“So the king of Israel answered and said, ‘Tell him, “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off” ‘ ” (1 Kings 20:11).
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (“Who will watch the watchmen?”) – Roman poet Juvenal (Satire VI, lines 347–8).
This past year has seen the demolition of no small number of conventions. The Chicago Cubs defied the odds in baseball and we stand poised to inaugurate President Trump next month. It is human nature to try to come to terms with the unconventional when and where it occurs, to rationalize it, even partner with what continues to draw warranted concern lest we are left outside power and influence going forward. Some declare, “We have the White House for sixteen years now.” Others proclaim, “This is going to be a more conservative administration than Reagan’s.” The emotionalism exceeds eight years ago.
On one side, we see the palpable sense of relief that one candidate seems vanquished from public life permanently. On the other side, we sympathize with those who placed such hope and meaning upon a mere human being. It illustrates the danger of living beyond reality and for so long as many have. It should serve as a sober warning to all where misplaced hope and overconfidence in finite, fallen man can lead. Yet, we celebrate when we should mourn. We boast when we should walk humbly. We crow when we should be silent. The fact remains, we do not know what this outcome means nor do we know how much time we have on the path we have chosen up to this point.
Too many who identify with The Faith are being, just as Peter and Barnabas were at Antioch, drawn into the same self-righteous presumption that our superior position excuses hypocrisy. We assume whatever is coming is better and so place our confidence yet again in mortal administrative ability. None of us knows what lies ahead. There is no political victory to celebrate because victories, just like causes, cannot neither be won nor lost. Either way, nothing has yet been done. We are virtually awarding a Nobel Prize without deeds requisite to the honor.
We stand at risk of engaging in the same spirit that animated voters on the winning side in 2008, yet we do not see the same attitude in ourselves. We cavalierly dismiss the dark forces that do not sleep instead of girding ourselves for the spiritual battles that are indeed coming. We welcome the material prosperity around the corner and yet are we fitted for its spiritual liabilities? We accept promises at face value when we should be watchful lest we participate in the sins of others (1 Timothy 5:22). None of this is easy. None of this is pleasant. None of this is what the consensus wants to hear, especially right now. Who wants to be shut out from the new regime, with all its historic significance? Who wants to be the “spoiler” at the party?
The questions we should be asking ourselves include: Are we ready mentally, psychologically, and spiritually for the intense combat to come? Are we prepared for the social persecution that has not been averted with a single election result (Acts 21:13)? Are we vigilant enough or are we letting down our guard for the sake of magnanimity and potential advantage? Do we understand that the battle is not between flesh and blood but about ideals no safer under a Republican Party banner than under a Democratic one? Our God is not master of the hills only but of the plains and the same Lord who said, “Be innocent as doves” also said, “Be shrewd as serpents.” If Christians hand over discretion and the moral clarity to tell government when it is wrong (even government led by “friends”), to curry favor or secure a place at the table now, we will have surrendered before the battle even begins. Beware of awarding a stamp of approval too quickly to what is ahead, especially without seeing the fruits of it first.
Our reliance on the next nominee of the Supreme Court has and always will be, a broken reed. It is just another form of an idolatry of man (1 John 5:21). Historically, America’s worst judges have been appointed by Republicans and secured with the same old wrangling of GOP Senate votes. “Ike” Eisenhower gave us Earl Warren and William Brennan. Nixon gave us Harry Blackmun. Ford gave us John Paul Stevens. Reagan gave us Anthony Kennedy. Bush 41 gave us David Souter. There must be a greater vigilance by Christ’s people if the process is to escape an ends justify the means approach yet again. Justice, after all, is not what any court declares it to be but what resides within the firm character of Almighty God.
When we examine the list of prospects this time, may we not discount the red flags that distinguish nominees who have “played it safe” from those who have put on the armor, unapologetically fought the fight for eternal principles, and whether “victorious” or not, have placed their names in the crosshairs for truth. The temptation will be to back a “safe choice,” a lawyer or administrator who has no record to attract criticism, no District or Circuit Court paper trail defending immutable ideals. We would do well to avoid the untested and instead commend those who have proven consistent yet unperturbed in the face of truth’s many adversaries. The shrewdness Christ would expect reminds us that the attack on what is right does not always come by a direct assault on the ramparts but usually with the subtle touch of a friend. Remember Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
Whatever awaits Christ’s disciples in the next four years, the cultural and political challenges before us will not evaporate overnight however dynamic our next President turns out to be. They remain and likely will still be with us to varying degrees in 2020 and beyond. We will not be able to console ourselves that liberty is safe, the enemy is finished, and our work is done, leaving elected officials to the salvific details. Having the basis of moral absolutes from God, we are uniquely qualified to confront when government acts wrongly, whether the culprit is a county sheriff or President of the United States, a city attorney or a Justice of the Supreme Court, a state representative or a federal bureaucrat. Our Commission until Christ returns will be to make disciples, a task as politically and culturally incendiary as it was in first century Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens (Acts 17:6-7). If we fail to repeatedly ask, “Is it lawful?” (as Paul did, Acts 22:25; cf. Acts 16:37), we are consigning what is right – and our role to uphold it – to someone else who is ready to confess Him before men. Joshua and Caleb stood alone in that resolve for forty years until a new generation was ready to take up the requisite hardships. Should we be any less prepared when the time arrives to give our defense (1 Peter 3:15-17; Acts 26:24-32)? Where will our Lord find us then? What will our answer be?