“Wake us up, Lord! Wake us up!” This is how I pray at the beginning of the year 2017.
As we reflect on the world state of affairs at the beginning of the New Year I see that we haven’t got much reason for optimism, except our eyes are firmly set on Jesus Christ. The prospects that the New Year will pleasantly surprise us in the coming days, weeks or months are very slim indeed, considering the inherited geo-political alignments, and overall moral and spiritual climate.
What is the year 2017 inheriting from the year 2016?
The cruel wars soaked with the blood of innocent children, women and men. Brutal persecutions and killing of many (especially Christians) who did not want to convert into the faith of the captors. Exportation into the world of the ideology driven terrorism with demonic suicidal flavor. And the multi-players proxy wars, all involved in the conflict in which it is still hard to distinguish enemies from allies. These were some of the features that dominated the Middle East region in 2016.
At another level, international relations looked more like international political prostitution that was adding more fuel to the fire rather than bringing about constructive solutions, stability and peace into the world. Moreover, Europe continued toying with the lives of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, while allowing the right-wing extremism, even some forms of soft fascism to grow unchecked. In the US a disgraceful presidential election helped a new America emerge, one that is potentially dangerous to itself, and hazardous for the rest of the world.
In 2016 we also witnessed the Orwellian age coming out of puberty. Today, as the post-truth age advances, shameless lying and deception are treated as educational, political and media virtues. The increase in the fake-news, pushed forward by some alternative media, was not the only face of the emerging post-truth paradigm. The more serious problem was that often it was hard to distinguish the factual truth from manipulated or half-truths, or agenda driven reporting in the mainstream media narratives. Moreover, the characters of leaders did not suddenly matter anymore.
These, and more, contributed to the making of 2016 as the year of increased hopelessness, apathy, and spiritual and moral confusion. So, it looks like the party is over. Shouts that there is a fire in the house might be for real this time. It will certainly not be ‘business as usual” for much longer.
At this time, I am especially concerned about American evangelical Christianity, at least about a significant part of it, because it seems it’s long awaited spring has come.
Too many Christians are becoming too literal about the meaning of the phrase “the church militant”. Their Christianity is painted with the vivid colors of nationalism, even racism, and questionable political loyalties. Too many Christians are now flirting with the political brands that offer greatness, power and control, convinced that their love affair with hazardous political choices are of the Holy Spirit. A friend told me the other day that she is in peace with herself over her choice for the new US President because she received a “strong conviction from the Lord” about her decision. At this moment, too many share similar convictions that their current political allegiances have received a heavenly endorsement.
I pray for my Christian friends who believe that “making America great again” is on God’s priority list. It is a dangerous thing to embed the Kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world, regardless of their political flavor. It is dangerous for the world and degrading for the cause of Christ to equate the mission of His Kingdom with the ambitions of the kingdoms of this world. The vision of the Emperor Constantine, that he would win militarily and politically under the sign of the cross was never given to him by God, because His Kingdom would never be fought for with swords. Even if the entire Cabinet of the President-Elect gets filled with the “born-again” and “Spirit filled” Christians, this should become a cause for concern much sooner than the cause for jubilation. Surrounded by a government of “godly men” could soon lead to a false notion that all its decisions are anointed by and pleasing to God.
While it is true that the followers of Jesus are called into the political service, and various forms of public service by the means of political leadership, so that they could be “the light and salt of the world” in the political arena, the Lord has never appointed his followers to be the cheerleaders for different party ideologies or cherished personality cults. Neither is Jesus calling his followers to claim the militant barricades or strongholds of the world. If in the coming weeks and months we decide to “trust in the multitudes of chariots, and the strength of their horsemen” (Isaiah 31:1., Psalm 20:7.) to lead us into the political victories, even if claim them from Heaven, our hopes and dreams will be crushed, and the name of Jesus will be dishonored.
So, I pray, “Wake us up, Lord. Wake us up!” May we see with clarity that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will never endorse any kingdom of this earth. Indeed, God does have His people on the earth. They are His Bride, His Church, His Body, His Remnant, His “7000 whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” (1. Kings 19:18), His “salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). However, God does not have his government or his superpower on earth. His kingdom is made of a different substance, placed above and outside of what we call our civilization and our culture. Our presidents, kings and dictators do not advise the King of the Kingdom of God. Nor our monuments, temples and institutions decorate its greatness.
If we ever needed the strength and discernment to draw the line between the two kingdoms, and to rise high above the expectations of our culture, our civilization, and the political, social and nationalistic pressures, we surely need to do it now, at the beginning of 2017. The only culture, the only civilization, the only Kingdom that will completely defeat the civilization of death, together with its culture of greed, hatred, racism and nationalism, enslavement, lying, deception, and destruction – is the civilization of the Kingdom of God. And the only King worthy of our trust, undivided loyalty and love is the King Jesus.
Imagine the world in which Jesus Christ reigns? It is coming. Soon. And without help of macho Christianity. The cynicism and unbelief of many will not change the certainty of its arrival. Let us decide that through the working of the grace of God and His Spirit in our lives we will unashamedly give our allegiance to Jesus Christ, the only Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Let’s seek Him to wake us up entirely, and equip us to make a difference in this world in the ways that count in His Kingdom: by loving our neighbors, refugees and immigrants; and pursuing justice and righteousness; and easing the suffering of the poor, homeless, sick, elderly, and otherwise neglected and rejected – for the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” James 1:27.
Yes, wake us up, Lord! May we truly pledge our allegiance to the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords alone. May we seek to be Jesus’ ambassadors in the year that will surely put our faith in Him to the test even further.