In October 1991, a confluence of unusual weather conditions and three separate storms combined to form a killer storm, the Perfect Storm, in the North Atlantic. Caught in the middle was the sword-fishing boat Andrea Gail. Ignoring warnings from fellow seamen and the U.S. Coast Guard, Captain Billy Tyne and the crew of the Andrea Gail pressed on with the hope of winning the greatest catch ever. But 40-foot waves crashed on the deck, a broken stabilizer rammed the side of the ship, and two men are thrown overboard. In the end, an enormous rogue wave capsizes the ship and she sinks.
2020 is the Perfect Storm of party politics, cancel culture, and culture wars.
It’s appears that now, more than ever, everything is politicized. There are no neutral topics. There are no neutral people. Then there’s the recent rise of cancel culture. If you say one thing someone doesn’t like or support something someone doesn’t agree with, everything else you say is discounted. Everything else you’ve ever done or accomplished is discarded and discredited. And then, there is Culture war Christianity – the version of Christianity consumed with winning. But this version of Christianity and perversion of biblical faith sets the church up to be a tool of a country’s politicians rather the the conscience of its people. This version is defensive rather than loving and forgiving. This version constantly sees itself under attack and consequently attacks back. It requires an enemy. It sees itself by what it stands for and what it’s against. It forces the church into a defensive posture that is more concerned with winning than loving. It’s fueled by the fear of losing something. But is does not reflect the first century teaching of Jesus and the purpose of the early church. It actually reflects the opposite of what Jesus taught and modeled.
So what do we do?
Avoid the storm altogether.
Give up trying to win by electing the right party, proving you’re right, or defending your rights.
Instead, let’s follow Jesus by selflessly serving others in the same way He served you and me: giving up His rights and privileges to die for us.
Consider the words of Jesus, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?” Mark 8:34-36 “But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
And the words of Paul, “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
During the earthly life of Jesus, everybody wanted Jesus to take their side, to endorse their party, to support their platform. But He refused. Both sides were fueled by a common assumption: power and resources are to be leveraged primarily for the benefit of the powerful and resourced. Jesus refused to play their game of tug of war. He was the King who came to reverse the order of things (Philippians 2). Jesus did not play to win. Jesus played to lose. He played a completely different game with completely different rules. With a completely different win. Jesus played to lose so that the other team (you and I) could win. He refused to attach His name to the “What’s In It for Us Party.” The party that’s in it to win it. The party that fears losing. The party that clings to rather than gives up.
Jesus came as a servant – someone who thinks about how to best meet the needs of someone else. That’s how Jesus described Himself. That how Paul describes Jesus. So this should describe us. The church looks more like Jesus when we are defending other people’s rights rather than our own. The church looks more like Jesus when we are giving away rather than demanding our way.
If that bothers you, then perhaps you understand why Jesus’ disciples refused the idea that He would be arrested and crucified. That’s what losers do. That means you’ve lost. On their way to Jerusalem, the disciples are arguing who’s going to be number two and number three after Jesus wins. If you aren’t willing to lose, then you don’t belong in my kingdom. Even the Son of Man did not come to win, but to lose. (Mark 10:45) He came to establish a completely different kingdom that operates on a completely different set of values. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. In His Kingdom there is no first or last.
The first generation of Christians following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus refused to leverage any privilege or power for themselves. It was always for the benefit of others. Not only were they not in it to win it, they weren’t in it to change anything (laws or rules). They lived selfless lives in Jesus’ name. The gave up the old way of power and they embraced the Law of Christ: love. And neither the privileged or the powerful could stop them in Jesus name. How are we going to build the church if you are arrested and crucified? Jesus said, by being arrested and crucified. The only question is, “Will you follow Me? Will you take up your cross rather than your rights?”
Throughout history, when the church utilizes the tools and strategies of this world (privilege and power), the church ends up looking like the world. The church becomes weak. It becomes fearful. It looks desperate. When we as the church demand our way and defend our rights, we lose the distinctiveness of servants. When we’re in it to win it, we’re just another organization, another group of people defending ourselves. If Jesus refused to play the “God card”, if Jesus refused to use his privilege and power for His own benefit, then neither should we.
Political parties are in it to win it, the church is not. The minute followers of Jesus get involved in partisan party politics, we abandon our commitment to lose so that others may win. Our mission isn’t to vote our politicians into public office, our mission is to inspire people to follow and trust Jesus. We are not in it to win it for ourselves, we are in it to win it for others.
No matter what politicians promise or what they might say, biblical morality will never be found in a political party. Neither of the two major political parties or platforms fully represents the values of the Kingdom of God. Instead, the church represents God’s Kingdom party. While I’m a voting citizen of the United States, I’m an eternal citizen of the Kingdom of God, I answer to one Lord, and I’m ultimately accountable and loyal to only one King – JESUS.
As a follower of Jesus, I am praying for God’s will for the election as well as praying for unity in the body of Christ and our country, peace for our hearts and in our land. While not remaining silent on moral, racial, theological, or biblical issues, I am not a follower of a party, platform, or politician other than the Kingdom of God and our soon coming King, Jesus.
As the Perfect Storm of 2020 strengthens, we can rest in the Lord Jesus who calms the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), calms our hearts (Philippians 4:4-7), and provides a way out of it (1 Corinthians 10:13). He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.