Archive | March 2016

He Is Risen!!

Luke 24:34

Have you ever heard of a man named Harry Houdini? He died in October of 1926, but Harry Houdini’s claim to fame was that he was a magician and an excellent escape artist. Houdini was said to have the flexibility of an eel and the nine lives of a cat. They did all kinds of things to trap him; they would seal him in coffins and he would escape. They riveted him in a boiler and he would escape. They sewed him up in canvas bags and he escaped. They locked him into a high security, maximum prison and somehow, Old Harry still got out. He had once told his wife, when he was talking about death, “If there is any way out. I will find it. If there is any way out, I will find you and I will make contact with you on the anniversary of my death.” After Harry’s death, for 10 years, his wife kept a light burning at the bottom of his portrait. And after 10 years, she turned out the light. Death had laid its hands on Harry Houdini and he could not escape.

Death also laid its hands on the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth after an excruciatingly painful torture, He died and was laid in a rock-hewn tomb. And today, we celebrate the reality that on the third day, Jesus arose from the sleep of death and was resurrected. Jesus left those grave clothes behind and passed through the walls of that tomb.

Harry Houdini was an ordinary man; although he was an escape artist, he could not escape the inevitability of death. None of us can, even Jesus of Nazareth.

But Jesus was different – not only was He human, but He was also the anointed and enlightened Son of God. He had come into the world to teach us, to show us how to cast off our destructive and hurtful actions and choices and to live a life that will never die. He was not an ordinary man.

And because He was not an ordinary man, he could suffer crucifixion, die and YET rise from the dead. That is one special person, and He did it all for us.

What he taught and then did for us was prove that Death is not the end. There is something wonderful and beautiful after our deaths. We came from God and we shall return to God.

DEATH IS NOT THE END – His empty tomb gave hope to the world; we will not have to die into a bottomless pit, where there is nothingness.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And maybe a little hard to fully comprehend.

If so, you are not alone. Lots of people, good Christians, have a problem with the concept of the resurrection. In our physical world, anyone who has been dead for three days without any embalming would begin to putrify and stink. Yet the Scriptures say nothing about that; they just say thatempty tomb

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. (Luke 24:20-23)

When the heavenly messengers first announced the news of Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:4-5), no one said, “Praise God” or “Hallelujah,” let alone, “I knew it — just like he said!” Not a single one of Jesus’ disciples at first believed the report of his resurrection. They didn’t remember that Jesus had told them:

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)

In one Gospel the women flee the tomb in terror and silence, and in another when the women do tell what they’ve seen, the men dismiss their testimony as “a crazy story.” In all four gospel accounts, it appears that the natural response to the resurrection was doubt, fear, and bewilderment.

Why were they afraid, or worse, not believing?

Living beyond death is, quite literally, incredible — that is, not believable. Resurrection isn’t simply a claim that Jesus’ body was resuscitated; it’s the claim that God created a new reality all together. Which, quite frankly, can be frightening.

Resurrection from the dead breaks all the rules we know about life. The reality that death is not the end of life threatens the powers-that-be, the authority figures. Think about it: power and authority usually exist by the fear that they can take away life. If their “victims” live beyond death, the whole power-through-fear manipulation has no effect.

I also think we have glamorized and misunderstood the nature of religious faith. While some religious leaders may expound that perfect faith conquers all doubt, biblical authors believed that faith and doubt are actually woven closely together. Doubt, questions, even downright skepticism, these aren’t the opposite of faith, but an essential part of faith. Faith isn’t knowledge; rather, faith is

faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1).

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, stated that resurrection seemed like a fantasy, almost too good to be true. For that very reason, it must be true, for our lives needs a better ending than the one we’ve defined as ‘death’.[1]

Poet W.H. Auden once penned, “Nothing can save us that is possible: / We who must die demand a miracle.”[2]

So, no matter what your doubts, skepticism, or hopes are about the miracle of the resurrection, you should ask yourself these question:

Does the word of God’s love overcome hate,

Does Jesus’ life and resurrection conquer death,

Does these two things give you hope?”

Does that fact that Jesus rose from the dead show us that we indeed do have eternal life in the Kingdom of God give you hope?

Do you know and embrace the love of God in the form of Jesus?

John saw and believed. Peter looked in and nothing. Mary recognized Jesus only after he spoke her name. God loves us no matter what our response is. That is the good news of this story. The empty tomb reminds us God is at work in the world doing what only God can do. God goes about God’s business and our lives and the world will never be the same again.

The resurrection is about living beyond death. Live like you believe it.

Today millions of Christians raise their voices to share in the ancient Easter acclamation,

“Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!” (Luke 24:34)

Let us all join in proclaiming:

“Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”



[1]      Rev Dr David Lose, “Resurrection Doubt”, Huffington Post, June 20, 2011

[2]      W.H. Auden, For the Time Being

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 27 March 2016

Hunger Hurts

food pantry1There are many ways to be hungry, my friends.

And they ALL hurt.

The organization Bread For The World estimates that 12 million children and 19 million adults in the U.S. go hungry each day and cannot afford the food they need to maintain physical health.

I am the Deacon-In-Charge of In the Garden Ministry housed at Trinity Church on Capitol Square. We are a community consisting of homeless, minimally housed and low-income friends gathering every Sunday afternoon for worship, sharing and a good meal. About a third of our community live ‘on the land’, and some of them do not have the resources to purchase their own food. We occasionally see families with small children who haven’t eaten (on Sundays there are not the soup kitchens serving that normally serve during the week). If you have ever encountered hungry child ‘up close and personal’, you will never forget it. All these people know hunger because they live with the physical hurt of hunger every day.

For thousands of years, bread has been the symbol of necessary food and the sustenance of life. It is easy to understand why. It is nutritious, providing carbohydrates, starch and protein to the body. It is easy to make and, in some form or other, is a part of every culture. Bread is essential. Our problem in this overdeveloped nation tends to be that we get too much to eat. How ironic, that in a nation with TWO TV channels devoted entirely to food, obesity for children and adults is a growing national problem.

    And yet we have millions going hungry each day?

    And yet, people are dropping dead in the Sudan for want of food?

For most people in the world, most of the time, the problem is that they have too little to eat. They may subsist on only one meal a day, often times less than that.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

And the only thing that can remedy that hunger is bread . . . physical bread. And bread is more than nutrition. It’s comfort. The texture, the weight, the taste, all combine to make bread both the staff of life and the number one comfort food.

People are starving to death, literally and figuratively – in Sudan. . . in Yemen. . . in Syria. . . in Appalachia. . . in Columbus Ohio. . . – while often we do everything in our power to make it someone else’s problem, often blaming those very ones who are hungry.

It’s a radical thing we are called to do in the Christian faith. We are instructed to:

    feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned. (Matthew 25:35-36)

We, as the body of Christ and as individuals, call upon one another to care for others, to share our earthly goods; to support the church, food bank, missions and/or missionaries; and to work for social justice in our cities, state and world. It is not light work or easy work, but the church and her people are often the last refuge for those who are sad, angry, alone, sick, and worried about whether they will be able to survive one more month. We are a refuge for the elderly and the sick, those who may be alone, for children who have lost their parents, for the disabled who need a helping hand and acceptance, for the abused, addicted, the lost, the strayed.

Each of us must undertake this work, not only out of the goodness of our hearts, but as builders of the Kingdom of God here on earth. And at the same time, we must care and feed each other with love, hope, joy, compassion, and community. For through this work we come to emulate Christ, and to know the heart of Jesus, who is the ‘bread for eternal life’.
NOTE: I serve on the Board of HungerNet Ohio and offered this meditation for Holy Week on our Facebook page.

Jesus Wept

(Luke 19:28-44)

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of the commemoration of the last days of Jesus’ life, culminating in His resurrection after his trial and crucifixion by the Roman government.

Jesus was headed to Jerusalem; there was nothing that would get in His way. Even though He has stopped and ministered to people, he has never lost sight of His final goal. As he completed the final days of His life, He had been healing the sick, feeding the hungry, returning sight to the blind, raising the dead and teaching the people about the love of God.

And now, as he approached Jerusalem, he was met by crowds who saw him as the savior that would stop the oppression of the Roman. He was greeted in a ‘triumphal entry’; people were lining the road, cheering for Him. They waved palm branches crying

    “Hosanna”, (Matthew 21:9)

laid their cloaks on the road and shouted:

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (John 19:38)

There was intense anticipation that He was going to do a wonderful thing – they were going to be free of the Roman officials. They had been promised by God that someone would come to save them. Everyone in Israel had been taught that the Messiah would be enthroned as King in Jerusalem. The Old Testament make it very clear that the coming King would come to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom. Since the Garden of Eden, all of heaven and earth have been waiting for that moment when the Messiah would enter Jerusalem for the last time, establishing the Kingdom of God.

But, Jesus knew that the kingdom He was to establish was not of this earth, and the people did not understand.

That Palm Sunday Jesus began his final walk to Jerusalem. He stopped on the hill overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives where he had previously preached the Sermon on the Mount, looked over Jerusalem and

    he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)

Some of the people in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday thought that they were witnessing a revolution. They were certain that they would be saved from the Roman government. They were cheering for the promised Messiah.

But those cheers turned to jeers by the end of the week; Jesus was turned over to the Romans for trial, found guilty of trying to overthrow the government and rejected by the people for the life of Barabbas.

If someone did that to us, we would be angry and not care what happened to those people. But Jesus was the perfect man, forgiving each of them as a loving parent would forgive a naughty child. He was disappointed, sorrowful and moved to tears.

Do you know, there are only three instances in the Bible where Jesus is said to have wept?

  1. The first time is when he travels to the house of Mary and Martha after Lazarus has died and been buried for four days. He was so touched by their sorrow that He raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:38-45)
  2. We just heard that Jesus wept before He entered Jerusalem for the last time in Luke 19:41. He wept then because He knew that the people did not understand about the Kingdom of God, and men, women and children were going to continue to suffer. He knew that, ultimately, on Maundy Thursday the people would turn him over to the Roman government to be crucified.
  3. The last time He wept was when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. He praying that He would be strong enough to undertake the challenge He had in front of Him (Hebrews 5:7).

There is a common theme through these three instances when Jesus wept – His love of the people and sorrow that they did not understand about the Kingdom of God. They did not understand that the eternal life one finds through the resurrection of Jesus is the peace of the Kingdom of God.

The people of Israel rejected Him. We reject Him when we don’t follow His teachings. Yet, Jesus wept

    for us

    for you and me,

    each one of us.

In spite of our rejection of Him, Jesus still cares for all of us.

The events of Holy Week tell us that we are still saved by his crucifixion and resurrection.

That He had promised us

    “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

So as we move through this week of celebration, betrayal, death and resurrection, let us remember this assurance from God:

    Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will hold you in my right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Let us pray:

God of unfailing love, we come before you on this day with thankful and joyous hearts because your love knows no bounds. No boundaries, limits, or obstacles—including those of our own making—can thwart your loving kindness from following us all the days of our lives. Yet during this week, your story of passion mirrors to us how we have tested your love and spurned your compassion. As we enter into Holy Week fill us with strength and gratitude and with the assurance that you are with us, from now through eternity.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 20 March 2016

VOTING: A Right and Responsibility

With the March 15, 2016 primary election we begin again a new election cycle for state, and eventually national legislatures and officials. The “Right To Vote” or “One Person, One Vote” concept is a founding principle of our nation – a system of government called DEMOCRACY which our country originated and which has been fought and struggled for and emulated by many nations of the world. The idea that if each person is allowed to vote his or her own mind and self-interest, that common good for all will prevail, lies at the heart of a functioning democracy; but if it is to work, every citizen must vote.

A Brief History
Voting rights were admittedly not equal and available to all when the United States was founded; at first, only white men who owned property could vote. Through great struggle (including imprisonment and death!) women won the vote in 1918. We are more familiar with the long and bitter struggle for voting rights waged by African-Americans, and finally realized with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just fifty years ago! Unfortunately, enabled by the Supreme Court Ruling of 2013 dismantling much of the Voting Rights Act, we now see many states, including OHIO, creating rules and barriers to voting rights of their citizens:

  • In 2014, the state of Ohio passed a law requiring voters to have a driver’s license, military, state or federally-issued ID. House Bill 269 was signed by the Governor, but later rescinded to allow voters (especially people of color, low-income, elderly and disabled) to present a utility bill or bank statement as identification. Still, such citizens can only cast “provisional” ballots. Ohio has a long history of not counting absentee or provisional ballots.
  • A part of the 2016 Biennial Budget Transportation Bill, would require the Secretary of State to develop an online voter registration system. The system would require a state driver’s license or state ID, once again likely restricting people of color, low income, or the elderly and disabled from registering to vote.
  • [NOTE: the state of Oregon recently implemented a system that automatically registers every citizen to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s license.]

  • The 2016 Biennial Budget Transportation Bill includes an amendment which, if passed, will greatly restrict out-of-state students at Ohio’s colleges and universities from voting. If would require them to register their cars in Ohio and obtain an Ohio driver’s license within 30 days of arrival in order to vote locally using their campus address. This would cost each student approximately $75. If they failed to do so, their out-of-state licenses would become invalid and they would face misdemeanor charges. Clearly, this is another attempt to require a ‘poll tax’ (a fee to vote), which is specifically outlawed in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Ohio’s Voting Record
In 2012, over 7,715,000 Ohioans were eligible to vote; of those, only 6,866,000 (or 89%) were actually registered to vote. Of those registered, only 16.7% (1,146,000) voted in the state primary, and only 36.2% (2,485,500) voted in the national election. In reality then, the congressional representatives of Ohio were elected by only slightly over 32% of the citizens of Ohio. Sadly, many Americans have become cynical and distrustful of government, and decry the dysfunction, rancor, and budgetary priorities and waste of our current legislators, both federal and state. Perhaps it is no wonder – since only about 3 in 10 eligible voters in Ohio participated in their selection – and only about 54% of eligible voters nationally!!

The U.S. Census Bureau asked registered non-voters to state why they didn’t vote. The responses were:

    13% said they did not vote for lack of interest
    13% did not like the candidates or issues
    Many reported illness or disability (15%), especially among older registered non-voters.
    Of the 42% remaining, many had logistical problems with the voting process.

When there is a vacuum of citizenship, special interests take over. When ‘one dollar equals one vote’ rather than ‘one person, one vote’ – a situation brought again by the current Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2013 – the good for the majority succumbs to the wishes of the few.

The only antidote to our current governmental problem is to return to one of the founding principles of our democracy – an informed and participating electorate. As citizens of the United States, we have inherited a tradition of active citizenship and governmental leadership. We can and must assume leadership in our state and nation by voting ourselves, by encouraging others to do so, and by resisting laws and policies that discourage and inhibit the voting rights of all!

We may never agree politically, but we can ALL be citizens of this great nation. We may not always like the election choices we have, but we cannot let the ‘perfect’ choice become the enemy of the ‘better’ choice!!

IF YOU HAVE NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE, DO IT NOW! You will not be able to vote in this primary, but you will be ready for the general elections in November.

IF YOU DIDN’T VOTE LAST TIME, VOTE ON MARCH 15 and in every election!

As a citizen of the United States, it is your right and responsibility to vote.

Getting Ready for Holy Week

Next week we begin the observance of Holy Week, one of the most sacred times in the Christian faith. With the arrival of Palm Sunday, we finally end the season of Lent, a time of reflection and repentance readying us for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

We all have lots of things in our lives that impede us from fully embracing the salvation the Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. Greed and hatred are in our hearts; we have not rid ourselves of other impediments to let us fully know Jesus. But we have one more week to take a look at ourselves.

As the Apostle Paul said:

    “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10)

We all want to live a life that is guided by Jesus. And we know that it is not going to be easy. And no matter how hard we work, we are never going to be as perfect as Jesus. But all He asks of us is to try.

    “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10)

Said the apostle Paul. Did he mean that we ‘know’ Jesus in our head or in our hearts?

There is a big difference from knowing a fact or ‘head knowledge’; all our brains are full of facts, things we have learned throughout our life. Some we remember immediately and some take a while to remember. We know important dates, names of people who are close to us. These are stored in our brain.

But there is another type of knowledge; knowledge that exists in our hearts: things that tug at our soul, making us feel warm and fuzzy. That is the ‘know’ that Paul was talking about. It is intimate; a personal knowledge of God, of God’s love and our place in His world.

When we have that deep love of God and Christ, we have the desire and determination to follow Jesus. We want to live a life that shows others the love of God and Jesus. Each and every day we try to treat others as we are commanded in Matthew 7:12:

    “do unto others are you would have them do unto you”

And in Matthew 22:39:

    “love thy neighbor as thyself’.

This is the way to gain that inner knowledge of God and Jesus. And with that knowledge, we are assured of eternal life through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We are assured by Jesus that He has

    “gone to prepare a place for us” (John 14:3)

So in this last week of Lent, we have one more chance

    • to draw nearer to Jesus,
    • to embrace the unconditional love that God offers us,
    • to prepare ourselves to be fully ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

We can do this through identifying those things that we want to change about ourselves. We can do this by

    • spending time in personal reflection of where we want our lives to go.
    • feeding our spiritual needs.
    • trying to fully live into the Golden Rule.

We have one more week. Just one more week.

Please join me in spending the remainder of this holy season of Lent in prayer, asking God to prepare our hearts to share and to receive the stories and truths that challenge each of us most. And celebrate the gift of eternal life.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 13 March 2016

A White Flag

Luke 15:11-24

If I say to you:

    A certain man had two sons. (Luke 15:11)

I bet almost all of you would know that I am talking about the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’. We have heard it from the time we were little children, often, to illustrate that we should do the ‘right thing’. If we don’t we will end up living with the pigs and eating their slop.

Pretty good threat to get us to toe the line.

And a good example of what happens when we confess our sins and are welcomed back into God’s arms.

The youngest son was a rebel; he knew he needed to get away and party, and explore the world – there was much more things to experience and enjoy than working the farm.

But, he wasn’t so smart after all, and before too long he had spent all his inheritance. The only job he could find was slopping pigs. And if you remember Jewish law, pigs were considered unclean and not to be touched or eaten. Yet he was living in a pig pen and eating the slop he was feeding them. He could not get much lower; as someone once said, he would have to get a ladder to even reach the bottom of the hole he had dug himself into. So he went home on hands and knees, begging forgiveness from his father for being such an idiot.

And his father accepted him back, as if he had never been gone – there was celebrating and feasting to mark his return.

Jesus told this parable to remind us, that no matter what we do, we are still God’s children and He will never desert us.

I would like to tell you a story; it’s about an itinerant preacher many years ago named G.W. Ravensbury. Ravensbury made his living preaching off of trains. He’d ride a train to a town, preach, get back on the train, and head to another town.

    Ravensbury told the story of one unforgettable train ride. He was sitting at the back of a railcar and noticed a young man who was sitting a few rows ahead of him. The young man had a cardboard suitcase stuffed underneath his seat. He appeared very anxious. He would get up, pace the car for a bit, and then sit back down. He did this every 10 minutes or so.

    Finally, Ravensbury decided that he would go have a chat with the young man. So he got up, asked the young man if he could have a seat next to him, and introduced himself. “Son, my name’s Ravensbury, and I’m a preacher. You seem like you’ve got a lot on your mind. Would you like to talk?”

    Ravensbury said it was like opening up a spigot. The young man’s life story just came pouring out. “Me and my pa didn’t get along well at all when I was coming up,” he said. “We’d fuss and fight. Shoot, we’d get into it over nuthin’.

    “One day we were getting after each other real hard–I can’t even remember what about–when I said something like, ‘Well why don’t I just leave!’ And my Daddy said, ‘Son, there’s the door, don’t let it hit you on the backside on the way out.’ I didn’t really want to go, but I was so angry that I went to my room and packed everything I could fit into my suitcase. As I went to leave, my Daddy yelled back at me and said, ‘Son . . . if you walk out that door . . . don’t you ever come back.’ I was so mad I just left.

    “Things didn’t go too well for me after that. I kept wandering from one po’dunk town to another working one piddlin’ job after another, and I wasn’t doing too good. One night I was out drinking with some buddies, and we got this idea to try to rob this liquor store. When we got caught, I got sentenced to prison.

    “But before I got out, I decided to write home to Mom and Dad. I told them I was in prison, and about to get out. I said I was sorry for how I left and for what I did. That I’d understand if they never wanted to see me again, but I’d be passing through town. You see, my house is just off the tracks here about 10 miles ahead. I told them that if they wanted to see me to tie something white out in the tree. That if there wasn’t anything white, I’d just go on through to the next town and they’d never have to hear from me again.

    “Mr. Ravensbury, if there’s nothing white hanging out in that tree,” the young man said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’m at the end of my rope. I just don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
    Ravensbury said that as they grew closer to his home, the young man became even more nervous. Finally, the young man nudged Ravensbury and said, “My house is right up around this bend. Do you think you could see if there’s anything white tied there for me? I just can’t look.”

    Ravensbury said he pressed his forehead up against the window hoping to see something–anything–that was white tied up in a tree. And he said as they turned that corner, it was the most majestic sight he’d ever seen. Apparently that family had emptied their house of every towel, every wash cloth, every bed spread, every pillow case, even every piece of underwear–everything in that house was out there flapping in that tree. It was just a tree of white out there in that yard.

    Ravensbury called to the boy, “Young man . . . look!”

    As soon as the young man caught a glimpse of the tree, he grabbed his suitcase, rushed out the door, and leaped off the train car as quick as he could. Ravensbury said that the last image he saw was of that young man dragging his cardboard suitcase up the hill, and an older couple bursting out of the house to come greet him.

    And Ravensbury said that is a picture of what God’s grace is like. The cross was God’s way of emptying Heaven’s linen closet of everything white so that it would be known for all-time that God wants us home. No matter what we’ve done, or where we’ve been–for us please just to come home.[1]

Just remember God will be waiting with open arms. This is God’s watchfulness, God’s unblinking love for you. We are always in God’s line of sight. We are never alone.

We are all of us prodigals.

Rev. Dr. Leonard Sweet once preached on the prodigal son. At the end of the service a little old lady came up to him and said:

    “You’re all wrong about what that means, Dr. Sweet.”
    “Really?” I said. “What do you think it means?”
    “It’s not that God’s eye is on you, waiting for you to slip up,” she corrected me.
    “God’s eye is on you because God loves you so much God just can’t take his eyes off you!”[2]

[1] As told by Philip Cunningham III, who attributes it to Rev. Ronnie White from Midland, TX,
[2] Leonard Sweet, “Someone to Watch over Me”, Collected Sermons
6 March 2016

7 Things Christians Need Remember About Politics

This is an article published in Relevant Magazine, written by Bryan Roberts. In light of the current primaries, I felt it was noteworthy. The original article can be found at the URL at the bottom of the page.

How to be in the world, not of the world, in a culture of political vitriol.

political boxingPolitical discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity—the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.

Not only are believers excused for their political indiscretions, but they are often applauded for committing them. Slander is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments are esteemed higher than truthful ones (whether or not the “facts” align); and those who stir up dissension are given the pulpit. So I balk when pastors tell me the Church should engage in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and vitriol are hardly attractive accessories for the bride of Christ.

Rather than engage in the political process, Christians have a duty to elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the partisan dissension and demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Yes. Should we vote? Yes. But it’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.

It’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.

Here are seven things to remember about politics:

  1. Both political parties go to church
    There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Larry T. Decker is a lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. He’s an “unaffiliated Christian,” but his entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they’re not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.
  2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings
    When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners. If we give our favorite political ideologues more time than we give Jesus, we are following the wrong master. There are unbiased, logical and accurate news sources out there. But it’s up to you to be a good steward of information—to fact-check for yourself, take ideology with a grain of salt and make decisions based on facts rather than gossip.
  3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others
    They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.

    If you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved.

  4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake
    The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them—and it will make you obsolete in a few years. Every four years, the parties adopt a current, updated platform at their respective conventions. And while they stay on general tracks, every four years the platform evolves to meet the needs of a growing, modernized and changing party. The Republican party of today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago. We need to know when to change our views to meet a changing culture—and when to stand by them.
  5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7)
    Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders—for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.
  6. Don’t be paranoid
    The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says,

      “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

    Stand up and demonstrate what God has given you. America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success—for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times—not whoever’s in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.

  7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation”
    It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.

Bryan Roberts, Relevant, February 1, 2016
7 things Christians need remember about politics