I watched and listened to much of the Presidential debate last night I sorry to say. It’s not so much that I minded the aggressive tone of the exchanges, in fact I liked that part, I think both candidates were passionate and determined (unlike the last debate). However, The entire tone of the evening was largely negative, and not just from the angle of critiquing the opposition’s policies or ideas, but negative with regard to our national position and trajectory. Admittedly, much is wrong, but to hear repeatedly just how wrong it is can be wearisome.
A large part of the reason the current President was so successful in his 2008 campaign had nothing to do with his ability to think his way out of problems or to explain legislation that would help lead the nation out of its woes, but it had everything to do with his ability to tap the sadness that had grown in the American heart, the exhaustion from a long war, and the emptiness that had come from economic devastation. In a masterful way President Obama spoke not to direct issues but to feelings. The message of “hope and change” was something people wanted to hear, may I say NEEDED to hear. One of the more noteworthy lines that I remember from his speeches during his run was, “There is nothing false about hope.” He had turned the popular, and even wise, cautionary advice, “don’t hold to false hopes”, completely around and created out of it a chamber that the human heart could find resonance in. He seemed to understand that people had grown accustomed to hearing what they “wanted” to hear, but rarely with such fluid movement had they heard exactly what they “needed” to hear. Whether or not you think he has actually brought these ideas to fruition or not is your opinion and not the purpose for this blog.
But now, in the wake of more war, more financial woes, and more divisiveness politically we are back in a place where we are listening again. Our ears, and our hearts, are open in a way that betrays our calm demeanors. We are looking for good news. And on some level we just want to know that it even exists anymore. So much bad news globally and locally creates an empty space in our conversations, in our quiet thoughts, in our mental processes, and we are hoping, dreaming, and pleading for something bright to enter into that vacuum and fill the void with good news.
Perhaps not by chance I read this this morning from Isaiah:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7 ESV)
Israel had found themselves in a tumultuous place as well. They didn’t have very much hope as their lives were perpetually on the brink of disaster and threat from foreign lands and implosion from their own disobedient decadence that marked their profound departure from God’s blueprint for their society and life. And into this fray God, through Isaiah, offers chapter after chapter of hope. From around chapter 40 in Isaiah’s writings through the 50’s we find a tap opened up. A wellspring of hope and promise and revelation offered by God to His people. And we see here an implicit command of God. He says, “as much as you have been encouraged to hear that I am still with you, and I am still your Redeemer, so the rest of the world values the good news of redemption…people need to hear that everything isn’t out of control, but in the hands of the One who is always in control.”
Several months ago on the Gospel Coalition website I’d read this in an article by John Starke as he was talking about Jonathon Edwards:
He ultimately aimed to help the unbeliever see that he has nothing in his life so good, so lovely, and so satisfying as Christ, so even if the skeptic doubted the gospel to be true, he would hope that it was
– John Starke
I was so taken by the last line in that thought that I have kept it with me ever since.
Friends, there is bad news in our country and our world. But, for us who have been found by Jesus this bad news is always to be viewed within a broader context. And context has the ability to take make bad news irrelevant in light of the greater good. Whether the Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Socialist, Communist, or Tea Party wins the election in November our response ought not change. Because as Christians our response is not determined by party affiliations, our hope is not in policies or legislation, and our future is not hanging in the balance based on the ideologies of 600 people in a city in the Northeastern United States. We should vote, care, and take part in the process that we have been privileged to be born into, but if we ever start hinging our joy, or our future on this “thing” then we will find ourselves surrounded by the bad news of humanities failures.
I believe, with all that I am, that there is a responsibility that has been laid upon the shoulders and shoes of the people of God to avoid swaying with the modern tides of culture. We cannot allow ourselves to become so dependent on an election to bring us hope that we forsake the greatest hope ever given, the promise of resurrection and eternal bliss with our Savior. And when we rise above the stormy tumult of national problems we will be offering those around us a vision of what life looks like when you are first a citizen of the Kingdom and second a citizen of a country. We offer the good news, we publish the peace, we declare the security of a land of eternal hope and stability to a world that is perpetually run aground by it’s own missteps. And as we begin to reveal this new way of thinking, even if people don’t immediately get on board and even if they adamantly disagree with what we believe, like Edwards, we can leave them with dry tongues thirsty for the peace and stability and hope of a far country where the King has all the answers and always keeps the peace.
So offer good news today. Publish peace today. Declare the citizenship that defines your life first. And with temperance and grace create appetites in those who are desperately seeking answers to questions that no debate can offer and no policy can address.