Sunday, September 25, 2016

What I Wish I Could Hear From a Politician

I keep waiting for a political candidate who talks about sacrifice.  You know, like, In order to get our country out of debt, or fight terrorism, or get rid of racism, or care for refugees, we are all going to need self-sacrifice.  It's going to be hard, but we can do it together.  

But I never hear it.

Instead, all I hear about is what we're going to get.  How our lives will be better--even great--if I vote for that person.  Apparently no one wants to vote for someone who says that our lives might get harder before they can get better.

Why am I surprised?  The notion of self-sacrifice seems to have disappeared from the list of American virtues.  The average credit card debt in America is $15,000.  Divorce is easy and abortion is easier.  My body; my choice.  Personal satisfaction reigns king.  Follow your heart.  You deserve it.  You are worth it.  Have it your way.  Finding yourself seems to be the chief goal of growing up.

Of course, each person is different and redemption can be found even in the worst choices.  I am painting our culture with broad strokes and I am not casting condemnation on your individual story.  But the truth is that we as a country have lost the notion of self-sacrifice.

We have taken what should be seen as privileges and turned them into rights.  I have the right for my children to succeed.  I have the right to be safe.  I have the right to be heard.  I have the right for you to treat me the way I want to be treated.  I have the right to be happy.  

We've had those privileges for so long that we consider them owed to us.  So when we realize we might lose them, we are horrified.  Suddenly all of our choices become about self-protection.  How we spend.  How we save.  How we plan for the future.  How we vote.

But what Christians have forgotten is that we were never supposed to be about self-protection.  We are always supposed to be about self-sacrifice.

Fear is never supposed to define us.  But unfortunately our culture has told us for such a long time that this life is about us, that we panic at the notion of losing it.  Have we forgotten that this is the antithesis of who Christians should be?

Deny yourself.

To live is Christ; to die is gain.

Do not look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  

Love your neighbor as yourself.  

There's nothing in Scripture that tells us that we need to do everything we can to protect our assets.  Or even our freedom.

America was founded on Christian principles, which was great for liberty but is now confusing for Christians.   If our government is "we the people," then we are the government.  Which means that we are directly responsible for looking after our collective safety and freedom.  The problem comes when my focus comes off of society as a whole--others focused--and instead becomes about me.  

Of course, as a people--even as Christians--we are going to disagree about what is best for our society.  But that is not the point.  The point is that we are failing our country--and our God--when we are dominated by self-interest.  Our country will never thrive that way.  And our faith will disintegrate.

Which is why I am disheartened when I see Americans shunning refugees in the name of self-protection.  Celebrating abortion in the name of self-fulfillment.  Tolerating racism because of self-absorption, or fighting it with self-destruction.  Glorifying politicians who promise self-indulgence.

I have despaired over the state of my country.  And I must admit I don't have a lot of hope for its future.  You can call me a pessimist, and I would love to be proven wrong.  Maybe if enough Americans start once again valuing self-sacrifice will we have a chance to change.

But I can guarantee one thing.  We as Christians will fail--as citizens of America and of heaven--if we do not step away from our fear long enough to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus.  Yes, what we have had in America is great, but we need to hold to it loosely.  Yes, politics is important and we should seek the good of all people.  But at the end of the day, our loyalty is to Jesus--who specialized in self-sacrifice.  So if that costs us all things, then so be it.   

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