” but rather act according to God’s prescriptions for our lives. It means that we trust in Christ to deliver us, not in a president or in a political movement. For if we rely on our ability to resist, we have pridefully trusted in our own ability and not in Christ. If we trust in a president to deliver us, then we have placed our trust in a man rather than in God. Eternal life, wisdom, equality and freedom cannot be found in a political movement or in a president. It can only be found in Christ, and so we must turn our attention to Christ. We must pray for the president and for those who march. We must not be a voice of dissension, but a voice of unity, genuine equality and freedom: not contradicting ourselves like so many in our present age. To God be the glory forever and ever, amen. Let us humbly come to Christ and continue to strive to live in His light, not in the darkness of the world.