For the past few weeks, my church cell group has been talking about revival. Last night we discussed how God chooses believers to be catalysts for revival. One of the stories that came up was that of Evan Roberts, a Welsh coal miner-turned-preacher who began a revival in 1904 that saw 100,000 converts in one year. It’s listed among the greatest revivals in history.
But what’s astonishing about this story is how the revival came about. For 11 years, Roberts prayed for revival to come to his community. He asked God to bend the hearts around him to God’s will. Even while he dug in the coal mines, Roberts prayed. In essence, his prayer was “Lord, bend them.” For 11 years, his request went unanswered.
Finally, Roberts attended a Christian convention with evangelist Seth Joshua. While Joshua prayed over a group of believers, Roberts heard him say, “Lord, bend them.” Roberts took up the prayer, applying it to himself: “Lord, bend me!” Within six months, Roberts was leading thousands of souls to Christ.
Many Christians today pray for God to change their communities, their friends, their families, their employers, their coworkers and their president. But what God really wants is to empower believers to do His work. That requires a change in us. God doesn’t just want to bend your boss. He wants to bend you!
Consider the scriptures:
If my people, who are called by my name [i.e., Christians], will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This scripture requires believers to do three things: (1) humble themselves, (2) pray, and (3) turn away from sin. Many do #2, expecting God to respond, but fail at tasks 1 and 3. Know what Jesus called believers who were full of pride and sin? Pharisees. And he had nothing nice to say about them.
Many Christian bloggers have written about the recent election, encouraging believers to “vote the Bible” and choose a candidate whose policies most mirror scripture. While I think voting is an important civic duty, the spiritual importance of choosing a moral leader has been greatly exaggerated. For instance, one of my Facebook friends posted this:
VOTE AS CLOSE TO THE BIBLE AS YOU CAN TODAY…because one day we will give an account before God and if we vote because someone promises us something but doesn’t stand up for biblical principles we will be sorry.
The implication here is that God will weigh believers’ voting records when considering their worthiness to enter heaven. I’m sorry, but my Bible doesn’t even suggest such thing. God has made it abundantly clear what His criteria for judgement are:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-46).
This election, so many Christians got fired up about voting, seeing it as an opportunity to stand up for their values and, perhaps, score some brownie points with the Almighty. But how many of those same people get just as fired up about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? I’d say hardly any. Yet, that’s exactly what God is going to judge us by–by the lives we touched with His love.
In reality, politics often becomes an idol in our lives to distract us from what God said to do. For instance, I read a particular blog post encouraging Christians to become politically active. Here are some statements the writer made [emphasis mine]:
While such Christians do not have the numbers to dominate American politics, we can play a decisive role. But we cannot have any influence on the direction of our country if we don’t get involved. So if we want to help our government fundamentally change direction—if we’re committed to doing everything possible to avoid an economic and cultural implosion—we need to be serious, focused, and involved in the political process.
If in coming elections Christians are divided between candidates who share our biblical principles and constitutional convictions, who practice what they preach, and on the other hand candidates who are opposed to our principles or who flip-flop on them or cannot be trusted for other reasons, then elections will be won by candidates who do not share our values. In turn, we will lose the opportunity to turn this ship of state around.
But if Christians register to vote en masse and unite behind serious, substantive, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-growth, pro-defense candidates who truly use the Constitution as their guide, then we have a real chance to put solid candidates in office and empower them to make the reforms we so desperately need to rescue our country from the abyss.
Basically, the writer is saying that without political power and influence, Christians are powerless to change the direction of the country. But that belief is directly contrary to the scriptures. The Apostle Peter didn’t impact Jerusalem by running for office or backing a Christian leader. He made a legacy of faith by obeying the commands of Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). I’m disturbed that the writer doesn’t say that if we’re committed to doing everything to avoid cultural implosion, we’ll lavish love on those society has rejected. I’m even more disturbed that he thinks being “pro-defense” is a Christian value.
If Jesus is to be our example, let’s consider how he approached politics. Sure, he said “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” After all, Caesar’s face was on the money Caesar demanded for taxes. But the potentate was hardly a believer in God. He worshiped pagan idols and was himself worshiped as a god after his death.
Yet Jesus never proposed overthrowing Caesar or supporting a more “moral” politician. In fact, other than the scripture regarding taxes, Jesus never even speaks of Caesar. He also never tells his disciples to seek worldly positions of leadership or to throw their political weight behind one candidate over another. Why? Because God did not create worldly systems of government. He only gave the Israelites a human king because they begged for one–because they had, in God’s own words, rejected Him as their king (see 1 Samuel 8). Human authority usurps God’s authority in our lives. Always.
Here’s a revolutionary idea: God doesn’t care who sits in the White House. He doesn’t care how you voted. God already has a kingdom in which He reigns with supreme power. Monarchies, dictatorships, democracies, republics, coalition governments and political collectives are all inherently flawed and will eventually pass away. Can God use a Christian politician to do good? Sure. But the good comes through humble obedience to God’s commands, not political power. One of the reasons the Jews rejected Jesus was that they were expecting a messiah who would overthrow the Roman government and set up an earthly kingdom that would be recognizable by human standards. When Jesus showed no intention of seizing political power, they became disillusioned. They couldn’t fathom that he was already a king–the ultimate King of Glory. He doesn’t need our earthly crowns.
I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote. It is a civic right. And it is important to choose good leaders and to listen to our consciences when deciding our stance on important issues. But God isn’t waiting for us to put a Christian in the White House. He’s waiting for us to say, “Lord, bend me!” Because that’s when we’ll truly see this nation turn to God.