I went to my parent’s house after church yesterday and as we were getting ready for lunch I asked them if they had heard about Donald Trump. “Of course we heard. Who hasn’t heard?” It’s true. Who hasn’t heard by now, especially after last night's debate. We were all rightly sickened by his vulgar comments. They were demeaning and degrading, unbecoming of someone who is seeking to hold the highest office in our nation, representing us to the world. On the flip side of this, you’ve got an additional score of emails released from Hillary’s server revealing more details of her past dalliances with deception and cover up and revelations about just how high in rank this duplicity climbs. Both have apologized, kind of, but the words rape culture still hang in the air like a fog because attacks on women ring louder than cellphones smashed by hammers.
So we’ve got these two ludicrous options for President of the United States (yes, I am aware there are a handful of other options) with an election less than a month away and each day seems to bring another wave of information revealing all the ways in which these two people are the jokers we’ve all known them to be. As we read each story or hear the newest broadcast, each party cranks the volume up on why their candidate is better than the other, or at the very least, less terrible than the other, and the rest of the population is left wondering how we ended up here, drowning in the deafening noise of media and the call to fact-check.
I’ve said this before and you can read it elsewhere but “the traits we tend to dislike in others are usually the traits we do not like about ourselves.” We are most offended by others when they reveal something in us. They say everyone we meet is our mirror. Maybe that's why we're all up in arms over these two clowns we have as candidates. They're us. And suddenly we don't like it. It’s all fun and games until our candidates actually reflect the character of our nation.
For example, a little time spent looking at pornography might be "normal" or "harmless" until it’s the same message spewing from the mouth of our wannabe president. A little lying is okay, it's not hurting anyone, until it's on a private email server that goes public. We're annoyed when Donald interrupts Hillary, but we're all yelling and talking over each other or constantly trying to one-up our neighbors and coworkers. We hurl insults out of our own insecurities. We're listening to respond rather than listening to understand. We're brazenly selfish and quietly lining our pockets. We flip flop on how we feel about something depending on whose company we're in because, gosh, we want them to like us. It's like the office of the president was a kind of ideal - the person we wish we could be, the family we wish we had, the brains and integrity and character we strive to - but now suddenly he's just like us, making crude jokes, and we're offended. Suddenly she's just a woman doing what you and I do every day but on a world stage - lying, cheating, elbowing her way to the top. We can’t see it in ourselves, but we see it in other people: backstabbing and betrayal, crooked morals and deplorable little habits.
So maybe what we have before us is exactly what we deserve. Maybe these people are us only magnified and on display. They’re liars and cheaters and hypocrites. I'll be the first to admit that I have been all three. So if it’s true, if they’re a reflection of us and we’re disgusted with what we’re seeing, maybe it's time to take a look inward. Where is your heart? Are you a liar? Have you ever cheated? Have you made a joke that you’d be embarrassed to have shared over a loudspeaker? Do you love money? Power? Position? Have you ever used a lie to cover up another one and another? Have you talked down to those you think are less than?
I was listening to Russell Moore speak the other day regarding the state of our nation. He was saying that our nation is resilient and strong and that it’s not the time to panic or turn to apocalyptic-type thoughts about the outcome of this election. I listened to his words and was able to breathe out. It’s true. It’s not time to panic. But what we need now more than ever is a North Star to point us home because it seems we’re all a little lost in the wilderness holding a broken compass. The problem is a lot of us have always known that North Star was Jesus but we've been too worried about looking cool to ever speak up. We’ve always known that the world needs a little more good news, but we’ve let ourselves get caught up in the yelling and arguing or pointing out faults when our own are glaring. I’ve always loved this truth from D.A. Carson and I think it speaks to where we find ourselves now:
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
Slouching toward prayerlessness. Cherishing lost self-control. Where do you find yourself today? Ghandi said, “Be the change...” and yet we’ve contented ourselves to think someone else should go first, namely the leader of our country. So where are you compromising and rationalizing? Where are you picking out the speck in someone else when you’ve got your own log about to knock over everything in your path?
My word for the year is abide. I told you all this back in December. I really felt like that word was put on my heart but I’ve wrestled with it in terms of application. Then I was listening to a sermon last week and he talked specifically about this word and its use in the Bible. In John 8, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Judah Smith broke that passage down like this:
‘Abide’ means to stay and ‘the word’ is his story. It’s this book [the Bible], it’s his words, a collection of his words… We’ve heard people say, “Read your Bible” but it has become white noise and elevator music... We expect Christians to say, “Read your Bible,” but we’ve lost the mystery, the intrigue, the wonder, the romance, the journey, the treasure hunt that is staying in the story. And that’s all it [Abide in my word] means. Stay in the story. Stay in the story and this will become real. But I’m going to warn you, full disclosure, when you start living in the story, you start living in this book, it is going to begin to affect your schedule. It’s going to affect a Monday or a Tuesday night plan… You stay in the story and it affects how you see your job, and how you do relationship and friendships, it transforms how you see the social constructs of our country because you’re staying in the story… Some of you feel good after Sunday but you know what you’re feeling? You’re feeling the effects of getting back to the story.
We just need to get back to the story. We need a reminder of the story and what we’re about and how this all turns out in the end instead of acting like the next new president is the answer to our country's greatest need. Jennie Allen reminded the other day that kingdoms and nations rise and fall but the one constant, the North Star, the one pointing us onward and forward is Jesus. We can pretend there are other ways around this, that other people or governments or leaders are the answer, but that won’t change the fact that God and his story are the only one to survive thousands of years of attempts to slander and discredit and disregard.
I don’t know what we’re supposed to do in November. We're not responsible for outcomes. But I know there’s one who goes before us and hems us in so more than worry about the next horrible thing that may come out about either candidate or the way in which they’re not fit to lead, because I am confident there will be more, we can really only worry about ourselves and make sure we’re staying in the story. Make sure we're doing our part to be the change. Make sure we’re not slouching toward godlessness but pressing in with ever increasing fervency toward holiness. And maybe as small pockets of people move back toward the story - stay connected to the story - unconcerned with looking cool or having the most followers or feeling like we need to water down the story to make it palatable, maybe we’ll find leaders willing to rise up and do the same.