The problem is that in the 1980s evangelicalism’s leaders — James Kennedy, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell — aligned evangelicals with the Republican Party and we have people today like Franklin Graham uttering asinine and inane defenses of President Donald Trump, we have pastors standing behind the President in the posture of blessing, and far too many evangelical leaders who are afraid to speak against the political posturing of evangelicalism.
Now that the special Senate election in Alabama is over, it is time for some Christians on both sides of the political aisle to repent of selling their souls in exchange for temporal political power.
The issue is politics; the present painful reality is Trump. The reality is 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. The word ‘evangelical’ now means Trump-voter. The word ‘evangelical’ is spoiled.
Throughout, the Lukan narrative focuses attention on a pervasive, coordinating theme: salvation. Salvation is neither ethereal nor merely future, but embraces life in the present, restoring the integrity of human life, revitalizing human communities, setting the cosmos in order, and commissioning the community of God’s people to put God’s grace into practice among themselves and toward ever-widening circles of others. The Third Evangelist knows nothing of such dichotomies as those sometimes drawn between social and spiritual or individual and communal. Salvation embraces the totality of embodied life, including its social, economic, and political concerns. For Luke, the God of Israel is the Great Benefactor whose redemptive purpose is manifest in the career of Jesus, whose message is that this benefaction enables and inspires new ways for living in the world.
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997.
It grates on me when people say, “I’m saved.” Better, in my opinion, is to say I am being saved. But even more important than that distinction is the whole idea of what it means to be being saved.
It’s more than a transaction that frees me from the fear of hell and grants me eternal bliss. As Professor Green points out, it is social, economic, and political in its ramifications.
It’s a good time of the year to think about this. The Christ-gift is the totally life-changing. It is not an add-on to life. It is life itself.
Do you ever feel alone? Not in the sense that there is no one around you, but in the sense that those around you don’t understand you?
Maybe it’s not popular—maybe it’s even not right—to speak out against the church. Because when I say anything that could be construed as criticism, I am usually met by silence.
Yet there is so much to be critical of. Surely I’m not the only one who sees it. Surely.
Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. (Luke 12:1–3, NRSV)
Hypocrisy is probably the number one excuse people give for not going to church. Apparently, they would rather hang out with non-church hypocrites than with church hypocrites.
There is plenty of hypocrisy in the church to go around. People aren’t always what they seem to be. Putting on veneer and varnish is an old custom in the church.
- Don’t be a hypocrite
- Don’t assume that anyone else isn’t
In other words, keep your eyes on Jesus.
[Added later, emphasis mine]
Jesus’ point is not that they are play-acting, but that Jesus regards them as misdirected in their fundamental understanding of God’s purpose and, therefore, incapable of discerning the authentic meaning of the Scriptures and, therefore, unable to present anything other than the impression of piety. Important from a rhetorical point of view, Jesus does not regard the Pharisees as unique in their failure to live with integrity a life oriented around absolute love of God and neighbor. His followers, too, are susceptible; hence, he presents this warning lest they contract the same ingressive agent whose decay has already become evident among the Pharisees.
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 480–481.
Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52, NRSV)
I’ve had teachers like that. They want to show how smart they are and they end up befuddling their students. Starting out to be teachers, they become confusers. The opposite of the original intention. Either their intentions have changed—from being teachers to being admired for their great learning—or they are just not good at what they intend to do.
As Joel Green says (The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 475):
Jesus insists, the portfolio of the expert in the law is to pull back the veil on the meaning and relevance of the law of God, but their efforts have had the opposite effect—both for themselves and for those for whom they were to serve as teachers.
Jesus was rather scathing in his denunciation of these lawyers. I hope to hear a better message from him when my teaching comes up for discussion in the kingdom.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Luke 11:9, NRSV)
We are good at asking and pretty good at knocking, but sometimes we forget to seek.
God expects us, sometimes, to do a little work toward answering our prayers. Sometimes we may need to look for the answer God has provided.
Seeking is the neglected member of the prayer trinity. This is as close as it comes to the Bible telling us that God helps those who help themselves.
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62, NLT)
Half measures will not do. You will either follow Jesus or you will not follow Jesus.
The church is full of people who like the idea of following Jesus. Full of people who like the benefits of following Jesus. Who like the routine of following Jesus, or the camaraderie, or the feelings, or the traditions. The church is not full of people who truly follow Jesus without looking back, without a hidden agenda, without reservations.
Half measures will not do.
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
(Luke 9:23–26, NRSV)
Jesus was addressing his disciples after a time of prayer and a time of sharing with them who he truly was. Seems like kind of a high point followed by a major buzzkill. Lots of talk about dying.
I’m not sure about how much of this applies to us. We aren’t persecuted and martyred these days like many of the ones Jesus addressed were. But I do have a feeling that the deny yourself to follow Jesus still matters. We are to put him, his kingdom, his church, his people above ourselves. We are part of a bigger cause.
Sometimes we think about church as a club. We get together with like-minded people, hang out, drink coffee, worship, talk about the Bible and politics and problems we are having. I’m not sure Jesus would approve of that model. He wants us to put the cause first and put our own stuff further back in the queue.
I don’t want Jesus to be ashamed of me and I don’t want him to be ashamed of us. Let’s follow him the way he wants us to follow him.