Tomorrow Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. It will prove to be an historic day, no doubt, as the first ever African-American assumes the position of Commander in Chief for our country. What has made Obama so appealing to so many, both within the evangelical community and without, is his consistent message of hope. There seems to be a pervasive belief that the change needed within our culture, and our country at large, can be found in the policies espoused by Obama. Of course the flip side of that argument, as many conservatives are trying to make is that the hope for our country is really found in just the opposite of Obama’s policies. The answer really lies, they argue, in conservative policies and if those were simply in place we would be ok.
I want to take a moment or two to argue that the hope for America is found in neither option. As I shared in the message I preached yesterday, if a Christian is asked concerning their hope for America, their answer is likely “the Gospel”. If you examine behaviors, however, for the average evangelical, it would seem that their genuine hope is not in the Gospel at all, but rather rests in litigation and legislation. Rather than live the Gospel among our community, and speak the Gospel to those we live around, we prefer to work diligently pursuing our dogma of right laws and right judgments, seemingly believing that all will be well if that will just happen. All the while, however, we miss the undeniable truth that scripture teaches, and that is that authentic hope is found only in the transformational power of the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:17 plainly teaches that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. In other words, for transformation to happen, we need to live the Gospel, communicate the Gospel and trust the Gospel to transform our culture.
For a number of reasons, however, we seem reticent to allow the Gospel to be what transforms our culture. For generations now we have believed that if we could simply change external behaviors by passing the right laws, or forcing the appropriate boycotts, all would be well. In doing so, however, we forget that authentic transformation only occurs when hearts are transformed – which by the way, results in authentic behavioral transformation – rather than simply forcing the behavior to change first and then hoping that the heart will follow. I think a large part of that belief system is based in the fact that Gospel transformation is something that we cannot control. Sure we can share, but genuine transformation is between them and God. On the other hand, we can control elections and boycotts, so we would much prefer to send email’s and circulate petitions than do the difficult work of the Gospel.
So the truth is, as I wrote in November, the activities of tomorrow will not invoke my hope nor does it increase my despair. I appreciate the importance of the President of the United States, but ultimately my allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and the transformation that needs to occur for others to join in allegiance to God’s Kingdom. Thankfully neither the leader of that Kingdom, nor His purposes, will ever be swayed by the outcome of a human election. In fact, I am becoming increasingly convinced that, particularly within Southern Baptist life, we have lost the “Kingdom of God” motif that is so prevalent in scripture. We have transformed the Gospel into a simple prayer that results in a pat on the back rather than God’s intent towards the Gospel that it center around restoration between man and God which occurs when we submit ourselves to God and His Kingdom – which results in authentic transformation.
So tomorrow that I will join millions of people around America as one with great hope, but thankfully my hope is not founded in the selection of Obama as President. Rather, my hope is firmly grounded in the Kingdom of God and as I pursue it I continue to be reminded of its eternal characteristics. What a great privilege to move forward trusting in that as our hope!
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33