You don't always see the obsessive qualities of your own heart. It can take years (or a swift whack up the side of your head) to give you clarity. You can't see the "religious" effort you are spending toward things that have nothing to do with Jesus, that can so easily poke holes in your boat. The icebergs of the previous 2 presidential elections (2008, 2012) and the brouhaha that followed these seasons of name-calling and blather had poked so many holes in my heart, I had run out of fingers to plug them. I was sinking. When you're sinking, you are most certainly not underway. Your original destination on the map has now devolved into a search and rescue grid.
Under the guise of "picking the best man to lead us", I became a stumper for the stump speech. I rehashed one-liners, pointed fingers at the finger-pointers and, in the process, forgot who I was called to be as a believer in Jesus. I spent so many wasted moments scouring the political pundits, polling data, and talking heads - all in the hopes that they might say one thing that gave my preferred candidate the slightest edge.
What a mess then. What a mess now.
We watch candidates say what we already know they are going to say, which is nothing of significance. They posture, for the most part, defend, pull back, launch their own verbal barrage, duck and cover, etc. Then we watch the nauseating spin and spew of the 24 hour news channels. They cry "wolf" with every story. Come on, not every moment of news is BREAKING. Nonetheless, they hem and haw about how they thought the candidates fared in the latest "debate", which was nothing of the kind. There are no issues truly discussed. They make themselves the issues. In a game of summertime pool chicken, they attempt to hold on just long enough to be the last man above water. Meanwhile the parents with the little ones in "floaties" can't wait for the idiots to get out of the pool.
It's even worse when we bring God into it. While there is great comfort to be found in God's sovereignty over every king and leader (Romans 13:1; Daniel 2:21), there is also great danger when we attempt to meld church and state. It's a tough piece of truth to swallow: God sets Kings in place, and removes them. It's not the good ones that cause us to wonder.
Why did you pick (allow) that one, Lord? Why the seeming silence when one of those you have allowed to take a throne commits the most heinous of acts? What about Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot?
I can give you the "what they taught me in seminary" answer, but it didn't make me feel better about the whole thing, so I'm guessing you wouldn't like it either. I find that the longer I walk with Jesus the more I have to be ok with saying "I don't know." It's when we claim to know every move of God and how it intersects with our culture and history that we end up on the wrong side of things.
Where does that leave us with our place in the current political landscape? With equal voice from all sides that range from: We need to get back to being a Christian nation (debatable if you study many of our founders, who leaned toward Deism, if anything) to wanting nothing to do with any form of religion in our country. We couldn't be more polarized at this point in history and the water is only getting hotter.
A story of wonder and grace that wouldn't usually be applied to this type of issue has centered my heart. Could there be anything more striking than the King and Creator of the universe dressed in humanity, spending time at a party? The One who could solve all of our woes with a single word, but He's laughing and enjoying himself with friends.
If there ever was a time to be doing something important - to get on with solving the world's great evils, this was the moment. Jesus, you've been waiting around for 30 years making chairs in Joseph's shop. Enough with the chisel, the saw and the plane. Put down the lumber and let's save the world. You're the King. You have all power and glory at your disposal. Let's see you use it. We should go straight to Jerusalem, gather all the big heads around and show them who you really are. Then we will head to Rome and show them what a real Caesar looks like.
How is this a bad plan?
He had a different thought.
I need to go to a wedding.
His way was unlike any man or woman to ever breathe air on our planet. When we thought he should stand up and make himself known, he stooped low in humility. When we thought he should shout from the hilltops with a war cry of victory, he wouldn't say a word and gave His life silently. When we thought it was time to think about building his kingdom, to kick some tail and take some names… he thought of 2 names, a lowly couple who had invited their friend Jesus to celebrate their big day. When we thought it was time to fly from the temple roof top with power and glory, he decided to do something that would spare that young couple embarrassment and shame.
What was it? His opening act? His first display of all powerful, kingly majesty?
He made more wine.
The crowd stares. A bit dumbfounded. A smattering of claps can be heard echoing across the auditorium.
Scripture tells us (John 2: 1-11) that not everyone actually saw the miracle. If anything, Jesus pushed back on Mary's plea with his "Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My time has not yet come." I never tried that line with my Mom. Mary didn't change her course. With a stern look and a snap, Mary directs the servants: "Do whatever He tells you."
Did you catch that?
They witnessed this unveiling of glory. Not Kings or those vying for political office. The lowly, forgotten and looked over. They had this glimpse of glory.
I can imagine their wide-eyed wonder as the jars turned from common well water to the best wine. I can't imagine Jesus busting out box wine. He made the good stuff. In our economy, the most expensive bottle of wine is around $15,000 a bottle. Jesus made the best for the least of these.
When was the last time I served the best to the least? When was the last time I looked at an opposing political view or candidate and actually saw a person, knit together by the same Savior in whom I live and breathe?
The truth? I usually don't. Eventually you reach the bottom of the cheap whine (yes, whine) and realize that it wasn't so good after all. Slander, gossip, posturing, and politics belong in the same sentence, but they don't sit well in the human heart. Yet we are desperate for something better.
We need to be raising our glasses filled with the most expensive and costly wine ever made. The wine that is best served around a table with zealots and tax collectors, fisherman and outcasts, republicans and democrats. More importantly, we need to look to the One who lifts the cup, rather, who is lifted up. Only then will we realize that what He serves is the vintage that all of humanity needs.
It was a good year. A.D. 33.
For further heart work on your own, I highly recommend Scott Sauls book, Jesus Outside the Lines.