A Message To The President (And The Rest of Us)
[Now breathe deeply]
I've issued a personal moratorium on news, news-related media and news items. I have no desire to hear how or why President Obama won re-election.
I have no desire to hear how or why Mitt Romney failed to get elected.
I am done. I've reached my information quota, and I'm sick to death of listening to politicians posture, grandstand, evoke the most incredible hyperbole when saying virtually nothing and promising to singlehandedly save America.
Before the election I gave up monitoring and posting on Twitter because I grew weary of the negativity from both liberals and conservatives and the way it made me want to fight, argue and act out of meanness.
Now, I fear that I am going to have to give up monitoring and posting on Facebook for the same reason.
I seriously don't need the negativity. And I don't need any more reminders that our nation is divided---some might say hopelessly so.
I have Christian friends who are doing victory laps on their social media outlets and blogs---the online equivalent of jogging by an opposing team member on the basketball court after dunking on him and asking him "What's Up?"
[or for you old school basketball players, saying "In Your Face!"]
I have other Christian friends who are basically planning to move to some island off of the coast of Nowhere so they don't have to live in the same country as the people who just voted for Obama.
To both sets of friends, and anyone else who might be listening in... I want you to hear these words from Psalm 75:
"It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another..."
I'm sorry, what? Who is it that judges? Who is it that brings down one? Who is it that exalts another?
Yeah, that would be God.
Not you, not me, not the stupid Electoral College (can we all just admit that it's not 1800-something any more?), not swing state voters, not campaign managers, not the dazzling personality of a candidate...
Let me put it another way.
"The Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world and gives them to anyone he chooses---even to the lowliest of people." Daniel 4:17
This is a good passage of Scripture for anyone in leadership to read. Humans are funny. We tend to think that we are pretty important. Some of us might even think that if we are in positions of leadership that we somehow got there on our own because we are beyond awesome and earned it because of said awesomeness.
There's always someone more awesome. Trust me.
"The Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world...
Every aspect of this world---businesses, churches, organizations, governments are all under the sovereignty of God.
...and gives them to anyone he chooses---
God is in charge of who is lifted high and who is put low. We might think we did it without God's help, but in so doing we would be replicating that moment when the first people plucked that fruit off the tree they weren't supposed to eat from because they wanted to be "like God."
News flash: you aren't God.
And neither is President Obama--no matter what sort of messianic role some people might be assigning to him. In the end, he is just a man---one who was given his position by the Most High God, and who has a the chance to do something incredible with this gift... if he is courageous and self-less.
In Mark chapter 10:42-45 we have this great conversation between Jesus and two of his disciples who asked to be elevated to positions of great authority when Jesus returned to establish his kingdom. Here's how that went for them:
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 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.”The disciples were campaigning. They wanted to make sure that Jesus gave them that great political appointment that they so desired. They were practicing partisan politics. And when Jesus asked them if they were willing to follow him and drink from the same cup that he would have to drink from (he was speaking of his Passion), they made a campaign promise and told him they would.
[For the record, when that moment came---they turned and fled with the rest of the disciples.]
But Jesus had other ideas about what it meant to achieve glory, to sit at the head of the table... and none of them involved campaigning, promises, or partisanship. Instead they all involved giving up oneself, self-sacrifice, laying down ones life and unparalleled selflessness.
So, with this in mind I offer the following message to the President:
Mr. President, I have a few things I would like for you to hear. For the record, if your opponent had won the election, he would be hearing the same thing---sort of.
So hear me out, if you will.
No endless analysis on how or why you won...
Your nation is divided.
Millions of people are out of work---many of whom believe that you will be able to help them.
Millions are living in poverty.
Half of Americans think our country is heading in the wrong direction.
There are people in the Northeast--in some of the most populated and civilized parts of our country who are living in third world conditions with no help, no assistance...
There are people living in your hometown of Chicago who live in fear for their lives every night because of the violence on their streets.
Children are going hungry in rural parts of the Deep South---in this, the richest country in the world.
As a result of this election and the negative campaign there is racial division gender division, class division and age division all across the United States.
We need someone who is willing to lead us to unity. To embody it by example.
Jesus' words are words that you must hear and heed. "Instead whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant... "
Mr. President, a servant places others needs ahead of his own. Ahead of his political party. Ahead---even of those rich donors who will come to you now with expectations of how they want to be repaid.
Mr. President, a servant seeks unity over triumph. Now is not the time for grandiose speeches about how your side won---how your ideology trumped all others. Your divided country indicates otherwise. You won by the narrowest of margins, and ideology was the furthest thing from the minds of those on both sides who so hopefully cast their ballots.
Mr. President, a servant is dedicated to giving sacrificially. Which means that you must be willing to compromise---even when those who disagree with you are unwilling to do so on their own. A great leader knows when to sacrifice what is important to him in order to accomplish something great for those he serves.
"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."
Mr. President, finally remember the truth of Psalm 75. "It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." Your victory was only possible because God saw fit in his infinite wisdom and mercy to grant it to you---to exalt you as opposed to someone else. This knowledge should bring you to your knees in gratitude and humility.
We want to believe that you will be the best that you can possibly be, and lead wisely and well. We want to believe that you truly are the sort of man that can guide our country to a place of peace and prosperity.
We want to believe this, because even the most cynical among us sees the potential for greatness within you. Greatness isn’t defined by what we say, though. It is not what we say, but what we do that makes us who we are.
So we will lift you up in prayer. Because your job is horribly hard, and in so many ways your life is not your own. We have watched your hair grow gray, and the lines of worry and strain appear on your face. The decisions you make every day affect so many of us. The weight of that must be terrible. Which is why we pray for you, and your wife and your two daughters.
And for all of us.
The title of this sermon is "A Message To The President (And to the Rest of Us)." You've read the message to the President. Now it's time to hear the message to the rest of us. And by "rest of us" I primarily mean Christian-y types, but it could easily apply to anyone, regardless of your faith, or lack thereof.
In 1 Timothy 2:13 the Apostle Paul wrote this,
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,The Apostle Paul advocated praying for kings. In this case he may have been thinking of a few different kings (there were a few around at that time), but most probably he would have been thinking directly about the Roman emperor, Nero.
Nero was the despotic emperor of Rome at the time, who had Paul imprisoned. He was a great persecutor of Christians, who would eventually use Christian prisoners as human torches to light his parties. When the great fire of Rome occurred during his reign, he was criticized because he supposedly "fiddled" while Rome burned. In actuality he got on his barge and sailed down the river having a huge drunken orgy while Rome was burning. Which is not exactly "fiddling." It's something else.
So in order to deflect attention away from this criticism, Nero blamed the Christians for starting the fire and launched a full-on persecution of them. Nero also had Paul beheaded, according to tradition.
So Paul is telling Timothy that he needs to teach Christians to pray for kings.
Who persecuted Christians.
And would eventually kill Paul.
The reason that Paul said that Christians needed to pray for kings and those in authority was simple because it pleased Jesus for them to do it.
I know that this will come as a surprise to some people, but President Obama isn't Nero. He isn't even close. Because he believed so strongly in the teachings of Jesus Paul found it in himself to pray for Nero. So even if you didn't vote for President Obama... you need to please your Savior and pray for him. You need to pray for his safety, for him to be wise and for him to be a servant leader.
But if you did vote for him...
Don't make Election Night the only night that you spend on your knees praying for the President. Don't let the fact that "your side" won let you off the hook for your responsibility to pray fervently for the President that he would be safe, and that he would be kept safe, that he would be wise, and that he would be a servant leader.
Can I tell you that God spoke to me in the gym the other day?
It was the day after the election and I was running on an elliptical machine after basically not running on one for two weeks of vacation. I was sort of down in the dumps about things. I was really feeling the weight of the division that exists in our country, and I was wishing that there was something that I could do about it.
A feeling washed over me just then that was so strong, I almost fell off the machine. I felt that I needed to pray, which wasn't in and of itself a really interesting revelation. What was interesting was what came next...
I had an image in my head of signs and bumper stickers of the candidate that I did not vote for, and a voice in my head said to me, "When you see these, this is what you need to pray: 'Lord I pray for unity, and let it begin with me.'"
I know, I know... You stopped paying attention after I said that I heard voices. It happens. Get over it. Just know that I sort of listen to them by now. Which is why I started praying every time I see a bumper sticker or a sign for the candidate that I didn't vote for, "Lord I pray for unity, and let it begin with me."
So, I urge you do to the same thing. If you didn't vote for Romney, you have your work cut out for you in this neck of the woods. If you didn't vote for Obama, just thank God you aren't from Chicago.
Seriously, we have to do this. There isn't any red or blue any more. There can't be. If we keep thinking that way, we are in for it big time. This needs to be a purple country. We don't need to wait for national tragedies like 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy to bring that purple-ness out of us.
Try it. I dare you. Pray the prayer: "Lord, I pray for unity, and let it begin with me." Then pray for the President. And know that all of it pleases your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who didn't die to make us Democrats or Republicans. He died to make us free from sin and death, and all of the systems that promote them. This is something that doesn't require a ballot, a poll or a debate.