In this season, we find ourselves neck deep in political-games of words, ideas and most likely empty promises. What matters most? Well, it all depends on where you stand.
In every election cycle, we put our hopes in our votes, assuming those votes have the ability to create change in our world. We go all in on a person we probably haven’t even met. The sad fact for many of us is that we put too much hope in that vote. We invest too much in the promises of politicians to make a difference in our world. Too often, we end up abdicating our role in creating lasting change.
Looking over the landscape of social media, at our best, I see people wanting more for the world as they know it. At our worst, I see many of us raging out into the void with frustrated vitriol in the hopes that we slow down a changing world and return it to a place nestled in the safe care of our own nostalgia. Am I implying that we shouldn’t vote or care about the political process? No, far from it.
What I am advocating is that we take all of this energy that gets wrapped up in the politics and put it to work in the spheres of life that we occupy.
What do I mean by that? Voting is easy. Changing the world is much harder work. Our lives are busy. Pushed and pulled in so many directions. Family, work… we are consumed by responsibilities. We are so distracted by the clutter we can no longer see the wood for the trees. And for what?
One of the reasons we invest our passion and anger in the political process is because it requires little of us. It fits neatly into our lives. We have space to slide it in to our busy schedules without disrupting much of anything. It’s this type of easy advocacy that keeps us believing that we’re doing our part.
As with politics, church and religion also require little of us and seem to exist in order to keep it’s own agenda funded. Both politics and religion seem more concerned with self interest, than actually making the world a better place.
When we look at the words and ways of Jesus, I hear a call to live and embrace a different way of life. Politics and Jesus just don’t mix. The way of Jesus is more primal and requires much more of us.
It all starts with a vision.
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless…” (Matthew 9:35-36)
Jesus led with compassion inspired with God’s vision for a new kingdom, a new way of living that didn’t operate on the prevailing power structures of the day. Interestingly enough, these powers structures are very similar to ours today. In that time, Rome moved forward with an iron fist and smashed the weak through a show of force. Success laid in power. That power was grabbed from the weak and maintained through cruelty where the lesser in society bore the weight of lofty, self serving ambitions.
Jesus’ ambitions were far different. His vision for the world was one of self-sacrifice and driven by compassion. Ultimately, he saw an existence bathed in God’s shalom. It was a way of life where peace was brought about not through force but through self-sacrifice. Through his eyes, the world wouldn’t be right until everyone mattered and had a voice. It was about the restoration of human dignity where everyone has a seat at the table.
In the world today, such a vision seems idealistic and impractical and easily dismissed… especially by Christians.
We may see Jesus’ example or hear his words of vision without taking ownership. They are simply His cause. We nod our heads in agreement and admiration in the pews on Sunday mornings, but that doesn’t make it our cause.
The biggest problem is that His vision includes us. It’s not complete without us. And frankly, it requires much of us. There’s no way around it. We can’t agree with Jesus and also be a spectator. What ends up happening is that we agree with part or most of Jesus’ teaching and call, but omit the parts that make us uncomfortable.
It makes us uncomfortable precisely because it requires much of us. It’s disruptive to our lives. It’s messy and often doesn’t fit neatly into our cluttered, busy schedules.
In Jesus’ own words
And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
“Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. (Luke 14: 27-33)
We all want the easy road. I know I do, but that is simply incompatible with the call of Jesus. You can’t have it both ways. In the same vein, you wouldn’t say you were a vegetarian and then go eat a porterhouse, or embrace the nonviolent way of Ghandi, and then buy a gun.
I know that sounds harsh, but I’m going somewhere with this.
We are stuck in a culture that is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. It’s just that simple. Our lives are so full that its makes no sense to truly follow in His ways. Walking out the way of Jesus is never an overnight venture, which is precisely why he spoke of counting the cost. The things in our lives where we invest deeply should never be borne on a whim.
Change doesn’t happen easily, which is the exact reason I started this post. Change happens incrementally. It all starts with small steps. Change begins with how we decide to invest our time and with whom we choose to devote our lives.
For me, I have found that:
1) Imagination is key
Imagination requires risk. That’s what sets it apart from simply daydreaming. When we begin to imagine the world in a different way, it should compel us to take steps to make that dream a reality. Too many times, we opt for safety and certainty then return back to our regular lives. For real change to happen, we must take the first step, and that step starts with our imagination.
Matt Litton said that, “God has given us imagination so that we can envision the possibilities in between who we are today and who we were made to be, between the world in it’s fallen condition and a world where all inhabit life to the fullest.” Our faith calls us to imagine the world in a new way… and then drives us to go and make it a reality.
2) Change takes time, but also requires your time
For lasting change to happen, we must be willing to invest ourselves in the lives of others. It’s a simple thought, but one that calls us to slow down. We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we end up living with blinders to the needs of our community. Slow down as you begin to open your eyes and look at your community in a new way; notice the people, the rhythms. Where are there income disparities? Where are people hurting or forgotten? This doesn’t happen over night, but as you begin to observe your community, it will begin to look differently.
3) Think globally, but act locally
It’s easy to get riled up with major issues plaguing the world today, but often those causes are too much for us to take on as an individual. Partner with a local organization already doing good in your community. Use that time invested to get to know the needs in your area better. While you’re serving, you’re also learning, listening and doing life in those areas of need. This gives a a better perceptive, understanding and empathy to the cause. Pick somewhere to start and then see where it takes you. You won’t be disappointed.
Voting, while important, should never be the main way we set out to make a difference in the world. One of the reasons the ways of Jesus are so radical is because they require so much. We are called to go and make the world right again. In a certain sense, voting is a form of abdication. We cast our ballots to send someone else to make a difference. With Jesus, the onus is on us and abdication was never part of the deal.
Cast your votes, but realize the real work starts once you leave the voting booth and walk out into the community. The investment of your life into the lives of others is the central recipe for change. So go out, dream big and live well in community with others. That is the way of change… and it’s also the way of Jesus.