On May 23, 2012

The Great Affair

When I was first starting full time ministry, Leslie and I were mentoring a handful of young adults just a few years younger than us. We met a couple of times a week to pray and just talk through life together, it was one of those things that you take for granted but realize later what a holy moment you are being prepared for. After about a year of this, we got a call from one of these young adults. They had just found out that their father had been cheating on their mother…a lot. He had thrown away a marriage of 25+ years for a few passing moments. Paul says the wages of sin are death, and it was in the next few hours that I got a glimpse into what that meant.

I remember vividly the next few hours, sitting in a room with this little betrayed family, hearing moans that can only come by the worst kinds of hurt. I remember the confusion and pain and groans that came over the next days and weeks. And I remember thinking about how much more sense Scripture was making in light of all this.

The way that Bible primarily talks about sin, is quite different than the way we talk about it. We use metaphors like gulfs and bridges, but the Bible doesn’t talk about sin in terms of location that much, instead it talks about sin in terms of relationship. That is, sin, for the people of God, is like adultery. In fact, some of the most provocative language in the entire Bible is from the prophets trying to make sure we know just how seriously God sees this, and how offensive our adultery really is.

So when we first started looking at the book of Revelation, we noticed that one of the things that Jesus was saying to the churches was that they had forgotten their first love. From the outside looking in, they were successful, faithful churches. They were doing and saying all the right things, maybe they had just forgotten who they were doing it for.

So it’s no surprise when Revelation begins to wind down that John’s vision starts to come back to this theme. Only this time it’s not the churches John is talking about. It’s the nations. Actually, he’s talking about the Whore of Babylon. Using just as provocative language as Ezekiel, John is going to call this nation…this idea…a prostitute who is searching out those who might be seduced. And this metaphor is interesting for several reasons. One is because the nature of a prostitute is a parody of a much deeper reality. Don’t want real intimacy but want to be close? Go to a prostitute. Want to feel loved and significant, even while you know it’s extremely shallow? Go to a prostitute.

But the other reason it’s interesting is that this entire book is written to the churches. The people who follow the Lamb. And John is telling them that the Whore of Babylon is on the prowl, trying to seduce them away from the first love. And in many cases being quite successful.

So it’s an election year. And along with that comes a lot of highly charged emotions and goals for Jesus people all across the country. We have all these hopes and dreams for the country we live in and we have an opportunity to speak our mind and vote our conscience. That is one of the great things about American in particular, what we think actually matters. However, over the course of the past few years, Americans have gotten increasingly uncivil with one other. We are angry, and sometimes hostile, many times among other people who are followers of Jesus.

In the words of John, “the people of the earth have been intoxicated by her wine…”

It’s no secret that the younger generations are walking away from churches at unprecedented numbers, and that the #1 reason is because they see churches as overtly political establishments.The political narrative has so captured many Christians imagination that it is impossible to have conversations that our news stations have not already framed for us.

What’s interesting about Revelation 17 (and so much of Revelation in fact) is that the Whore is not just some promiscuous person in Babylon. The Whore is Babylon. It’s Rome, the greatest nation the world had known at that time. And that was part of the problem. It’s really easy to fall in love with the kingdoms that we can see over the One we can’t. And it doesn’t mean that these kingdoms don’t have a lot of great things to offer. After all, no one has an affair with someone they aren’t attracted to. But it can’t be our first love.

So here are a couple of questions for us. Do we find ourselves getting mad at social issues that we have very little control over? Do we find ourselves passionately aligned against other Jesus followers about political issues? Because I believe that too often we try to get out of the American political system what it can’t give us. We try to get the Kingdom of God. The world the way God intended it, with justice and mercy for all. We try to bring the Shalom of Heaven, the Reign of God through the reign of political figures.

Eugene Peterson says about Revelation, that here is a book in which the Gospel is political, but in a way in which no one would ever expect.

Because it’s not saying your left or right politics are wrong, it’s not saying you shouldn’t care about the issues that you care about. It’s saying never confuse your dreams for the kingdoms of earth with the unshakable, unstoppable Kingdom of God.

Because John just might call that an affair.

So It’s time to stop dating around.

It’s time to remember our first love.

 

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  • Matt H.

    I think the two reactions to Babylon’s demise in the following chapter are a pretty good indication as to who’s been in bed with her, whether they realize it or not.  As the kingdoms of empire begin to crumble, do we weep and mourn and wail like the merchants of the earth who’ve grown rich and prospered by her idolatrous ways?  Or do we, like the saints and apostle and prophets, rejoice and shout hallelujah because God’s Kingdom, our Kingdom, is in no danger of falling?  With all of the end-of-the-world language and scare tactics being thrown around this election season, it is more tempting to bemoan the United States’ demise, than to celebrate the unshakable Kingdom of God breaking into our very world.

  • P. Lee

    Thank you Jonathan.  I will always wonder about Christians being involved in politics.  Jesus did not seem to get involved in politics and he certainly could have.  Instead he focused on the individual heart, and personal relationships with God and each other.  The only establishment that he ever seemed upset with was the church of his day (and merchants selling things in the church).  And he DID get asked about taxes, and told us to pay them, reminding us that money is a worldly thing and Caesar could have it.  Good thoughts from you to ponder on.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SL5W4GIRSN5KF3XQV56JVYC3FM Dan

    “Because I believe that too often we try to get out of the American political system what it can’t give us. We try to get the Kingdom of God.”
    Wonderfully said! I think I will repost this quote on my facebook page if that’s ok. Will try to give credit to you. :) We Christians are not winning anyone over with our political attitudes of late. #focusonthefamily

  • Gordondasher

    Great job, Jonathan. I’ll be 60 in August (even though I never think of myself as an old dude). I’ve been a county chairman for the Republican Party in Florida. I’ve been on the State Central Committee for the party here in Louisiana. I’ve been friendly with Jeb Bush and done a couple of large events for Bobby Jindal. Both great guys. But it has become clear to me that our problems are not political and therefore have no political solution. Besides, changing the culture? It’s not really my job. God calls me to be faithful first and share the Good News second (or maybe it’s all one process). But politics? It’s a dirty business with dirty and incomplete outcomes. At the end of the day, lives are still broken by sin. Thanks for a great blog. You are right-on, my friend.

  • Army for Christ

    So I don’t thing God had any intention for us to think we should not get invovled in politics. Quite to the contrary, I think he spurred certain individuals to do so like King David, and pretty much all the leaders of old at a threat to their very lives. Nations were differently structure then and leaders were more like tribal ones which made things easier to manage and thus slower to corrupt. Yes I belief God told us to abandon nations when He saw no hope to save it(sodom and Gomora) . . . We may need eventually to abandon America but I think God thinks we need to fight for it and reframe the argument from popular media. If u do fight for what is right, I do not thing u are being an adulterer, but don’t be a chicken; we will surely lose freedom of religion then. I think a lot of Americans are not putting faith in America and in this crisis I think a lot are turning their eyes upward now as they always should have!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Matt, that’s exactly right. It’s interesting that we are starting to act surprised with the uncivilly that is happening in our culture, but when you have a decade of fear based political maneuvering you will reap what you sow. Good observation!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Lee, I think that the Gospel is political, just not any of the ways we think. Even our worship songs, and Psalms talk about the King of Kings which is a political statement! But it is a very different kind of politics based on the ethics and hope of the Kingdom of God. 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Dan, that is very okay. 

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks Gordon! What a great insight! I appreciate your comment a lot. It seems to come out of a lot of experience. I loved your phrase about incomplete outcomes, great observation! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Army, I think we are going to disagree on this. The Culture Wars of the past few decades have shown that Christians haven’t had a problem fighting for what they believe politically. Unfortunately all of the research has shown that even when Christians win a cultural battle they are losing the generations coming up after them. 

    Notice, I never said that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. I think that in ever aspect of society Jesus-followers should be involved. But we must not neglect to follow Jesus into these sectors. So if a Christian is to get involved they must do it like Jesus (who by the way, only faced a government official a couple of times and he got beat up and killed when he was doing it). That’s the way to enter into the political sphere, by laying our lives down sacrificially, not militantly. 

    Thanks for weighing in. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1667167317 Kathy Morris

    I like your blog today so very much. I would add, however, that the LORD’s second command to Adam was to name the animals and all other creatures, AND He enjoined Adam to take care of the Garden God had given him ….. with the Garden, God has blessed Adam but he also told him to work…to take care of the Garden. I do believe there is a lesson there for us too. Not only are we to give thanks for the myriad blessings that come to us daily from the LORD, but we are also, like Adam, to take care of the land He has given us. That the voice politic has become very shrill cannot be denied. If we, as believers in and followers of the Savior hand over all political activity to those same shrill voices would be disastrous and I doubt it would be pleasing to God.
    No, we should not in any way take part in the shrillness. We should, however, show that even in the political world Jesus is LORD. He can heal all areas of life, but it takes US working in those areas to bring God’s Light into every corner of this earthly life. Not very well put out there, but it is mho anyway. ;o)  In His love, grace and mercy I pray for all areas of our lives!

  • Nick Gill

    I’m curious about whether it is the overtly political appearance of the church, or the particular political stances being promoted, that are driving young people from the church.

    It is predominantly young people that are driving the #Occupy movement and things like that, but the churches whose politics lean that direction had already lost the demographic that is now leaking (okay, gushing) out of the conservative churches.
    Also, ironically, it was the “conservative” Americans churches that, a few decades ago, were complaining that the left-leaning churches of the civil rights era were too political.

    I don’t know that this comment has a point! LOL Except that, maybe, it is the unpopularity of the current political stances rather than the politicization itself that is driving people away from uncomfortable affiliations.

  • http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/ Matt Dabbs

    Hey Gordon…you still over in Cedar Key?

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Hey Mrs. Kathy! Good to see you on here. I do think Christians should be involved in the political sphere (in Jesus like ways) but not only in the political sphere. It seems like that is where most of our energy has been invested in, as a movement. 

    You’re right the answer to the political climate isn’t to just totally withdraw but to be engaged. I’m just trying to figure out how to communicate the best to the church not to let the political climate of the day outweigh our hopes in the Kingdom of God. 

    Anyway, I’m so glad to hear you weigh in. I sure do appreciate you and the wisdom you bring to the table!

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Thanks for weighing in Nick. There is something to your point. Churches have become beacons for status quo, and that is really hard to justify when you look at the Scriptures. 

    However, I have a lot of friends in blue states, and in mainline churches (that are much more progressive) and they are having the exact same problem that evangelical right-leaning churches are. 

    I think my main concern in American political arena today is that Christians forget that the Kingdom of God is advanced in very different ways, and that both Democrats and Republicans have incomplete visions for what God is ultimately trying to do in the world. 

    Anyway, thanks for the different perspective. 
    Peace,
    Jonathan