I have been interested in politics and government since I was a kid. At the age of 12, I decided that one day I would be the president of the United States. My target date to run was at the time of my age eligibility in 1992. That was a long ways off from 1964; it certainly seemed like an eternity to me. Well, here we are in 2016; my, how time has flown! I am not in politics. In my early twenties, the Lord called me into the ministry and I have pastored the church I founded since 1978. I still have an interest in politics and government, but it is not my calling to be directly involved. I have found that I didn’t have the personality for politics, even though I had the desire. It has always been my personal motivation to think well of people, so I rarely question another person’s integrity, even when they disagree with my opinions.
I grew up in a large family with eight brothers and sisters and we were a strongly opinionated group. Although we were inclined to conflict over ideas, it was not the kind of conflict that separated us from one another. I remember when my wife first experienced my family; she was not used to my outspoken, and often “loud spoken,” family. After our visit with the family, she felt bad that my brother and father were at odds with each other. To her, they were angry at one another and thought it might cause a problem. I informed her this was everyday behavior in my family and it had no bearing on how they thought of each other. From my early years, I have witnessed that conflicting opinions do not need to result in a conflict between people. In my thinking, conflict aids in the development of the best ideas as you sort out the different opinions expressed. Now you can understand my contrasting behavior with the present political environment, where we are all being persuaded to believe that bad ideas come from bad people.
First Step: Say Goodbye to Being a Mere Man (Woman)!
We are in a time of intense conflict, and it probably won’t get better in the long run. Why do I have that opinion? Because according to the word of God, anger, hostility, and divisions are the “works of the flesh.” The Apostle Paul said, “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” You may ask, “Aren’t we supposed to act like mere men?” God has created us from the natural world, the dust of the earth, and spiritual world, the breath of God. If we live from natural motivations, we are only living to half our potential as the sons of God. We are called to live higher than our natural motivations; we are called to live with spiritual motivations. The scriptures tell us that if we are going to “live in the Sprit,” we should also “walk in the Spirit.”
As Christians, our principles should lead us to have strong political and social views. However, how we express those views, and relate to the people we are called to witness to, is of the utmost importance. When Jesus died on the cross, it would not have been a pretty picture if He had expressed His anger to His persecutors. From the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” His attitude was the most important part of His sacrifice. If He had resented His experience, He would not have been a sacrifice for our sins, because the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He will go as a lamb to the slaughter.”
Next Step: Walk in the Open Heavens!
In Acts chapter 6, we pick up on the story of Stephen, one of the first deacons to serve the church. He preached a message that was very displeasing to his listeners. The Truth can hurt, but he still said what had to be said. However, the people became angry and began to stone him to death. In Stephen’s distress, the heavens were opened to him. From the heavenly perspective, he had the power to get through his persecution with the right attitude. His last words were, “Father do not hold this against them.”
It would be easy for us to see Jesus not giving into the temptation to curse the people; but for us, it would seem almost impossible to rise to that level. If we were to look at Stephen’s life from an earthly perspective, it would appear to be a total loss, but one of his persecutors was a man named Saul, who would later be called Paul. No one was more influential in the founding of the early church than him. He initially helped to fight the church, but later becomes the greatest advocate of it. Stephen’s witness started all of it. He was someone who not only did the right thing, but did it in the right way!
Join me in the daily battle to see the open heavens, and live as a witness for the kingdom as never before. Your role might seem insignificant without the heavenly vantage point, but your impact is far beyond your understanding!