Frederick Buechner, the Presbyterian writer and pastor known for his interesting insights to the subtleties of the Christian faith, tells the story of his conversion in one of his books. He tells us he was in New York trying to get his writing career going when he visited the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. The great preacher George Buttrick was in the pulpit that day, and in his sermon, Buttrick reminded his congregation Jesus refused the crown of this world only to be crowned king in the hearts of countless believers amid tears and confession and great laughter. According to Buechner, the phrase that got him was “great laughter.”
Like most of you, I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to political ads, arguing experts and frustrated friends, all focused on the presidential election tomorrow. According to all of the “experts”, this is going to be the most important election in the history of our nation.
I doubt that.
I would say the election of George Washington as our first president would be more significant than this one. I believe the election of Abraham Lincoln both in 1860 and 1864 would be more historically important than our upcoming election. There are probably others, but those are the first ones that come to mind.
As humans, we often suffer from a pride of the moment – there’s never been a time better, worse, harder, easier than now. Or, so we think.
The people who frustrate me most are those who are trying to tell me the future of our country is on the line if the wrong man is elected president. If the vote turns out “wrong”, according to my friends, everything is lost. Surely God will slam us with plagues of Biblical proportions if we turn away from Him and follow the wrong party and platform.
I don’t mean to seem flippant about all of this, but I’ve lived too long to get excited or too depressed about any one moment of life. Nothing is as good as we think it will be (remember your disappointment with the “best Christmas gift ever”?) and nothing is as bad as you think it will be (remember high school algebra?). Life is what it is, and more times than not, it’s not what’s happening as it is our reaction to what’s happening.
Here’s the other thing I’ve learned. All of the stuff the “experts” tell me will make my life better or worse actually doesn’t make any real difference in my life.
Who the president is doesn’t have any impact in the quality of father, husband, friend or pastor I am. In fact, I can go for days and never mention the president…and I doubt if he ever thinks about me. I can choose every day to live a life of meaning, purpose and love regardless of who’s in the White House.
The genius of Christianity is our faith isn’t tied to any political system. We can thrive – and have – under any kind of governance.
We have lived under kings and queens, dictators, and premiers and presidents. Not only have we thrived, we’ve been seen as valuable and respected citizens.
We’ve built hospitals and schools, reformed prisons and built colleges. We ministered to addicts and the homeless.
We’ve dealt with poverty and insisted on social justice reforms.
We’ve done all this and more while preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I fear our churches are losing faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We no longer believe in the power of Jesus Christ to change people’s lives. As a result, churches have become political action committees, lobbying politicians to support various moral platforms to make our nation more “Christian.” Sorry, but no politician can do that.
Only Jesus can.
I’m not saying don’t be involved in politics. I think more of us should run for public office and serve in civic life. All of us should be aware of the issues and in conversation with our political leaders. We should do so, however, fully aware of the limitations of our government. While governments may punish bad people, governments can’t make good people.
No law can make a husband love his wife or a father love his children. No law can make neighbors good neighbors. No law can repair damaged families or break the cycles of poverty, addiction or abuse. Only Jesus can do that.
If we as Christians were as concerned as we say about the moral character of our nation, we’d preach Jesus Christ and His salvation more. We’d pray more for our lost neighbors and friends and spend less time trying to convince them to vote one way or the other. On Tuesday, we’ll elect a president, but only a president. God has appointed our king. His name is Jesus.
And Jesus refused the crown of this world in order to receive the crown from His Father. It was the only crown He wanted. This should be the only crown we should want as well.
Study the issues. Pray. Vote. Then, relax. We’re only electing a president. Jesus is king today. He will be king on Tuesday and every day until He returns. On that day, every government and nation will fade away.