As the rainbow banners are being placed all over and everyone from athletes to politicians and (of course) brilliant hollywood celebrities rejoice with the chants “LOVE WINS” – I am reminded just how unaware the church is to our new American culture. My friend texted after my post yesterday that these recent decisions by our Supreme Court should not be a surprise to us, yet so many will be in shock over what is our new reality in the great U.S.A. The church needs to respond but not with shock and awe. It’s important that followers of Christ follow Paul’s example from Philippians 3 and 4:
1. Lament over the right issues.
“For, as I have often told you before and now say again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (3:18-19)
As Paul writes his loved ones from jail (because of an unjust decision by leaders) he weeps. He is not lamenting over his circumstances or because of the freedoms that he is losing but instead for those outside of God’s will. He hurts for them because they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Yes, enemies … but of the cross. He is deeply troubled that those who reject God’s truths have an adversarial relationship to the ONE EVENT that can bring them hope – the cross of Christ. So, when Paul states that “their god is their stomach” he is reminding the readers that those who reject God’s truths reject it because He is not their God, their own feelings are. He is most sad and laments that they are embracing a love for something that will not fulfill them. A love for their own feelings and their own cravings, their own way. And when all of that is supported by the law of the land, they will glory in it. And their minds will remain only on earthly pleasures, false gods. This is what grieves Paul and it should be what grieves us.
(To learn more about lamenting properly regarding our culture/country, Piper writes it better than I could here: A Proper Lament)
2. Celebrate the right things
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (3:20-4:1)
I must once again express that I am continually grateful to God to have been born in Texas and as an American citizen. And it is sad to me that this is not the country that our founders dreamed of nor is it even the country that it was in my childhood. We are, for the most part, truly a post-Christian nation. That saddens me.
However, I must also confess that I have often elevated my American citizenship over my heavenly citizenship. When I do this I often will grieve and lament over secondary issues vs. primary issues. I will fight and argue for MY rights vs. grieve and lament that the citizens of this country are marching boldly as enemies of hope and true peace. Paul is reminding us that we should celebrate our eternal reality. We have a King who has real power and will bring everything under His control in His timing. This is what we celebrate and in this we place our hope. Loving HIM will win. Loving our stomachs and feelings will lead to destruction.
The way to avoid a shock and awe response this week is to lament of right issues and celebrate the lasting citizenship we have through Jesus Christ. People are hurting and hoping in their own “stomachs” (feelings). They are in love with what will not last. If love for gay rights is your god, I grieve. If love for the perfect America is your god, I grieve. There’s more. Much, much MORE!
Just to remind how Paul begins to wrap up his letter to his loved ones who are tempted to be in shock and awe of the times:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to GOd. And the peace of God, which transcends our understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (4:4-8)
The cross of Christ is the event to dwell on, not a SCOTUS decision. Jesus, our redeemer, is King and His court will reign. Our citizenship is in heaven. Let’s help each other think on these things and be fueled by this hope.