|The Way to Fail: Look At the Symptom, Ignore the Root|
(by Chris Long)
You could take the title of today's message and apply it to lots of areas for it to be a true statement and one which we human beings are continually never seeming to understand, including many Christians. Big areas of concern for human beings such as health spring to mind. For instance, if you're getting headaches every day, yes, you could just treat that symptom every day by popping a pain pill. But that doesn't solve the REASON for your headaches. In fact, it only distracts you from really dealing with the problem because you think that you can just pop a pill every day and "be okay". But it's all an illusion. There's really a problem causing the headaches and until that is dealt with, the symptoms will persist (and probably get worse). We human beings are silly creatures. Do you know I took an acid-blocking medication daily for almost 13 years to deal with symptoms without even really TRYING to deal with the root issue (i.e. I never even really prayed about it when it was just so easy to pop a pill!) But eventually it caught up with me. It always does.
And now you're thinking I'm writing about health today. Nope. :)
Actually, I want to talk about America. This is not a "political message" today but a Word which I believe is sorely needed for the Body of Christ at this juncture in history.
Of course we all know (even those not Americans) that there is a lot of dissatisfaction with both the Congress and the President and basically a general feeling all the way around that we have "lost a lot of ground" and that unless we make big changes, America as we know it will be no more.
Since the Democrats have been "driving the ship" the last few years, spearheaded by liberal policies, many are looking to the Republicans to come in and save the day.
It is generally true that Republicans are more "conservative" and it is also generally true that they are more friendly to Christians, and many Christians are indeed Republicans or at least tend to identify more with Republican policies and principles. I don't think there's anyone with any intellectual honesty that would dispute that.
It is within that backdrop that I want to write today, as the Republican nominating process is well under way and "Super Tuesday" is upon us.
I am not writing today to tell you who I like, don't like, etc.
I am writing today because I am very concerned at an attitude that I see in many many people, including many Christians, and it is one I believe (and for which I believe Scripture backs me up) that is destined to ultimately fail.
There is a strong push coming from those who see the problems in our country and want to "fix" them, but their solution for fixing them is to "focus on the economy", "jobs", etc. In fact, there's a large segment of people that see it as absolutely foolish to even talk about moral issues, when the "real problem is the economy" (so they say). I can't count the number of pundits and even some candidates who have taken this position and even really criticized some of the people (including fellow candidates) that have tried to talk about issues within the moral sphere.
Friends, I want to encourage all of us (you, me, and anyone who will listen!) to not get lulled into thinking that the solution to all our country's woes - or even only our economic woes - can be solved simply by addressing things on the economic plane. We have a large number of symptoms all over this country, manifesting in all sorts of areas. Yes, the economy is definitely one of those symptoms - and that's a symptom that easily drives people to anger since it hits them personally - financially - right where it hurts. But it is just a symptom. There's lots more, including (just off the top of my head): a country that doesn't know what's right or wrong - moral indifference, inability to support our allies - including Israel - while emboldening our enemies, breakdown of the family unit all over the country - including to the core with the breakdown of marriage and the furtherance of homosexuality, corruption out of control, attack on religious liberty, kids shooting kids in school, lawsuits everywhere you turn, drug ads everywhere you turn, a million other things.
I'm only 31 and even I can see that the "symptoms" have been growing at an exponential pace since I've been alive - and especially in the last few years. Us human beings are always looking to "solve the next crisis" - i.e. "solve the next symptom that pops up" - and even us Christians have been doing this far too often. So, as Christians, we see an attack on something like Christmas (another symptom) and so we go and get "gung ho" about the symptom. And then another thing comes along, and we get all "gung ho" about it. But it's all just symptoms.
I believe the devil would be - and is - perfectly content to see us Christians running from one symptom to the next, because he knows that if we keep doing that, he will eventually succeed in his goals for America because the "real problem" is never addressed.
Anyone that is looking for a man or woman to "apply good business sense" to "fix our economy", even implementing "conservative principles", will be sorely let down because the object of their hope is all wrong. No matter how great some good business policies (including much lower spending) might be to help our economy, at best, it only serves to deal with a symptom. You can be assured that the problem will just creep up again, and probably a lot worse. As long as the root is ignored, the downward spiral will continue.
People have been playing the "political games" for a long long time. One side makes promises, doesn't keep them, things get worse, then the people vote for the other side making promises, who don't keep them, things get worse. And this cycle continues ad-infinitum. And it will continue ad-infinitum because things WILL continue getting worse as long as the root of the infection, the root issue is not dealt with.
So, what is the "root issue"? Righteousness, or rather, lack thereof.
Proverbs 14:34 says "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (ESV)
You want an exalted nation, not just economically but in every way possible? The answer is not this political policy or that political policy. The answer is righteousness.
The Word of God never tells us that the way to ultimate success personally or nationally is to "watch our spending" or "use good business judgment" - though granted, those are good things and the Bible does have some things to say about good financial practices. What the Bible does showcase from cover to cover is that people personally - or nationally - who are in rebellion to God - do not ultimately prosper. Where there is unrighteousness, where there are people flaunting their unrepentant sin, there you will find darkness in every way.
However, just as it is a fallacy to look at and try to correct an "economic symptom" purely on an economic plane, it is just as much a fallacy to look at and try to correct a "moral symptom" on a purely "moral plane". This is why Christians can try to fight against the "war on Christmas" every December if they want and try to "morally" or "intellectually" convince others of their argument, but it doesn't ever seem to really make much headway. Christians, by and large, I believe have made some real mistakes in putting all their energies into "fighting" against moral decay (and see how well we've done doing this? the results we've gotten should speak for themselves!). You cannot force righteousness on people. You cannot argue or convince people into being righteous.
The only way people can become righteous - and leave their darkness and darkened, futile thinking (as the Bible refers to it - see Romans 1), is to embrace the One who is Righteous, Jesus Christ and truly make Him the Lord of their life.
Ultimately, my friends, much of what we see in our society comes down to a failure of us as the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church needs to focus on individuals, showing and sharing God's love as expressed to us in Jesus Christ - sharing the "Good News" throughout our society and then discipling people in how to really live that out (the discipling has been sorely lacking - there's been a real "meatless Christianity" with people living how they want to live, not how the Bible tells them to live). That is what we are taught to do. If the church focuses on the individual, then the individual affects the family, the family affects the community, the community affects the state, the state affects the nation, the nation affects the world. If we as the Church do what the Church is supposed to do rather than focus on societal symptoms, the symptoms will take care of themselves because we will be affecting the root issue: righteousness.
This is the mandate given to the Church, as the Body of Jesus Christ on this planet. That mandate was not given to politicians. Don't get fooled by political candidates promising how they'll fix this and they'll fix that. They as a flawed human being working with lots of other flawed human beings can only do so much. Don't get fooled by appearances of those that look suave or smug and think all the answers are in the political or legal sphere.
The best political candidates are those that understand the moral sphere is actually the most important because they understand that "Righteousness exalts a nation" and know where - or rather Who - that righteousness comes from. In other words, they have a "true understanding" of what they can and cannot do as a politician - of what their role is and is not. They understand that they aren't the world's Savior, but they know who Is the World's Savior. Those are the type of candidates you and I as believers should be voting for (and yes, I DO believe we SHOULD be voting!).
There's been a real push to avoid talking about such things in this country and instead just "focus on the economy". That's focusing on a symptom. That's looking to flawed human beings to be our Savior. And that will ultimately fail. Guaranteed.
Church, it's time to start really doing what we're called to do.
With love to you in Christ,
(For much more on today's topic, I'd encourage a read through of my article "Repent America! Repent!" available at http://www.laughandlift.com/personalarticles/repentamerica.html)
This is version 1.1 of this document (March 5, 2012).