Jesus, Politics and Christianity

I wanted to share some thoughts from a friend of mine. What do you think? Did he hit the nail on the head? Did he miss something?

Christ, Not America, First
Jesus never ran for office.
Jesus never endorsed a political candidate.
Jesus never voted.
 
Jesus never pledged allegiance to a flag, country, or ruler.
Through his entire life and ministry, Jesus was notably absent from involving himself in the political systems of his day. Why? Because the Kingdom of Heaven was his priority, and living out the divine ideals of that kingdom would be contrary to those of any worldly kingdom or system of power.
Therefore, Jesus did what the gospel instructs us to do today: Help the poor, comfort the oppressed, empower the downtrodden, welcome the foreigner, care for the maligned, accept the outcast, and provide hope, mercy, grace, healing, forgiveness, and sacrificial love to the world around us.
One of the hallmarks of following Christ is emulating his life. And this is what Christianity essentially is: Jesus.
Christianity isn’t a political ideology, or a sovereign nation, or a set of laws legislating values or enforcing a society’s preferred brand of morality. Christianity is centered upon Christ.
Of course, one can be involved in politics, run for office, and vote, but the question is what happens when Christians must choose between the two. What should followers of Jesus do when one contradicts the values of the other?
Our answer lies with Christ himself, who was arrested, put on trial, and condemned to a horrific death by the ruling government of the day — for refusing to sell out his faith.
Jesus could’ve taken the easy way out and just given the rulers what they wanted, but he didn’t. His resistance towards governmental procedures and structures was his obedience to God.
And it’s probably not a coincidence that the ultimate act of evil by Satan would be disguised under the façade of a government justice system and bureaucratic process. By Roman standards, Jesus had a fair trial and was guilty — end of story.
Many prefer this type of no-nonsense clarity of rules, regulations, laws, and enforcement.
It’s tempting for today’s Christians to become co-opted by partisan alliances, political opinions, and fear. The disciples fell into this same pitfall, and Jesus, the Son of God and savior of the world, was all but abandoned by his followers during his greatest time of need, even being denied three times by one of his closest companions.
This is what governments and societies try to do: enforce control through division, anger, hate, anxiety, and power.
But the early church, the first generations of believers, took the sacrifice of Jesus to heart and refused to be cowed.
They followed Jesus to their deaths, unwilling to forsake the gospel in the face of political persecution, public humiliation, sacrificial suffering, and even the judicial laws of their time. So, like Jesus, they were “justifiably” killed and suppressed by the ruling powers.
Those very first Christians would not let the message of Jesus be co-opted by political agendas, and they put their hope in Jesus alone. And this is how the good news of Jesus was spread: by standing up to powerful rulers and refusing to compromise the gospel for anything.
We can directly link our faith today to the sacrifice of those countless Christ-followers who wouldn’t bow to Rome, or to Caesar, simply because they were following Jesus.
They understood the dangers of political idolatry, but their legacy has often been lost on current Christians, and we must rediscover this brave willingness to choose Christ over everything.

 

Some thoughts on the Election and Christmas

It’s November 7, and I have to admit to you, I’ve already started listening to Christmas music. No shame. Bring it on.

Tomorrow is November 8, Election Day.

It has been so interesting these last couple days as I’ve been listening to Christmas music non-stop, which, of course, sings about the incarnation of Jesus Christ into the world as a baby, while deeply following the run-up to the Presidential election tomorrow.

Conflicting. Ironic. Paradoxical. Are just some of the words that come to mind.

More then any election that I recall in my life, I’m witnessing deep fear and anxiety…..both of these coming from folks who fall on different sides of the aisle.

What I find ironic is that when Jesus incarnated and entered into human form, he entered the world at a chaotic time politically. Jesus, born to Israeli parents, in a region occupied by Rome, under the cruel rule of Herod the Great.  Among the Jews there was great fear and anxiety both politically and economically, and they too were prominently divided between two groups.

Pharisees: The “people’s party” who stuck to the law and traditions of Israel’s patriarchs.

Sadducees: The wealthy and conservative leaders who rejected traditions in favor of religious and political cooperation with the Romans

But what I find most important to consider is what and who was sent to the world in a time of great fear and uncertainty. The world needed a leader. The world needed answers. The world needed hope. And that leader was Jesus.

How amazing, and conflicting is it to think that sent to the world was a helpless, humble baby. A baby, who grew into a man, whose primary mission was to bring peace into our violence, feed the hunger in our souls, and have a heart that would break for ours.

Incredible as we think about the future of our country, the leader we will elect, and all the uncertainty, all the vitriol getting passed around that God so chose to send fragile fingers of a baby to heal us.

I’m not proposing that this election, or any election, doesn’t matter, as it is our duty to be good citizens and do our part and care about the state of our Republic, but listening to these Christmas tunes about this little one, who came to make all things right, who came to bring true peace, and to show true love has really caused me to reflect that I, and my family don’t need to be fearful about what will happen on Wednesday morning, and in the future, as it’s already been show to us….God’s got us. It's also caused me to reflect and consider what true transformational leadership looks like. When we see how God changed the world in Jesus.....and therefore giving us the definition of leader, CEO, President, etc....it certainly turns things upside down and throws our definitions of "strong leader" out the window.......more to come.....

Being for Black Justice is Not a Anti-Police Stance

This is NOT a either/or situation in America. Either you are FOR the police and against blacks or FOR black justice and against police.

My dad has been a police chaplain for 45 years so I grew up around law enforcement and have incredible love and respect for many close friends who wear the badge. That reality has nothing to do with the fact that we have a racism problem in our country.....one where we have made some amazing strides over the years but it is deep and it goes back 300 years.

We, as white people, have no clue what it is like to be black in our country, and we also have no idea the depth of sick racism that has existed and how that impacts us TODAY! When we see this incidences arise in our country, our black friends are trying to raise their voice and get our attention to things (not just by police) that they have endured their whole life. They finally can get our attention as we pay no attention to it. And what we do is try to find the holes in their arguments and all the blemishes on the particular person who was just gunned down. "Well, he smoked weed, so he was a bad guy." "He was a thug." "He stole from a convenience store." "He stole liquor from a gas station." I've done all of those things. We like to red herring these situations.

The riots in Watts and South Central LA are looked at by white folks and they say, "Stupid black people, burning down their own neighborhood." But we have no clue that a big part of that is a simple cry to be seen and noticed and treated the same. Plus, those ghettos were created primarily because the racist laws of our country.

Do you white person know what it's like to have your people for decades be forced into slavery, lynched, murdered because of your skin color, told that you are sub-human your whole life and that you can't eat in the same restaurants or go to the same schools as white people. Do you know what it's like to be sequestered into specific neighborhoods and be told that you can't get a home loan because you are black and then forced into created ghettos with no city services, no backing for public schools, or you can't get a job because you are black and therefore can't support your family? Do you know what that is like. How about taking a moment and hear someone's story? Hear what it was like to grow up black in America. Hear about the stories their parents and grandparents tell about being segregated. Why can't we be FOR our police officers and look out for them AND go over the top to build bridges to our Black community???

Seattle and Spiritual Trauma

Over the last number of years I believe that a false narrative has emerged about Seattle. The narrative essentially is that Seattle is a god-less, overtly secular city where no one cares about their faith or God. When I travel, this narrative is backed up by the anecdotal data I receive from folks who hear that I am from Seattle and then recite the above talking points regarding Seattle's state. I believe this stereotype is overblown, and in fact, believe that in many ways Seattle has become an enclave for people who have experienced spiritual trauma in their life.

There are lots of surveys, studies, and polls that have been done that show Seattle as a place of the "nones" (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Americans-becoming-less-religious-Seattle-and-6611644.php) and the "dones" (http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2015/summer-2015/meet-dones.html), but what it doesn't reveal are the stories and what is underneath cold-hard statistics.

Born and raised in the Seattle area, I have numerous friends here, who are across the faith spectrum, from atheist to agnostic to everything under the sun, and over the years I have seen a common thread develop. The thread is, most I know who would categorize themselves as "done" or "none" have experienced some form of spiritual trauma in their life. Most grew up in either a Protestant or Catholic home and either first-hand or up-close experienced a law-based, legalistic, fundamentalist, grace-less religion that hurt them in such a way as to move a different faith direction in their life. Coincidentally, I have also gotten to know some of the folks in Seattle who appear to be "vocal" voices against religion and faith, and, again, most of them have experienced this trauma.

This thought didn't strike me until a few years ago, when I experienced spiritual trauma of my own, and was able to enter into the shoes of so many friends who had experienced this at some point in their life.

The other thought that is striking, is the turn away from faith and Christianity has nothing to do with what Christianity is all about. Christianity is about grace and love. The grace of the gospel is scandalous, unconditional, unending, rich, deep and wide. It meets people where they are at and heals, forgives, cares, and loves.

Unfortunately, many I know in Seattle have become completely turned off and, honestly, have no idea what grace is or how to articulate it. To them Christianity is a religion of rules, legalisms, and politics, and they were so wounded that it's very difficult to get through and past the layers of presuppositions to simply let them know they are loved by God.

I feel deeply for anyone who has gone through hard and ridiculous stuff in the name of religion or Christianity. As humans we can be prone to pursue power and control, but when that is done in the name of God or Jesus, it is devastating and can be real hard to come back from.

I have great hope that friends of mine and others in this amazing city would know that they are loved. Would know that God is not OK with what they experienced. In fact, God experienced spiritual trauma himself. Jesus Christ was sold, betrayed, and murdered by the people doing work in "God's" name. If anyone empathizes, Jesus does.

 

A Picture of Grace

There is a metaphor in Scripture that describes our relationship with Jesus....Jesus as the groom, we as the bride. This metaphor reveals God's personal heart for his people....meaning that he will be totally committed, faithful, loving and pursuing you, his bride. The crazy caveat is that we don't fulfill our end of the relationship. We "sleep around" with other things and give our heart to others.....but Scripture says he's permanently committed to us, and, in fact, God comes through on both ends of the relationship. On his end, and our end (through Jesus). That is Grace. And it's that Grace that then moves into the marrow of our bones to then allow us to give our hearts (with the right motivation) to the groom.

Jesus is Not Santa Claus - Robert Farrar Capon

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The words of that dreadful Christmas song sum up perfectly the only kind of messianic behavior the human race, in it’s self-destructive folly, is prepared to accept: ‘He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice; he’s going to find out whose naughty and nice’ – and so on into the dark night of all the tests this naughty world can never pass. For my money, what Jesus senses clearly and for the first time in the coin in the fishes mouth is that He is not, thank God, Santa Clause. He will come to the worlds sins with no list to check, not test to grade, not debts to collect, no scores to settle. He will wipe away the handwriting that was against us and nail it to His cross. (Col. 2:14) He will save, not some minuscule coterie of good little boys and girls with religious money in their piggy banks, but all the stone-broke, deadbeat, overextended children of this world whom He, as the son of man- the Holy Child of God, the ultimate Big Kid, if you please – will set free in the liberation of His death. And when He senses that… well, it is simply to laugh. He racks a “gone fishing” sign over the sweatshop of religion, and for all the debts of all sinners who ever lived, He provides exact change for free. How nice it would be if the church could only remember to keep itself in on the joke.

Learning to Love Like A Two-Year Old

I came across an old blog I had written a handful of years back and I so remembered this sweet time and how moving it was for me, especially in our society today with all the conversations, fears, and questions about Muslims in our country.

Recently, we hosted a school supplies event in the Rainier Valley and passed out school supplies to over 500 families in the heart of the 98118; which is the most diverse zip code in the entire country.

Over 10 different races and religions were represented, and leading the way were a large group of Muslim families that showed up for the event, which included, food, games and music.  There were at least 50 Muslim kids huddled around each other, donning their traditional Hijab wear and scanning the scene to see what this event was all about.

I showed up with my wife, Brittany, and our two girls. I noticed fairly quickly that it was an awkward scene for many of our people. All the Muslims were huddled together and not many of our people were making attempts to talk with them, build relationships, or reach out. I recognized that many of us had never been in this type of environment and were not completely sure how to approach the situation.

As I’m thinking this (and plotting my course of action), my two-year old daughter, Eleanor, makes a beeline for the Muslim group.

She immediately walks up to a girl her age, smiles, opens her arms, gives her a big hug, and says “Hi.” The little Muslim girl was taken aback – maybe because of the sheer force of the hug – but she warmed up to Eleanor.  Soon her mother began talking to Eleanor as well, which opened the door to a 45-minute conversation between our families.

My little girl was bold, loving, affable, pleasant and warm. Immediately, those who were reserved, suspicious, and separated opened up and wanted to share about their lives.  We can learn a great deal from this example of childlike openness.

We are oftentimes far more concerned about how we will be perceived than we are about the opportunities God is putting right in front of us to be Jesus’ hands and feet.  These are opportunities to image Jesus to people who need to see Him in our actions, hear His voice in our words, and feel His touch in the way we open our arms up in love – the same way that God welcomes us!  We have the chance to be used by our Creator to show His love to the people He has created.  What, then, do we have to fear?

 

 

 

The Cross & the Kim Davis Rally

I saw this image (crosses being waved like flags) on the news a couple nights ago and I know this particular scene, was seen across the globe, and it bummed me out. Here's why:
The cross transcends politics and a nation's laws. The cross is a symbol of God's love for humans and to what extent He went to for them. The gospel is not about politics, it's not about building a Christian nation, as Jesus said, 'my kingdom is not of this world', the gospel is about what Paul said, 'For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.'
This post is not about the legalities of what Kim Davis did or didn't do or whether or not she should or shouldn't have done what she did, this post is drawing attention to the fact that it is very confusing for a watching world when the cross is waved like a flag at a political rally, and in a context that is separated from it's meaning.

Disneyland, Car Accidents, and God's Grace

Friends, life is short, and we don’t control things like we think. I’m amazed how easy it is for me to get worried, focused, and consumed with things that ultimately don’t matter much.

Recently, Brittany and I took the girls to Disneyland. It was seriously so cool to see our 3 girls be in sheer awe and amazement while at ‘the happiest place on Earth.’ I remember watching them there and thinking, ‘where is my awe in life? Where is my amazement?’

I prayed to God that he would help bring back the amazement and awe for him and my life again. Why is it so easy to lose wonder at life and God? It’s so easy to forget and easy to get down with life’s circumstances.

I remember being there at Disneyland thinking this is really how God made the world. He created Earth to be our playground to enjoy, and to honor and thank him for his gifts. But again, I’ve seen myself lose the forest for the trees. Lose perspective on life. Be more frustrated with my girls than encouraging. At times, attempting to survive in life rather than thrive.

A few days after Disneyland, we were driving home from California on I-5 getting ready to pass the Tacoma Dome, and literally, in my mind I was getting ready to say an audible prayer thanking God for safety on the road trip, when we came to stop-and-go traffic and we were slammed into from the rear by a two-ton truck pulling a large trailer.

If you have been in an accident before, you know the horrific sound of metal on metal with sheets of glass shattering.

There were about 10 minutes of sheer pulse-pounding adrenaline and horror, as our two oldest girls, Eleanor, 5 and Leighton, 4 were sitting in the very back of the mini-van and the truck’s impact ended literally 6 inches from their head. I looked back there and they had shattered glass all over them and they were stunned by what just happened.

After realizing that we were all ok, except for some whiplash, and some scratches, recognizing that God had spared us was an overwhelming feeling. I can’t even describe the simultaneous emotion of being so ridiculously grateful that we were spared and the ‘what would I have done had it not turned out this way’.

In such a short moment, what I had wished for a few days earlier at Disneyland and had come true. Wonder, awe and amazement at God and life began to sink in deep. Concurrently, thankfulness to God for his protection and deep conviction for my superficial perspectives that is far too easy to live out. It’s incredible how God uses these severe mercies to guide, lead, and direct us so that we can gain new perspective in who He is and who we are. We are all still dealing with some of the psychological impacts of this accident, but I am so grateful how God tends to us as a gentle Shepherd.

Every day is a gift. Every breath is a gift. May we recognize the author of all good things, release the control that we cling to, and know that the best is yet to come.

Do you love Seattle, professional sports, and church plants?

I have to pinch myself every so often. I get to live and do ministry in the greatest city on the planet (slightly biased), Seattle, Washington.  The culture, mountains, water, coffee, food, music and the people are some of the best anywhere. God has planted my family in the heart of the city and given us some fun opportunities. I get the privilege of serving the Seattle Sounders FC as their chaplain, and also the joy of planting a new church community in urban Seattle, which brings me to a particular role I am looking to fill.

 I am looking to find someone to fill a hybrid role-partnership between our newly forming church community and my role as a chaplain with the Sounders.  As you may have heard,  Sounders FC 2 is our new reserve team for the Sounders FC and they play in the United Soccer League. I would like to find someone to be the chaplain for the team, along with assisting me with the first team.  In concert, we are looking for somebody to provide administrative/organizational leadership in our A Seattle Church community. 

My heart and hope would be to find someone who is:
-passionate about Jesus, people, Seattle, and soccer
-is relationally gifted inside and outside of church contexts, who self-initaties
-is a strong and decisive administrator; who can manage and coordinate relational opportunities, logistics, events, etc across multiple contexts.
-is able to fundraise and raise support for their income to be a part of these opportunities.
This would combine to be a full-time role as an urban missionary in Seattle and in professional sports.
If you know anyone who might be interested in stepping into this role, please have them send their resume and contact information to me at timothy.gaydos@gmail.com.

Thanks!

-Tim Gaydos