This World Is Not Our Home1
by Gary Dyksterhouse
I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the peace without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
I realize that I am skating on dangerously thin ice by writing about this topic, but I am going to spend a few minutes discussing politics and the church. Like many who are reading this, I am guilty of occasionally being sucked into the vortex of Facebook political conversations. If you have never been there, then consider yourself fortunate and make every aim to avoid that deadly black hole of emotional outbursts.
I am not a Donald Trump fan. I am not a Hillary Clinton Fan. I am not even a Gary Johnson fan. I am a man without a candidate. I honestly love politics. I love reading about it. I love watching debates. I find it fascinating and important. Perhaps in the past I have put too much stock in the power of political change, but this election has taught me a tough lesson that I think is a good reminder for all Christians: this world is not our home. We, as Christians, were meant for so much more than petty arguments over earthly leaders. As I see friends of mine from both sides of the aisle argue, ridicule, and stir up trouble over this presidential race (and as I see myself do the same) it saddens me.
Our primary battle on this earth is not physical, but spiritual, and regardless of what your social media feed tells you, Donald Trump is not the devil, and neither is Hillary Clinton. When one of these two become president (I’m sorry Gary Johnson. I am voting for you, but we both know you aren’t going to win) half of the country will feel the devil has won, and half of the country will feel the devil has been defeated. But they are both wrong. The devil wins (small ‘w’) when he is able to hinder people’s testimony to the Gospel of Grace. In C.S. Lewis’ short novel, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis makes a keen observation through the voice of Screwtape, who is a fictional older demon that is advising his fictional protégé demon, Wormwood. Screwtape is discussing how to keep well intending people from the Gospel and how to make Christians ineffective for the Gospel. Here is one of his pieces of advice:
“Do what you (Wormwood) will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s (human’s) soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors, whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.”
Here is another piece of advice that relates directly to politics:
“Let him (the human) begin by treating Patriotism or Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him onto the stage at which religion becomes merely a part of the ‘cause’…Once you have the War an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity. He is ours – and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms), the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here…”
Jesus and his disciples lived their entire lives underneath the thumb of Roman rule. The Gospel of Jesus Christ thrived under the rule of Nero. It can certainly grow under the democratic oversight of either Trump or Hillary. Let us not neuter the Gospel in our community by treating people we know with malice simply because of different political outlooks. Let us not substitute the Gospel of Grace for the Gospel of Political Might.
Let us remind ourselves of the truths of the Bible. John 17 reminds us that this world is not our home. Hebrews 12 encourages us to strive for peace with everyone. This doesn’t mean that we must only strive for peace with people that agree with us politically. In a recent sermon, Richard Owens mentioned that if Simon the Zealot, who in today’s terms would be described as the original Tea Partier, could join hands in prayer and break bread with Matthew the Tax Collector, then surely we as believers can lift up the name of Jesus together despite differing political beliefs.
Whether your candidate wins or loses this November, if you are a Christian you have already won. Let us remember Christ’s victory over sin, let us live that Gospel truth daily, and let us make certain to communicate that Gospel of grace and not impart malice to the people and community in which we interact.
Strive for peace. Let no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble. This world is not your home.