Having now disposed of the two previous questions (What is a nation? and Is America a Christian nation?), I now return to challenging the idea that a Christian can “get the country back” for God through gaining political power.
In the face of a growing tyranny/anarchy state, it is tempting for the Christian to become a cultural wallflower: a Christian who just wants to blend in with his surroundings. To the other extreme, however, some Christians have sought not to influence culture, but transform it. God, on the other hand says to us, “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” (Rom. 12:2) and requires that we be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Paul longed to “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phi. 3:10). Notice the emphasis on us being transformed, not us transforming the culture. We are to keep ourselves from being corrupted by the world as we take care of orphans and widows (Jam. 1:27b).
Mike Horton says:
We’re never called to transform the world (or even our neighborhood). We’re never called even to bring millions to Jesus Christ. We’re called to be faithful in our vocations at work, at home, in our neighborhoods and in our witness to those individuals whom God brings across our path in ordinary ways every day.
Cups of Cold Water
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew 10:42
God brought Dutch Sichina into my life, about the time my father died, when I was in the 8th grade. Dutch became like a father to me, frequently giving me tidbits of wisdom and opening up his own home to me, all hours of the day and night. But my classmate and Dutch’s son, Ty, is the one who set the example of a Christian for me in so many ways. For one, he had to share his dad with me, which he did without complaint.
Sports have always been a big part of Ty’s life. But his only big break in athletics was the fractured arm he got when he quarterbacked our high school football team. A little over three years ago, Ty did have a dream come true. After about 25 years of plugging away as an assistant football coach, an opportunity for him to become a head football coach came at last.
I’d like to tell you how he took a small-town gridiron program to a state championship within those three years. I’d like to, but I can’t. Instead, Ty endured the agony of defeat much more frequently than he did the thrill of victory.
Ty’s fruit, nevertheless, will remain long after the thrill of winning a trophy that gathers dust in a display case has worn off. Ty’s players and some of his students (he teaches elementary school) come to him if they need someone to pray for them or a family member. They feel comfortable in visiting his home, too. A few have visited his church. No, Ty hasn’t jammed the Bible down the throats of those under him in hopes of adding them to the church rolls. But he has not been ashamed of his faith, nor of sharing a Scripture that might encourage them to seek God. Most of all, he has lived as an example. Not perfect, but one who walks in the grace of God.
His wife, Joellen, told me:
While sitting at home over Christmas break trying to figure out if he should resign as head football coach he gets a call from a very homesick exchange student from Brazil who plays football for him. He just wanted to tell “Coach” Merry Christmas. My husband only won one game that year but he realized all his work and time spent with these young men was actually making a difference because they learned about prayer, faith, courage, character, compassion and teamwork. My husband’s coaching was not all about X’s & O’s. It was more about life’s lessons that could help them throughout their lives.
When Ty’s father, Dutch, died a couple of years ago, the whole football team showed up at the funeral home to honor Ty. If many of these young men turn to Christ, as they might, it is possible they may turn into “conservative” voters. But I can tell you, that is the furthest thing from Ty’s mind. He has learned what is important in this life, and that is the life to come.
Paul Thorn was an eighth grader, one year older than me at Pleasant City Junior High. One day Paul asked to borrow a pencil from me. When I complied, he thanked me and I thought that would be the end of it. Not so. The next day he thanked me again and returned the pencil. Who does that? I knew Paul and his family were Christians, and that little piece of integrity impressed me.
Two days later an announcement was made to the whole school. Paul Thorn had accidentally drowned the previous day. I didn’t know Paul well; we weren’t close friends. At most we had shared a few pleasantries. Nevertheless, that young disciple made a difference by giving me refreshment in the name of Jesus. Paul never grew up and never had a chance to vote, and I have little idea what Ty thinks about politics. But they both changed the world—my world.
My first youth pastor, Greg Black, taught the kids in our youth group to do what he did naturally, witness to others about Jesus. He never came across as pushy, but had a keen ability to know when people were open to hearing about the Lord. He still witnesses to neighbors and strangers to this day.
One time, Pastor Black took me door-to-door witnessing. After being turned down a few times, someone finally let us in to talk with him about Jesus. It was actually just a kid, named George McElroy. George refused our appeals for him to trust Christ, and I don’t think I ever spoke to him again about Jesus, though we would later go to the same junior and senior high schools. George and I had little in common. He became a bodybuilder and weightlifter, while I have been a weakling all my life. George went to cussing school, and though Ty says that in the sixth grade I was so foul-mouthed I could cuss the paint off the wall, by the time I got to high school God had washed my mouth out with holy soap. George continued to swear at everyone but his mother.
The Watering Can
A number of years ago, George became very sick and contracted cancer which weakened his once powerful body. His best friend, Ty Sichina, was there for him every day, if need be. Ty ran errands for George and took him places when he was too weak to drive. Even when he was demanding, as very sick people can be at times, Ty was faithful. Although he continued in his other duties of teaching, coaching and preparing Sunday school lessons, he didn’t let his busyness keep him from taking care of George. Though Ty tried to witness about Jesus from the Word, he was often rebuffed. Yet, he continued to show Jesus to George in his actions.
Before George died, the love of God broke thru to him and changed him completely. He changed George’s vocabulary by changing his heart. He that had become weak was now forever strong in the Lord. Greg Black planted the seed; Ty Sichina watered; but it was God who gave the increase.
What Are We to Do?
First of all, there is the risk that politics will lead us further down the path of a false gospel which bishop Richard B. Wilke lamented had occurred in his own United Methodist Church. Preaching had almost exclusively become a recitation of the duties of the Christian to change the world:
However, the sermon, in all likelihood, would not tell me what God was doing to me, in me, through me, for me. The preacher would not tell me how God changes the sinful heart into a heart of faith and love. Is God at work in the world? Is God at work in the church? Is God at work in me? Tell me what God is doing right here and now…! …Historians remind us that Susanna and Samuel, John’s [John Wesley’s] mother and father once quarreled over politics and did not sleep together for a considerable time. Their reconciliation of love (not of politics) caused John to be conceived.
Second, I fear that many of us have taken our cues from sources other than the Bible in making politics the be-all and end-all of our relations to others in society. Francis Schaeffer, in his important work Evangelical Disaster, warned the church of failing to heed the Apostle’s advice in I Corinthians to recognize “the wisdom of this world” which is at odds with “the wisdom of God”:
Paul is speaking…of a worldly wisdom which claims to be self-sufficient in itself, quite apart from God and his revelation. It is a kind of worldly wisdom which leaves God and his revelation out of the picture and thereby ends up with a completely distorted conception of reality.
Too many Christians have become so consumed with politics and government it has caused them to stray off God’s paths, either in rejecting Christian ethics in much of what they do, or subscribing to the worldly notion that all is fair in love and war (and politics is war, doncha know?). Or we have become so fearful of electing the wrong president that we have put all our eggs in that basket. We have not trusted the One who has promised His people that he will never leave us nor forsake us. While we are enamored with making the whole world better, we have ignored the little worlds that God has placed in our hands. And we have become too busy: too busy to honor our parents, too busy to worship God as a family, too busy to raise our own children, too busy to bless our grandchildren, too busy to reach out to our neighbors.
Now that the election is over, perhaps many in the church will be more open to these lessons which came from my book, With Christ in the Voting Booth. I am therefore offering the pdf version, free of charge, just for the asking. Ask by messaging me at my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/david.shedlock), or by emailing me at djshedlock [attaboy} gmail.com
 Richard B. Wilke (1986) And Are We Yet Alive? The Future of the United Methodist Church, Abingdon Press, pp. 35f
 Francis A. Schaeffer (1984) The Great Evangelical Disaster, Crossway Books, p. 27