Republican church

I had this thought about politics and church (and forgive me because I’m about to make some broad and general statements).

The concept of democracy is that all people vote on all issues. Generally, the government is larger, collects more taxes and distributes the resources as the people vote.

In a republic, all the people are able to elect representatives who in turn vote on issues. They advocate smaller government and fewer taxes, with the expectation that individuals are able to utilize their resources in a fair way – including caring for the destitute and indigent.

I vote republican (usually) and my conscience (always). It is nice when one candidate satisfies both my preference and my morality.

How does the church factor in, you ask. In this way: a republican model says that the people are able to identify needs in society and designate the resources necessary to meet them. A democracy says that the church must collect the money to meet those same needs. I didn’t know I felt this way, but the truth is I think we the people (sorry!) have a greater responsibility to care for our communities than just handing over money to the church.

A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.

Niccolo Machiavelli

I’m not sure Machiavelli is the model I want to follow, but the man makes a fair point.

And I’ll borrow this idea as well: generosity is not measured by what you give, but rather by what you have left.

I believe the church (as a body of believers) must play a role. I believe it is more important- essential to our faith- that we the believers as individuals are giving away everything we have. Money, yes, but also time and talent and love and any other gift the Lord has seen fit to give us.

I will say in a nod to the democrats who don’t like my characterizations that this definition is not something I often witness in a person so much as an ideal. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep looking.

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A humbled & responsive heart

Shortly after my last post, I read through the book of 2 Kings and came to the account of the boy king of Judah, Josiah. The stories of the sins of Judah are no different from the sins of this time; my idols are not cast in precious metals but my worship of them still angers a jealous God.

Josiah is immediately convicted by the reading of the “Book of the Law”, much as I have been. He takes stock of his kingdom and his heart is responsive; he humbles himself before the Lord and grieves for his sin and that of his people.

Then, he wages all out war. This part gets interesting. In 2 Kings, no fewer than 15 specific examples, and many more general descriptions, are given of the things Josiah destroys. 2 Chronicles provides even more detail. The King begins to follow God at the age of 16. He is merely 20 when he begins his purge. When the Book of the Law is found Josiah is 26 – and he then destroys every idol in Judah.

I like the violence of the language. I like the forcefulness and emotion. I don’t know if God puts this here for this reason, but it makes me understand the thrum of violence and the passion boiling just below my surface. He wants me to hate my idols and destroy them. He wants my love for him to consume me. Jeremiah says “”But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9 NIV).

The scripture repeats God’s most important commandment throughout the Old Testament (and again in the New Testament):

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

Other translations use “might” instead of “strength” and I like the visual of that too. The Hebrew is “meod” which Strong’s says is “properly vehemence, that is, (with or without preposition) vehemently”. God wants me to love him vehemently. I never really got that before. I get it now.

25Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 2 Kings 23:25 NIV

So let it be said of me: neither before or after her was there a wife and mother who turned to the Lord as she did – with all her heart and with all her soul and with all her strength.

When silence is golden

“I admire a woman who knows when silence is golden, and when it is just plain yellow”

I love this quote, an excerpt from an uncredited poem I found in an old Amish cookbook.

I seek balance between golden and yellow every day. Pray for wisdom. Ask for boldness. Recognize the need for humility. And then, when the Holy Spirit leads me to the truth – I want to scream it into the faces of people I know and love until they get it, until they see what I see.

As an aside, I’ve never actually tried that approach, but I haven’t ruled it out yet either

I am the church. Me. Myself, the holy temple. You and I, we are the church. We are the body. When we say or think that the church ought to be doing something, what we really say or think, whether aware of it or not, is I should be doing something. You and I should be doing something. We the body should be doing something. Never “they”. “They” is we. “They” is I.

Church is family. I remember a time when family was commitment. When we chose a partner and had a family that stayed together no matter what. Shouldn’t our church family be the same way? Should we break up with our church when the worship format changes, when a newer, cooler church comes along, when our pastor offends or lets us down? Just like in marriage, rare exceptions exist that are cause for separation. As for me and my house (under the leadership of my husband), we are committed to our church for better or for worse. After all, as we go, so goes the church, since we ARE the church.

The church gives. That commonly gets translated into the “I” notion mentioned above, but here I present just the opposite. Yes, I am called to give recklessly, knowing that what I have is God’s and He will provide for me. But “We” the church seem to operate a bit more cautiously. “We” should give extravagantly of everything we have been given. “We” should trust that God will provide. Every resource we have should be depleted, used to accomplish the work our Father has called us to do. We should crawl over the finish line and say “Race over. I am finished” and have absolutely nothing left to give.

Then I consider the unpopular idea of praying for our enemies. Not like our “frenemies”. Not the soccer mom with the new SUV and better hair. Not our least favorite in-law or the nasty bank teller or even someone who has genuinely wronged us and caused us loss, although we should love and pray for those people. However, I’m talking about real enemies. I’m talking about terrorist suicide bombers who destroy entire communities of innocent women and children. God tells us to love them. I’m talking about dictators and armies and corrupt governments – our own and others. God tells us to love them. It doesn’t seem like my screaming approach works on these enemies. Reading my Bible reminds me that God’s approach is to Love Them. His approach has a 1000% success rate compared to my own feeble attempts to impress upon others the Wonders of His Love.

Speaking of frenemies, I recently had a run in with legalism. One mom made a casual comment about something innocuous she doesn’t permit in her home, putting every other mom in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing or keeping quiet (or agreeing. I didn’t really think about if anyone agreed). It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to be different. It’s ok to agree. It’s even ok to share many common opinions, but we need to avoid legalism, even the appearance of it, not least of all among ourselves. We are meant to be encouragers. Keep that filter on.

Lastly, God means to draw us to him. Despite our best intentions, pushing people to Christ has not historically been the most successful approach. If we are the city on a hill, people won’t be able to resist the call of Christ. It is He in us who will bring hearts to God. All we have to do is let Him be the light that shines within.