Do not put your trust in princes,
This is our third and final blog post in our election series. In this blog we will consider the final spirit seeking to influence the Canadian Church more intensely during these days, leading up to the current, high-stakes, federal election. This spirit has an insidious influence that we need to be aware of and refuse to be entangled with. It’s the spirit of idolatry, which is right now aggressively pushing for the idolization of government.
When we think of idolatry, we might think of images crafted to represent demons that people bow down to. Perhaps our minds go to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to bow down to such an idol in Babylon, or the early Christians who were martyred because they refused to burn incense while declaring their statement of worship: “Caesar is Lord”. But idolatry is more pervasive and more fundamental than these simple examples that (I trust) most of us have been able to avoid.
DO WE NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR IDOLATRY?
Idolatry is the worship of a god that is not God; but worship goes beyond bowing a knee, singing a song or burning a pinch of incense. It’s revering, ascribing power to, submitting your life to, depending on — it's placing something (anything) in the place that God should rightfully hold in our lives. This makes idolatry the most common and the most grievous of sins. It’s not just misplaced affection, it’s so much more. It may not even be a conscious decision, it may be something we have drifted into without noticing. However, this sin has profound ramifications. According to N.T. Wright, when we commit idolatry we actually hand the idol the power that it uses to enslave us.
When we act, speak, and consider the government to be the highest power in our nation, we are tacitly declaring “Caesar is Lord”. Let’s be alert so we don’t stumble into this. Only Jesus is Lord. He is able to work out his will and bring forth his kingdom in spite of the raging of the kings of this world, he is Lord of them — he is Lord of lords. His name is above every name, his kingdom eternal and unshakable. He is not distant and removed from us, he is present and engaged.
GOVERNMENT IS ORDAINED BY GOD
Government is an institution ordained by God to guide, secure, bring order and justice in a nation. It has a place that God has given it. Government reflects the culture of the nation, including the spiritual culture, and this is most especially true in a democracy. The Church is called to be engaged and concerned about the government, to be prayerful and present. But when we focus on government in an inordinate way, either in our prayers or with our attention, this could well reveal that we have placed too high a regard, too high a dependence on the earthly power invested in government. If having a Christian Prime Minister is the ultimate goal of your prayers, rather than joining with creation’s groans (1), the prayers of the Son of God(2) and the biblical prayers of the Apostles(3) for the maturing and thriving of the Church, you may well have stumbled into this trap. You could be looking to the wrong source for change. Depending on the wrong power. The Church is the light of the world and God’s vehicle for extending the kingdom.
LORD, HELP US CHECK OUR HEARTS!
Another heart check that can be used to gauge if we have allowed this spirit to distort our priorities, is to consider the state of our heart toward the lost. The lost in general, and the lost who are active in the political arena. How tender is our heart, how central in our prayers are these ones who don’t yet know Christ? Does Jesus’ love and burden for souls trump our reaction to politicians or pundits from a party we would not support?
Am I saying just do “churchy” things and don’t pray or get involved in government? No, not at all. Am I saying the outcome of the election doesn’t matter? Again, no— it matters a lot. But I am saying let’s just keep this focus on government in its place and don’t allow the enemy to push our zeal into the place of idolatry. Let’s make sure the enemy doesn’t shift our hearts to trust the earthly governments of man, expecting them to be the vehicle to bring forth truth, righteousness, or security.
If you feel you have crossed this line and have stumbled in this way, don’t despair. The Apostle John teaches us that we all sin and that Jesus provides the remedy that we keep applying to our lives: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1Jn 1:8,9
This is the path of sanctification, the path that we all walk to become more Christlike. The path with no shortcuts.
If we are swept along with this spirit and engage in the same idolatry as the world around us, then where can they look for hope? Where can the world look for light and truth? Remember, we are of a different kingdom and God has given us this moment as a great time to shine.
1. Rom 8:22,23
2. Jn 17
3. Col 1:9-12, Phil 1:9-11, Eph 1:16-23 and more
By Sara Maynard