Our recent flurry of political violence and near violence, with the murders at a synagogue, pipe bomb mailings, and numerous assaults have led to an even greater flurry of accusations and counter-accusations about one side or the other’s “hateful rhetoric” being responsible for the violence. It all made me think of what the Bible says about the source of war and fighting among us:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3
James tells us that our lack of peace between ourselves stems from a lack of peace within ourselves, and that lack of peace is ultimately a lack of peace with God.
Both Adam and Eve’s original sin and our own sins alienate us from fellowship with God. Like Adam and Eve, we hide ourselves from God because we are “naked,” that is, because we feel guilt over our sin. We try and cover our nakedness, our guilt over sin, with the inadequate covering of “fig leaves.” Examples of these fig leaves include over-punishing ourselves for minor faults or the sins of our ancestors, trying to earn forgiveness by good works or ceremony, and transferring our guilt onto others, saying “This is all your fault!”
At best, our fig leaves give us temporary relief from our guilt, so such activity must be maintained forever. They can give us no peace with God and no rest, and as James says, they cause us strife with each other.
A recent example of this was seen in the dust up over Megan Kelly’s “black face” comments. Though she apologized, there could be no forgiveness or redemption, because our humanistic attempts to deal with our own guilt and lack of peace with God have no theory of forgiveness and redemption. This spiritual problem underlies and colors all of our political discussions. When we should be talking about pragmatic solutions to practical problems we are instead driven to blame shifting, name calling, hero posing and similar psycho-drama because of our unresolved angst stemming from our alienation from God due to our own sin. Politics, like family life, becomes just one more arena to work out our guilt problem. Actual problem solving can wait.
As the Apostle Paul would say, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” But he goes on to say, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, through faith in his finished work and not in our strivings, is the key that gives man peace with God. From a place of rest, from a place of having our sins forgiven once and for all, we are set free, free to pursue productive activity unburdened with the psycho-drama of guilt abatement.
May I say that this freedom from guilt is the unique Christian contribution to politics? Is it possible for men burdened with guilt and shame, lacking peace with God, to be at peace with their fellow men and form a free and just social order? Is it possible to fulfill the second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” if we cannot obey the first commandment “to love the Lord your God with all your heart” because our unresolved sin separates us from Him?
As Christians we are given the ministry of reconciliation, not in smoothing over real differences between people, but in first leading them to reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. When we have peace with God in ourselves we can have peace with each other.
Two recent articles got me think about my major theme of the end of the Age of Enlightenment. The first was “The Left Seeks to Return to Familiar Ground, Confident that 2016 Was an Anomaly” by Richard Fernandez, in which, as the title suggests, he observes that the left is trying to cope with the upheaval of 2016 and related shocks by interpreting them as anomalies, and their proper reaction being to try and get things back on their previous, proper course in accordance with their beloved “arc of history.” Fernandez argues that these events may mark something fundamentally new, a lasting change rather than a blip.
Churches differ in the attitude they take toward America and patriotism in general. On the one hand some churches go all-in for a red white and blue celebration of America even in church services. In the extreme they virtually equate Americanism and Christianity. On the other hand we have churches that see such patriotic displays as borderline idolatrous. In the extreme we have those that see America with its consumerism, militarism, and checkered history as the very antithesis of the gospel.
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GET YOUR COPY OF EMPIRE
Popular opinion holds that since not everyone is Christian, the government must be secular. But is this true? Does the Bible say that human government is free to violate the moral law of God, or are all men and nations commanded to repent and obey? "Empire" explains how the Christian Empire has been spreading throughout history and why it is destined to conquer the world.
About The Author
Russ' formal undergraduate education has been in Engineering, beginning with a BSEE from the US Naval Academy in 1973 and service as an officer in the Nuclear Navy. He also hold an MEEE and MBA, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Electrical and Nuclear engineering. Russ is married with two adult sons, three grandsons and one granddaughter.