“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. | Matthew 5.13-16
I watched along with many others last night as the results poured in and revealed that Donald J. Trump had one the majority of Southern states and has a huge lead in the race for the Republican nomination. At the same time, exit polls showed that Trump won evangelicals (a group whose definition is a challenge to define) by a wide margin. As I watched all of this happen, I reflected on Sunday. This Sunday, I preached through the end of Matthew 26 and into Matthew 27: Jesus on Trial. I then taught our Communion Church 101 class which was on the topic of church organization and leadership. It is from comparing my Sunday to my Tuesday that I make the statement: the church has failed our nation.*
In the text Sunday, we saw Jesus charged with blasphemy by the chief priests because He claimed to be God (and they were unwilling to see that all of the facts seemed to point toward this conclusion). They were so eager to prove Him wrong that they never considered that He may have been right all along. Trusting Him may have been a better strategy than trying to defeat Him. We then see Jesus refuse to defend Himself to Pilate as the crowd just keeps shouting: Crucify Him! The reality is, Jesus could have won. At any point, Jesus could have turned this whole thing in another direction and made the chief priests out to be losers once again. If Scripture makes anything clear it is: Jesus gave Himself up. He allowed faithfulness and the glory of God to determine His steps, not something as profoundly temporary as ‘winning.’
I went from this picture of faithfulness into a class where we discussed the church experiences of people new to our church. As we laid out our eldership process and the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3, along with our commitment to finding those God has equipped rather than those who fit our desires of ‘leader,’ there was a collective sigh of relief. Not because our church does everything perfectly, but because many people in our group had been hurt by churches who have adopted a business model for the church. When I say ‘business model’ I mean a way of organizing the church that is aimed towards success and ‘winning’ rather than being faithful to God’s simple plan of shepherding the flock of God by defending His truth and loving one another.
In my experience, the American church has desired success (whether that means people, money, influence, baptisms…) to enduring under pressure. The church has chosen to let the way the world operates, win at all costs, to dictate how things are done. Rather than being salt, bringing a different flavor into the world, the church has chosen to adopt the means and measures, even the language, of modern industry. Rather than being a light, the church has traded her distinction in order to be acceptable and relevant. It has led not only to embarrassing public downfalls, but it has given approval to the ungodly goal of victory at any cost, by taking away the Christian alternative.
As Christians we aren’t to get caught up in the battles as they present themselves. In other words, we aren’t people called to pick a side in a battle already determined. Our responsibility is to ask: how does the Bible speak into the process? In what way can we hold to the truth of God (a pillar and buttress of truth) and offer an alternative to the earthly categories (winner/loser)? This means that we may often find ourselves in a place where we have to accept an outcome we aren’t happy with for the sake of remaining faithful. The promise of God is that we will be a blessing by following Him. As salt, we offer something good to the world that it is not aware it is missing (whether you define the role of salt in Matthew 5 as preservation or flavor). When we refuse to stand apart, when we refuse to be willing to suffer on behalf of the gospel, we fail the culture by withholding God’s goodness from them.
There is no ‘lesser of two evils.’ Trusting God means being willing to do what is right and allowing Him to take care of the results.
*I make this statement based not only on the results from this election, but how this election has exposed the blatant hypocrisy of the voters in this country, self-proclaimed evangelicals included.