Jesus for President

Photo credit wikimedia.org

Photo credit wikimedia.org

The White House was incredibly beautiful, and I was honored to be in it, especially since I was the event’s keynote speaker. I sat at a small table with the former president. He was so dignified, even though he was shaking a little. He had certainly aged over the years, and his health was deteriorating, but his presence commanded respect. I studied the grey in his hair as he looked down to check my speech. He gave me a few synonyms to replace some of the words I’d written.

“Putting this word here instead of that one will get more of a response from the audience,” he said. I took heed. We chatted a little bit. He looked me in the eye when we talked. He smiled. He made me feel important and comfortable. I appreciated that.

I got up from the table, shook the former president’s hand, and headed down a long, winding walkway into the banquet hall. I don’t know why I had on a chocolate-colored evening gown that was three sizes too big. Didn’t I know better? I mean seriously, Jasmine, you’re about to deliver a speech in Washington, D.C., at the White House, in front of your country’s leaders. I was especially perplexed as to why I was wearing that dress since I’d been wearing something totally different just seconds earlier while talking to the President. I held the dress up with my arms and walked awkwardly down that hallway, ignoring the ushers’ giggles as I made my way through. Finally, I reached the end of the tunnel and entered a breathtaking banquet room that was graced with Southern decor. In true Southern fashion, the portions were enormous, and instead of cups, we each had our own pitcher of sweet tea. I was to speak before we dined. It was almost my turn, but I wasn’t very nervous. Preparing to take the podium, I made eye contact with Former President Obama who had been so gracious to help me put the finishing touches on my speech. Then I woke up.

I had that dream July 31, 2012. The next day, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Was it prophetic? I sure hope so. I would LOVE to be the speaker at a White House function. When I woke up, I spent a few minutes wondering what I would say given the opportunity to deliver a speech in a setting like that. It didn’t take me long to decide at all.

1 Peter 2 says:
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

What would I say in front of President Obama? The first words that come to mind are “I’m sorry.”

I’d apologize on behalf of every Christian who was misrepresented by all those who hated him, claimed he destroyed our country, and called him the Anti-Christ. I’d let him know that the word of God called us to honor him and submit to him, and although every Christ follower didn’t do that, many did pray for him and the rest of the government, whether we agreed with their views and decisions or not. I’d tell him his wife was a joy to watch during his presidency, and I took it as a huge compliment every time somebody told me I had biceps like hers. Then I’d ask if we could shoot free throws after the banquet was over.

Now, before you roll your eyes or yell a’men, there’s something you need to know. I didn’t vote for Obama. I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney, either. I understand that a lot of people fought and died for me to be able to vote. How could I not? I’m American, I’m black, and I’m a woman. I also have a dad and a brother who are both military. I understand that it’s my privilege, as an American, to vote, and I appreciate that privilege deeply. I don’t, however, believe that all those people sacrificed in order for me to vote for something I don’t believe in just to say I did it. I believe in truth, and I don’t think either candidate represented that, so I praised God that on that cloudy November day, I lived in a free country where I had the right to choose my actions. Then, I went to work.

That night, I watched the election coverage like it was the Olympics. I get a kick out of that stuff. I like the thrill of the competition. I like the suspense of waiting for the victor to emerge. I like to hear the biased comments of people who are sure they are right. That night, however, it wasn’t the experts’ commentaries that really got to me. Thanks to my Facebook news feed, I went to bed sorely disappointed and deeply saddened.

I was appalled by the hatred that was suddenly unleashed as the results were announced. Stereotypes and accusations of racism and close-mindedness blew up statuses of otherwise reasonable citizens. Republicans bashed Democrats, Democrats berated Republicans, donkeys and elephants were engulfed in a royal rumble, many of whom were sure they’d voted the way that God would have had them to. I wondered if Jesus Christ himself would have been an American citizen (you do know he’s not, right?) on November 6 who he’d have voted for. He’d have probably been somewhere washing the feet of poll workers and passing out drinks. Maybe he’d have shot hoops that morning with Obama or hit some last-minute campaign spots with Romney. Maybe he’d have fasted and prayed for a country whose people oftentimes pay way more attention to our politics than we ever did to how he said we should treat our politicians.

Whether we like our government leaders or not, we are called to honor them. When Peter and Paul wrote this mandate to the Church in 1 Peter and Romans, please know they were not being led by the most favorable of leaders. Ever hear of Nero, the emperor who blamed a fire that destroyed most of Rome on Christians (word on the street was Nero started this fire), thus beginning Christian persecution and torture in Rome? In light of that, I gotta say, honoring the folks in D.C. doesn’t seem like that great a task compared to what our brothers and sisters back in the day endured.

What if the problems in our country have nothing to do with conservatives, liberals, and policies, but everything to do with the fact that the Church isn’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing? We’re supposed to be loving people and being accurate representations of Christ, not bickering with those who oppose our views and trying to force people to agree. If all of us who claim to love Jesus Christ decided to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors (democrat, republican, tea party, green party, libertarian, communist, hippy, red, yellow, black, white…) as ourselves, would we even have time for endless arguments, pointless fighting, and ineffective social network statuses? Maybe we’d change the population of God’s kingdom for the better. Maybe we’d all get our heads chopped off. Definitely we’d be obeying our Father who rules the ultimate theocracy. I think all of us who love God can vote for that.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:7

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Luke 10:26-27

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Decisions or Disciples?

In college, I spent my summers working camps. One was a Christian sports camp for inner city kids, and I loved it. It was on a mountaintop in the Midwest. The food was delicious, I made some great friends, and I sweat all day, whether I was running around or not. I felt bliss the entire time I was there, and I always dreaded leaving once my stint was up.

One summer, however, I remember leaving with a major frustration. Several campers from the year before whom I’d prayed with, cried with, and walked through the Gospel with, who’d accepted the call to follow Christ, came back and made that same commitment again the next year. When I started to converse with them about how their previous year had gone after they left camp, most confessed that they’d read their Bibles for a week, maybe two. The really excited ones stuck with it for a month. The same sins that were eating them for lunch the year before last summer’s camp had come back for seconds. These kids were coming to camp looking for lasting hope, but too many were leaving and trying to survive spiritually off of exposure to the Gospel, a good play or two, and a few rigorous workouts.

My frustration became fury. Who was looking after these kids’ daily spiritual health once they got home? Obviously, nobody.

As I became more familiar with the Christian culture in our nation, I discovered that camps are in abundance. Not just camps, but conferences, crusades, and coffee talks. What’s happening at all these assemblies? The records show that often, they’re short-lived pep rallies. Get pumped up, go home, make a short-lived change or two, then return to sin slavery.

There’s a place for super-charged get-togethers in the church, even in mass numbers, but they were never intended to be the heart of our faith. We’re trying to live off of pep rallies but are getting clobbered in the game of life for lack of training. Do people genuinely come to know the Lord at these events? Yes. Do people get motivated to change and make changes in the world because of them? Absolutely. Is this the majority of attendees? Nope. Is the cause of that just because the road is narrow and few are those who find it, or because seasoned believers aren’t doing our jobs in smaller settings to pour into the new ones once they’ve been wooed by the Spirit?

God’s not anti-camp, crusade, conference, and coffee talk. He is, however, anti-lazy faith. Lazy, surface level understanding breeds lazy, surface level followers. Jesus never once called us to that. He said to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, not love Him with all our comfort and what our schedules will allow. And we are to do so even to the death if the circumstance mandates. Do you know and love the Christ enough to die for him? Even more pressingly, do you know and love him enough to live for him? Everyday?

Jesus said to make disciples, pupils of him, but did he ever say to make mere converts? To disciple someone is to teach him/her how to follow Christ, study and understand the word for him/herself, and hear from the Holy Spirit in order to teach others to do the same. (Click here to see the effects of this through a fellow blogger’s story). Many new Christians never get this education, so they become malnourished if no one is “feeding” them spiritually. How many Christian babies die in infancy because nobody nourishes them? How many become disabled and don’t grow, becoming 40 year old believers in toddler onesies? Too many. In the physical realm, we do all we can to get struggling babies the best possible treatment so they can have the most quality life possible, so why do we so often let babies in the faith starve to death?

The Holy Spirit will work how and when he wants, and he wants to work through us. Are we, the Church, dropping the ball? It’s easy to quote the Great Commission, easier said than done. But Jesus never promised us easy. In fact, He assured us that following Him would be unpopular and hard. What tragedies are we setting ourselves up for because of disobedience? What fulfillment are we denying ourselves by passing the buck? What victories could we experience in a dying world if we chose to take the Great Commission seriously?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matt. 28:18-20