The government of the United States has shut down, and the world is still turning. In fact, although the government has shut down, the ones who have caused this shutdown are still being paid. Finger pointing is happening on a minute by minute basis between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans.
As I drove around in my car the other day, trying to see whether this whole shutdown had really made a difference in my world, I was growing increasingly more disenchanted with the number of political campaign signs that I saw. There was a political gathering at the clubhouse in my neighborhood which meant an inundation of political signs, albeit temporarily. As the Fall wanes on and we move from October towards November, we will most likely see an overabundance of advertisements in the places where we usually find ourselves unmolested. There is an even greater chance of that when the election results seem to mean more than usual or if we live in some kind of swing state (although the effect is not quite as great on a non-presidential election year).
I am not a very political guy. I have strong moral convictions and I am fairly conservative to moderate, but politics have never really interested me much. My lackadaisical approach towards politics has changed over the past few years, to the point of growing frustrated and angry with the approach that we take towards politics.
I don’t spend a ton of time watching TV, and if I do, it’s usually sports, weather, music, or movies. Even in those limited viewing experiences, I have been seeing my fair share of political advertisements. The thing is, I’m not even sure that I can really use that term to describe what’s happening in those 30 second slots on television. An advertisement will generally tell you all of the benefits of a product rather than telling you that you need to buy it simply because it’s not one of the other competing products. Sadly, that’s what we have become, the state of our political ad campaigns is more of a “here’s all the reasons why my opponent is the wrong choice” rather than a “let me tell you exactly what I stand for and why I’m the right choice” approach.
How did we get here? When did it get to a point where the platform on which we run is simply that we aren’t our opponent? How much can we really understand and know about someone who simply tells you that their opponent is corrupt, a crook, a cheat, a liar, and so many other things while not saying a thing about themselves? When we get so busy telling people all of the things that we aren’t, we generally neglect to tell people about all of the things that we are.
We’ve even kind of gotten here in the church. Instead of speaking of the difference that Jesus Christ has made in our lives, we talk about how we’re better than everyone else because we don’t do this or that, believe this or that, or vote for this or that. Not exactly a means by which to win friends and influence people. We can say whatever we want, but until people see that Jesus is making a difference in us, it’s going to devolve into a political smear campaign against anyone who believes differently than us.
Sure, what we believe is important, but if what we believe doesn’t make a difference in the way that we live our lives, does it really matter? Is it really worth all of that if there is no change in us?
I am changed because of what Christ has done in me. If left to my own devices, I would be an even bigger jerk than I already am. People dislike me now, they would dislike me even more had I not entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have been able to endure difficulties and trials, I have seen my needs met, I have seen life change take place in me and in others, all because of Jesus Christ. He has made a difference for me and for many others who I know.
I would much rather know what someone is for rather than what they’re against. I wish people would appreciate me for what I believe rather than what I oppose. I wish that people would see how Jesus has changed me rather than how staying away from everything else has made me better. I hope that people see that I am different not because of “sin management” in my life but because of God’s transformative love and power. If I’ve got a platform on which I’m standing, that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
How nice it would be if we could just simply hear about what people are for. Wouldn’t it make our elections a little simpler to negotiate? If we took this approach within the church, we might actually see people coming because they had seen how Christ had impacted people they work with, they live near, they go to school with, or play sports with rather than because they wanted a place that met all of their needs and provided all of the programs to keep them and their family occupied and satisfied.
Jesus isn’t a program, a product, or a campaign, and if we treat him like one, we shouldn’t be surprised if people grow as tired of him as they do of the programs, products, and political candidates which eventually grow stale. Just like some of us have struggled to fully understand what impacts this government shutdown have REALLY had on our lives, I wonder what would happen if the church shut down. Would people really see a difference? Would they care? Would we?