November 29, 2016

Kevin Smith on Christians, Trump, and Chicken Little

by Jesse Johnson

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.

Image result for Kevin Smith preaching

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?”

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Vinod Anand S

    “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.” This is what exactly I was thinking when watching the whole US election, because I am from India. I have seen many riots in the name of religion in India. And there is always a high possibility of a riot to happen.

    • Last time I was in India, the police in Haryana State were refusing to investigate the burning of church buildings because “we are Hindi, there are no Christians here, thus no need for Christian buildings!” Air-tight logic. Thanks for reading Vinod.

    • Karl Heitman

      Uhh. So? Just because true freedom of religion does not exist in other parts of the world [i.e., 3rd world countries] means Americans should lay down and surrender it? Is that what you’re implying?

      • Vinod Anand S

        Karl, I never said that nor did I implied that. You are living in the best country for religious freedom in the world. I am happy that you are able to exercise the right. If you are able to fight for that, then I believe you should, with all your might.

        But that is not my point. Its the general thinking of the Christians on either camp during the election cycle especially those who are against Trump. I have never been to US so my opinion is purely based on what I have seen in the social media. I was mainly concerned how some responded soon after the election. Jemar, Thabiti and Shai Linne. Shai Linne later apologised for his tweet. Their mentality was like “the sky has fallen down”. Especially Jemar, when he said that he was afraid to worship with his white brothers the following Sunday. What will the white brothers do to him? Also the media (Van Jones, CNN). Seriously, what is Trump going to do to them? Why are they so afraid? Afraid of what? I have seen many from the evangelical circle criticize Trump and those who supported them. But it was not so in the case of Hillary or those who supported her.

        For example, here in India, a representative of the ruling party has said that, by 2021, India will become a 100% Hindu country. All Christians and Muslims have to convert to Hinduism or have to get out of India. Although this is not entirely possible, there is always a good chance of at-least some harm happening. It has happened in the past. It can easily get worse here. Only a small spark is needed. The media also were not interested in covering Christian persecution, they are interested in covering only the Muslim persecution. Even for a normal citizen, the daily living is challenging, because of the corruption. There is no justice. There is no value for life. But we are not running around and saying, the sky is falling. We can’t even fight for this.

        Its a luxury for us to have politicians with integrity. There is none here. We always have to vote for those who will do less harm to Christians. That is our only option. So comparing our situation with the situation in US, the reactions I have seen so far are laughable. Everyone in US are well off compared to the rest of the world. But the victim mentality and thinking that they are the ones who are suffering the most actually mocks those who are really suffering in bad places like North Korea, Middle East.

        I am happy that Hillary lost, but I don’t like Trump either. My favourite candidate was Ted Cruz.

        • Karl Heitman

          Thanks for the clarification. I agree. My problem is with the “shut-up-and-stop-whining” argument thrown around in general. I haven’t listened to Smith’s entire talk, but that statement needs more context. Preachers, profs, bloggers, and Christian thinkers tend to speak in extremely vague generalities, which, IMHO, is unhelpful. Thanks again for the elaboration. Peace!

  • alexguggenheim

    I believe there are contexts to left kingdom warnings and potential bational disintegration that a Christian may make and even must make, all the while preserving – without compromise – his/her identity as a Christian.

    Trusting in the name of the Lord is a promise for God’s children, not nations and especially not unsaved members of such nations. If we forgo valid left kingdom warnings in lieu of the promise in Psalm 20:7, we wrongly apply it to national concerns.

    Now, the believer may and must always have his/her utter confidence in God with respect to his/her life as well as the church, collectively, because she is given these promises. But none of that intends on remediating national threats, internally or externally and which is part of the left kingdom citizenry and responsibility of the Christian in the nation to which he/she belongs.

    All that said, the hysteria being generated by the left and happily embraced by many at The Gospel Coalition and particularly with the proponents of Race Based Special Interest Theology/Ecclesiology in these circles by personalities such as such as Thabiti Anyabwile and Jemar Tisby (RAAN) is starkly revealing with regard to their inadequate theological development and racially oriented ecclesiastical disposition which manifests a genuine lack of fitness as any kind of voice to which the faithful disciple of Christ ought to give a hearing. Their narratives have become utterly dishonest and shamefully absent of many facts.

    • Well said. There is obviously a prophetic role for Christians to play in the public sphere, but what is happening now is (for the most part) not that.

      • alexguggenheim

        Thanks Jesse. I would go further than prophetic roles and to institutional roles for the operation of the divine institution of government which are not necessarily Christian but certainly Biblical. That aside I agree that what we are seeing is not reflective of either, again and as you said, for the most part.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “All that said, the hysteria being generated by the left and happily embraced by many at The Gospel Coalition and particularly with the proponents of Race Based Special Interest Theology/Ecclesiology in these circles by personalities such as such as Thabiti Anyabwile and Jemar Tisby (RAAN) is starkly revealing with regard to their inadequate theological development and racially oriented ecclesiastical disposition which manifests a genuine lack of fitness as any kind of voice to which the faithful disciple of Christ ought to give a hearing. Their narratives have become utterly dishonest and shamefully absent of many facts.”

      I sadly concur.

      May I put both this article and your comment on Mr. Tisby’s post on RAAN?

      • alexguggenheim

        On my end, sure. I have, however, formulated a rebuttal to his recent “white churches” post and will be posting a link, there to the two-part response at my blog.

  • Ted Croushore

    That is gloriously convicting.

  • Guymon Hall

    “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…I just want to pass along his warning for those who love the Lord and lament the election:”

    Perhaps some of those who lament the election do so because the concessions they saw Christian leaders make in order to advance an agenda or gain political influence. The lament comes when solid, highly respected, even reformed Christian leaders advocated a particular candidate because they are “voting for a worldview.”

    I wonder, exactly what worldview was being voted for?

    -The worldview that brags about grabbing women by their privates and kissing them? So much for Eph 5:3-“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” Is that the worldview we’re to embrace and associate ourselves with?

    -The worldview that holds that while homosexual “marriage” is “settled law”, somehow legalized infanticide has a chance of being overturned even though it’s sustained multiple Supreme Court challenges and is decades older in precedent? So much for 1 Cor 6:9-10-“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Seems like both murder and sodomy are on that list. Is that the worldview we’re supposed to be confident in?

    -The worldview that claimed to stand against corruption and promised to “drain the swamp”, and then promotes someone who so highly values human-based power that he thinks that “Darkness is good…Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” So much for 2 Cor 6:14-“What fellowship has light with darkness?” Is that the worldview we’re to take comfort in for “rescuing” us?

    -The worldview that made millions claiming that “Character Matters” when decrying a sitting President that was philandering away in the Oval Office, but when equally immoral acts come to light with “their” candidate, all of a sudden we hear “We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief” with multiple attempts to sweep it under the rug. So much for 1 Pet 1:15-“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” Is that the worldview that enables us to let our light so shine before men?

    The point is that just because someone has a frown on their face after the election, it’s not necessarily correct to attribute that to “the sky is falling” syndrome. The prophets in the OT were angry primarily because they saw God’s chosen people forsaking the Lord and besmirching God’s holiness and His glory.

    Much the same can be said of American Church-ianity today. That is the source of lament for many true believers. We trust in God’s sovereignty, but we still take no pleasure in seeing God’s Name trampled for the sake of earthly machinations.

    I’m reminded of Jer 6:14-“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Scripture commends those who lament over that, but it condemns those who fail to stand against it or even facilitate it. (Ezek 9:4-6)

    You’ll excuse me if I lament over that.

    • I edited much of your comment…but blogged on much of that here: http://thecripplegate.com/christians-trumping-clintons-christian-unity-in-politics/
      I hope you find that helpful. Thanks for reading (and lamenting).

      • Guymon Hall

        Was it that the original comment was too long? I chose each word that was edited out in my original comment with precision and
        care, but I didn’t think it was that long, so I’d ask that you
        un-edit my comment if possible.

        • Christina

          I am glad I had the opportunity to read the unedited comment. And my response was to the full comment….not the edited one, which has a bit of a different tone.

        • I didn’t want the comment thread to become “all the reasons Christians should not have voted for Trump.” I want it to be “all the reasons to trust the Lordship of Christ, even with president Trump.”

    • Christina

      Thank you for pointing out these issues. I am frustrated with Christians who aligned themselves with a candidate for “certain moral reasons” while ignoring the moral failings of that same candidate. The entire election (and now the post election celebration/lament) has been very tiring and eye-opening to me. It saddens me to see the reactions of non-Christians watching the behaviors of Christians…..to me, these are the people who are truly being hurt because they are not seeing Jesus in us when we act this way. I know we are not how Christians ultimately come to Christ, but I would hate to find out that someone’s journey to salvation was detoured even one step because I put politics in front of my Christian values…..no matter which side of the political spectrum either of us are on.

      • alexguggenheim

        Have felt this way the past 8 years.

        • Christina

          That statement shows me you don’t get it at all. President Obama has been no more or less morally corrupt than any other president…..some Christians just judge his views on certain issues more harshly than say…..an unjust war against Iraq. My point was, using morality to judge one person while ignoring clearly immoral actions of another is showing Christians to be more focused on politics than Jesus…..whether that is true or not.

          • alexguggenheim

            Or it could be that you don’t get it because I was concuring with you in the application of what you stated and was simply applying it to Pres. Obama’s numerous moral/ethical failures ignored or minimized by certain alleged or real segments of Christianity in their claims of his superior Christian virtues.

          • Christina

            Actually my comment was exactly what it was…..concern about people using Christian morality to justify any candidate when being a political candidate in this country seems to require deceit and shady dealings. You can assume I am speaking about Trump if it makes you feel your shade toward the current President are acceptable. Doesn’t change the fact that I am referring to all presidential candidates morality being justified (including Clinton), not certain ones. How I voted is of no consequence when sharing the gospel of Christ….so I don’t hold political discussions publicly nor do I publicly esteem one candidate as the morally correct choice for Christians. My personal political beliefs and celebrating/lamenting over corruption and immorality wont spread the gospel . THAT was my point…..without reference to ANY candidate. Please don’t assume anything about me and my political leanings.

          • alexguggenheim

            I don’t recall Christians stating one candidate to be the morally correct choice, I recall them qualifying their support as one being of far great existential threat to the nation than the other but if describing it the way you did makes you feel better, have at it.

  • Karl Heitman

    //”…plenty of people in clerical garments who have no problem kissing the elephant or the donkey.”//

    C’mon, man. We both know that true “people in clerical garments” (i.e., pastors) would NEVER–in their right mind–kiss a Donkey. 😉

  • Jason

    “It stinks when prophets of the Lord panic like pansies.” My favorite line.

    The topic cuts both ways. I’m disappointed to see how many in the church are now dancing in the streets(at least figuratively, I suppose it’s still better than riots) because of how the election went. It’s the same problem, but from a different angle.

    We have a great deal, as the church, to be thankful for, but when nothing gets a rise out of us like election results (for or against) it’s pretty clear our hopes are misplaced.