A Note From Matt 3/1/18

The last few months I’ve been sharing some anchors to help you engage the world around you. Hopefully you’ve been encouraged to think a little bit more like Jesus in the process. This past month has been full of ups and downs, good news and bad news. I find myself constantly in the tension of wanting to escape and wanting to do something. My prayer as you read is this: 1) that you (and I!) can find the biblical balance between escape and action and, 2) that we’d trust God as we work to impact the world around us in significant ways.

Anchor #3: Avoid utopianism while embracing democratic stewardship.

This is a tough one for me. I love for things to work out perfectly, and I hate modern politics. But, as a Jesus-follower, I don’t have the luxury of following my desires over the example Jesus gives me. In Romans 8:18-21, Paul reminds us that this life is often characterized by suffering. In fact, it’s not just humans who suffer but all of creation! Everyone and everything is waiting, whether they realize it or not, for God to bring freedom through His work of grace to the world. However, we are not to be lazy or unengaged with the world around us as we wait for that ultimate work to be accomplished. We are called to embrace the stewardship God has placed on us to impact the world even if we can’t make it a perfect utopia.

Avoiding utopianism is a mark of a biblical Christian. Utopianism is the belief or pursuit of a state in which everything is perfect. That all sounds well and good, but it is not something that we can achieve in this fallen world. Jesus-followers should be a people of love and justice, always striving to make our areas of influence better than when we arrived there. But God has not commissioned us to make this world perfect! He has, however, commissioned us to point to the One who will one day make it perfect as we spend our time loving and doing good. That is our #1 job while we are here. In fact, Scripture doesn’t even really allow for a follower of Christ to pursue utopianism. It is good to feel sadness over the growing approval of sin today, but we cannot be utopian in our hopes—that somehow sin will be removed completely and the world will become perfect short of the return of Christ.

One of the ways we can evaluate whether or not utopian thinking has infiltrated our minds and hearts is the extent to which you speak and think as an alarmist. An alarmist reacts with unnecessary fear or anxiety that something unpleasant or dangerous is going to happen. To that same extent, you demonstrate that utopian assumptions have been motivating you all along. God never intended the United States to be the perfect nation. So while we may feel sad at the state of our country, we have to recognize that our nation was never God’s nation.

While we avoid utopianism, we are called to embrace our democratic stewardship. Scripture tells us that our approach to our culture should be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. I’m not a fan of snakes … but I get the idea. It’s that we should have real understanding of what is going on and not set ourselves up to be fooled. I like the dove side of things a little more … especially when they’re in season. In this, we are called to not be jaded by the world, but stepping forward in love and justice, be better than how we believe we’ve been treated. It’s that idea many of us have heard but not done so well with all our lives; to be in the world but not of it. Part of Paul’s call to submit to matters of the state (Rom. 13:17) is to share in its authority as far as we are granted that privilege. And yes, as much as I hate modern politics, it is a privilege that God has granted us. When we neglect our role in the democratic process, we neglect a spiritual stewardship. God has given us a gift, then we neglect it or bury it in the ground like the parable says (Matt. 25:14-30). This is why I believe we are called by God to vote even when we have terrible options. God has given us an open door to promote love and justice. Think about this for a moment—does the way you approach politics and the democratic process cause people to believe that you are filled with love and justice? Ouch … I’ll leave that one between you and God.

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