I rarely write on politics these days, because I am a pastor. While I have strong political opinions, I keep them to myself. I never want my particular take on the best health care system or the size of COVID stimulus checks to cause someone to disregard what I say about Jesus. But, when a large number of Christians put their hope so profoundly in the wrong places that they are willing to lay siege to the capitol to hold on to that misplaced hope, I must say something not to make a political point, but to make a pastoral one.
This week’s attack on the capitol is not primarily a political matter, but a spiritual one. After all, those who perpetrated it did so while claiming to serve Jesus. As the money changers in the temple perverted the worship of God by focusing on enriching themselves rather than helping people serve God, so too this mob perverts Jesus’s name by focusing on political power rather than faithfulness.
Consider how the quest to retain perceived political power has caused violations of actual Biblical commands:
Scripture is clear and unequivocal that we should obey legitimate governing authorities. To seek to take such a government by force is in direct violation of God’s command. That others riot and are lawless across the nation is of no consequence to the Christian. Though human beings going all the way back to Adam have attempted such finger pointing, we can never justify sinning by pointing to others’ participation in that sin.
It is to our shame that so many Christians have attempted to legitimize what is clearly disobedience to God on the basis that others have acted in like manner elsewhere. When we do things God calls sin, it is sin even if our neighbors do it too.
Christians are called to be lights in the world, not mirrors.
We should not excuse what happened. We should not excuse those who stormed the capitol nor the politicians, including the president, who agitated that crowd into a frenzy, particularly when it was blatantly obvious beforehand where such agitation could lead.
Why would the Christian try to justify what happened? I hear many doing so for what I believe is one simple reason: misplaced hope.
Many attempt to justify such actions out of fear of what a Biden administration will mean for religious freedom. However, the calling of the Christian has never been to defend our rights, but to proclaim the One who laid down His rights for us.
When we become fixated on our rights, we are not acting like Jesus but like those who opposed Jesus. We should not be masochists who willingly bring on persecution for our beliefs, but if we are willing to act in un-Christ-like ways and, even, in direct disobedience to God’s commands, we have already lost before persecution begins.
We cannot sacrifice the reputation of Jesus or His Bride, the Church, for transient political power. Yet that is precisely what this movement has shown its willingness to do. No political leader — President Trump or otherwise — is worth that.
No political leader can save us or our churches or America. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 146:3-5:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God
When Christians misplace their hope, we become blind and trade the truth of God for the deceits of sinful men. This is the same impulse that led the Israelites to trade the God who was visibly manifesting himself on the mountaintop for a golden calf. The result for us will be no better than it was for the people of Israel.
It should sicken us all to think of the symbols this week has etched in the minds of non-Christians to associate with Jesus.
Two stand out to me. First, Christians — erecting a giant cross no less — breaching the capitol in such a quixotic quest because the mantle of hope was placed on a human “king” rather than the King of Kings. Second, the Confederate Battle Flag, symbol of an effort to deny the image of God in a broad swath of humanity, likewise being carried in as if the One who went to the cross for us could ever have common cause with racism.
The world should see our confidence in true Hope no matter what happens politically. The world should see us unwilling to compromise our values in the political sphere, because the heavenly King does not need the help of earthly “kings.”
How can that be what the world sees rather than those symbols of the past week? We must turn from all misplaced hopes and hold all the more tightly to our only hope. Jesus is King. Now and forever.
May we seek His mercy and repent afresh of how we’ve marred the testimony of His Bride, the Church.