I have a confession to make.
It hit me last night, as I returned from watching my Liberty Flames go down to defeat in football, 27-24. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful evening of tailgating with a couple of my new colleagues and their families, and I got to hang out with my son, who greatly enjoys live sports and is even teaching me a thing or two about how the game of football is played these days.
After I got back to the house and prepared for bed, I decided to check in on my Facebook “public figure” page, which has become the center of my political social network based on sheer numbers and participation. I did the usual scan of updated comments, responded to some of them, and added a couple of items of interest to wrap up the evening.
As I was reading, though, I felt the good feelings of my evening out draining from me, and I reached a point where I simply couldn’t read or respond any more. I went to bed thinking about it, and I woke up much earlier than I wanted this morning because it was still on my mind.
I am tired of the arrogance and condescension of my ideological adversaries, who consider policy disagreement a character flaw or a sign of intellectual poverty, rather than a different worldview with the benefit of historical, evidential and observational merit.
I am tired of people who think my faith forbids me from even expressing my point of view publicly, much less participate in the political process, and that they have the power to suppress my unalienable rights, rights they did not grant to me, because I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
I am tired of refereeing disputes between people who agree 80 percent of the time, but think that less than 100 percent purity is apostasy and those lesser beings are pond scum, thereby refusing to acknowledge that a demand of absolute fealty leads to an all or nothing outcome, most likely nothing.
In short, I am exhausted by today’s politics.
This is an unusual admission for me to make, because if you looked up the definition of “political,” I’m sure my picture would be one of the illustrations provided as an example. I’ve been fascinated by politics since childhood, so much so that my classmates thought I was abnormal, and my worried parents had me seek counseling because I was so immersed in weighty matters like elections, public policy and candidates.
After I recommitted my life to Christ in 1993, I struggled with this innate attraction to the political realm because I feared it wasn’t of God. It took me years to finally realize that, as David wrote in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
Everything is His, and all of us are His, and that includes politics and the people engaged in it. There is no discipline or sphere of influence that God does not own, and He expects His people to be salt and light to everyone, everywhere.
Because of my personal struggle with this question, the movie Amazing Grace, chronicling the life of British Member of Parliament William Wilberforce, had great appeal to me. Wilberforce waged a lifelong battle to abolish the slave trade and, eventually, slavery itself in Great Britain.
Wilberforce was an up-and-coming young British politician, a stirring and accomplished orator with a bright future. Things changed, however, and in the movie, his butler finds him one day sitting in the middle of a meadow contemplating nature:
Richard the Butler: “You found God, sir?”
William Wilberforce: “I think He found me. You have any idea how inconvenient that is? How idiotic it will sound? I have a political career glittering ahead of me, and in my heart I want spider’s webs.”
Later, Wilberforce and his best friend, William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in British history, entertain several members of the abolitionist movement at Wilberforce’s home. They are knowledgeable of his passion for their cause, his considerable political skills and his dilemma in reconciling his political career and his faith:
Thomas Clarkson: “We understand that you are having difficulty deciding whether to do the work of God or the work of a political activist.”
Hannah More: “We humbly suggest you can do both.”
I can’t tell you how stirred I was by this brief scene in a movie. It summed up the challenge of my life and the response required of me. I’ve always thought back to it whenever I doubted myself or the course I’m taking.
Further in the book, I quoted Rick Boxx of the Integrity Resource Center:
Imagine a world in which everyone that claimed allegiance and devotion to Jesus Christ—called “Christians” in the Bible—served only as pastors and missionaries. Who would reach the people in the workplaces of the world? Who would provide the food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities that are essential for carrying out God’s plan? Who would start businesses or lead our governments? To withdraw from being an integral, contributing part of the so-called “secular” work world (the Bible makes no such distinction) would be disastrous. Even worse, to do so is not God’s plan.
With my fears assuaged, I have devoted myself to being one of God’s workmen in the field of politics, as best as I understand that role to be.
Truth be told, however, I am not well-equipped to exercise this passion I carry with me, at least not in accordance with the world’s expectations.
While I believe God has given me gifts of leadership, empathy and self-awareness, intelligence, and communications, thereby enabling me to influence others, I have no lust for power. Any role of influence granted to me is a charge placed upon me by the Lord, and I undertake such a role with reverence and gratitude for the trust He has in me.
While politics is often characterized by conflict, I have no desire to argue with anyone. My goal is to be persuasive and, failing that, I adhere to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:14, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.”
He has even designed my personality with a ‘governor’ for conflict. My personality profiles suggest an even-keeled demeanor, but with it comes a low energy reserve and the tendency to deplete them sooner than many when conflict ensues.
Some people reading this would say, “Why in the world are you in politics, then?” Politics is all about power and conflict, and I suppose if I thought as the world did, I would either need to man up or get out of the way. As Finley Peter Dunne once said in his Irish brogue, "Politics ain't beanbag: 'tis a man's game, and women, children 'n' pro-hy-bitionists had best stay out of it." A little chauvinistic of him considering the great women of politics throughout history, but you get my point!
But my faith teaches me to put my trust in God and not man. There is a common church saying that goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” God calls us to do great things, but if we could do them without His help, they’re either not great, or He’s not God.
My pastor at Chesapeake Church always taught that another common church saying, “God will never give us more than we can bear,” has no Biblical basis because, if we could bear it, why would we need God?
Instead, the Bible is replete with examples of people who were ill-equipped for the great work God placed before them, but God gave them what they needed so that they would glorify Him and not themselves, and others who knew of their shortcomings would marvel at how God used them to accomplish great things.
Moses had a speech impediment and felt inadequate to confront the great Pharaoh of Egypt. In Exodus 4:10, Moses complains, "But my Lord, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence, either before or since you have spoken to your servant. I am a slow speaker and not able to speak well." It is written that, in response:
“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’” ~ Exodus 4:11
If you read on, you’ll find that Moses continued to complain, and an exasperated Lord agreed to have Moses more eloquent brother, Aaron, accompany him. He was not, however, going to escape the calling the Lord had for him.
The Lord called upon Jeremiah, telling him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).”
Jeremiah, like Moses, declared himself unfit for duty:
“Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” ~ Jeremiah 1:6
The Lord set him straight, too:
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” ~ Jeremiah 1:7-10
The Lord made the young Jeremiah “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land (Jeremiah 1:18).
Now that’s power unmatched by anything this world offers. When the nation of Israel is in exile in Babylon, the Lord uses Jeremiah to make them a promise that has become my favorite Bible verse:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
So, yes, I am taxed beyond my temperament and tolerance by this calling that has been placed before me, but I also know that I have an infinite source of strength in the Lord, as long as I stay in the center of His will. Perhaps the Lord will use me to deliver a message of hope to the people. Who knows? Whatever His plans, I must be prepared – and willing.
I will press on, I will drink deeply of my family and friends to remind me of the gifts God has given me and, when I really need rest, I know where to go:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28