Every presidential election produces those whose candidate lost and who view the result as a surefire indicator that civilization has fallen. “This is the worst it’s ever been!” they exclaim. “You have no idea how hard things are going to be because my candidate didn’t win!”
We expect those responses from people whose lives revolve around politics. But this year I’ve seen several Christians caught up in “the sky is falling” response, so I want to offer a course correction:
Kevin Smith (the Executive Director of the Maryland/Delaware Baptist Convention) recently preached a chapel sermon at Southern Seminary titled “Politics and the Passion of Christ.” He preached it on Election Day, intending it as a warning to those who would panic about if their candidate lost. This was effective, because had he preached it 24 hours earlier it would have been seen as advocacy for a candidate. One day later, and it would have been seen as either pouting or rubbing it in. Instead, it comes across as the perfect counter to believers wandering the streets in sack-cloth and ashes.
He began and ended his sermon by directly rebuking those who would think that the cultural “sky is falling” because of how a country votes. He described this rebuke as “preaching what people need to hear”—an admonition he learned from the late D. J. Ward. He centered his message around James Montgomery Boice’s outline of John 19, where he sees a contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Cesar. Jesus sees that contrast correctly, Pilate warps it, and the religious leaders ruin it by proclaiming that they have no king but Cesar.
Smith’s exposition of John 19 is excellent, and definitely worth listening to. But here, I just want to pass along his warning for those who love the Lord and lament the election:
If you are someone who considers yourself a leader for Jesus Christ, I pray that you would strive at all times to make it clear for people that your number one identity is in Jesus. I pray you would avoid actions or words that make people question weather or not Jesus is Lord in your thinking. If we are the people who affirm what the Scripture says—“not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6)—that should be evidenced by our thinking, and more importantly by our public words. If we would quote that scripture—“some trust in horses, some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 20:7)—I pray that we would truly believe it.
Whatever is going on in the American culture around us, the Bible-believing Christian should never run around like Chicken Little—“The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” I thought we were the people who said, “even if the heathen rage, our God is in heaven and has done whatever he has pleased” (Psalm 2). “Sovereignty,” when things are nice and convenient, doesn’t mean much. “Sovereignty” means something only when you can say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
When I was a teenager, and had not yet been born again, I thought it was really messed up that the chief priests would say, “We have no king but Cesar.” Even in my natural flesh, I knew that was a stinky statement. The priests, who are to represent the people before God—in a moment of political expediency they played chicken little panic games—they end up denying who the Christ is and making allegiance to Cesar.
[In John 19] fear is raging, anxiety is raging, and unbelief is going forward. All these things are going on in the political world, so surely we should expect clarity from the religious leaders. They should have something to say which clarifies the base from which they speak, and the base from which they identify.
Instead, they make the statement, “we have no king but Cesar.” I thought that stunk when I was a teenager, and I think it stinks today. It stinks when prophets of the Lord panic like pansies. It stinks when the religious leaders don’t say, “kiss the Son, lest you perish” (Psalm 2:12). Weather its black or white, big church or small church, North or South, there are plenty of people in clerical garments who have no problem kissing the elephant or the donkey. This is embarrassing.
Where the rubber meets the road in the midst of political chaos, our declaration has to be “Jesus is Lord,” and “Jesus is the true king.” When we think things [in the US] are so rough, Christians in China, India, or Pakistan are saying, “My brothers and sisters in the name of the Lord, please shut up and stop whining; you don’t know what tough is.” Christians in persecuted countries constantly declare that Jesus is Lord in the midst of hostility toward Jesus.
Too many people are giving off the impression that if America is not what America is or has been (and tell this black man when Christians ever had America), then the kingdom of God is going to suffer, or the church is going to suffer. Or, if they are really honest about it, they are just worried that they are going to suffer.
This election gives us so many opportunities now to say “this is Cesar’s kingdom” and “this is God’s kingdom” and “I’m on God’s side.” To say, “I declare the majesty and sovereignty of God, and as a matter of fact I do recognize Cesar’s authority, but as Scripture says his heart is really in the hand of the Real King, the Lord God.”
But listen: you can’t have that kind of prophetic clarity running around like Chicken Little.
You can’t run around like Chicken Little and declare that God is sovereign. You can’t run around like Chicken Little and declare that the hope for the world is Jesus Christ.
Whatever happens on election day, the saints don’t wear tee-shirts that say, “The sky is falling.” Our shirts say that all of creation, right now, is sustained by the power of his word. Our shirts say, “Our God is in the heavens, and he has done whatever he has pleased” (Psalm 115:3).
Never let the phraseology come out of your lips: “we have no king but Cesar.” On the worst day, we have a King who reigns supreme.
I wonder: what missiological cost do we pay when we run around like Chicken Little?
What do you think of Kevin’s question? Is there a missiological cost to Christians proclaiming “The sky is falling?”