For Karen and I, it had become of habit to haul our evening dinner upstairs, sit in our mismatched recliners and turn on the TV. On channels 4, 5, and 7 we could enjoy every movie genre combined into a one-and-a-half hour show predicated on bringing the events of our local communities into our homes. We would watch drama, science-fiction, comedy, mystery, horror, sports and action adventure all under the format of reality TV. For an extra half-hour commitment of our time, we could also enjoy bringing the whole world into our home.
Lately though, Karen and I have found it increasingly hard to watch the nightly news. Maybe we were overly naïve before or are becoming more and more cynical but it seems that politics has weaved its way into every topic from the battle over health care reform to legally requiring to define who has access to public bathrooms.
Politics and specifically political agendas seem to be on everyone’s minds. A wildfire of anger, fear and frustration is everywhere. How can we ease our minds amidst all the turmoil? What can we turn our focus to when seeking the truth?
My son, Michael, co-pastors a church in Mesa, Arizona. He recently wrote an article for Missio Alliance, an organization whose mission is to: “Create space and opportunity for Christian leaders from across the spectrum of the evangelical family to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with one another.” In his article he explores his own recent preoccupation with politics and puts his own thoughts into perspective.
Four Reasons Why Jesus Should Captivate Your Mind More Than the President
“For those of us who profess to be Christians, it is a good question to ask ourselves these days, “What are we thinking about?”
Over the past year-and-a-half, I have become increasingly interested in what’s going on in our nation. In addition to habitually perusing my news apps on my phone, I sense a mild excitement when watching the evening news and a subtle disappointment when I miss it. When my attention drifts away from current events, I’m left wondering what debate, controversy, or tweet is making the headlines. I want to be in the know.
The firestorm that was last year’s presidential election grabbed my attention more than any other. When the results came in many people were depressed, many were ecstatic, everyone was shocked. And now that the new administration is establishing itself, things are finally calming down. Except they’re not.
Every day there seems to be some new controversy, tweet, or headline pulling our eyes to our devices and our attention to the man whose name has become the most spoken, written, and tweeted name in our nation. Whatever else can be said about our president, the man is a master of attracting attention. His name has made it into our newspapers, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, television news headlines, talk show rants, magazine covers, protest signs, and – if you’re like me – our thoughts as well.
However, I’ve recently been wondering: Does the president deserve the amount of attention my mind has been giving him? Given how often I read, see, or hear his name, the media would have me believe there is no one in our nation or the world who deserves the attention of my thoughts as much as the president. Many would agree.
I disagree. And so would the apostle Paul, who believed there is only one person for whom we should “take captive every thought.” Simply put, the words and actions of Jesus should occupy our minds more than the words and actions of the president.
The life of Jesus should occupy our minds more than the life of the president.
To be clear, I am not suggesting we should “opt out” of mental or practical concern for our president and his actions. Admittedly, as a white man who is becoming increasingly aware of my privileged status, it can be easy for me to mentally and emotionally disengage from the words and actions of our president – a luxury not shared by many of my brothers and sisters who have felt directly and personally threatened by him.
Disengagement is not the answer.
Rather, I am suggesting that we should be so captivated by Jesus that His view of reality increasingly becomes our own. Letting Jesus captivate our minds more than the president does not mean mentally disengaging the latter; it means making Jesus and His vision of God’s Kingdom the comprehensive mental framework by which we judge everything that enters our minds, including the words and actions of our president.
That Jesus should captivate our minds more than the president may seem painfully obvious. But so is the fact that flossing is good for my teeth, yet I occasionally (okay, often) need reminders. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the most basic spiritual truths.
So here are four reasons why we should be more captivated by Jesus than the president:
He Has More Authority
One could argue that the United States presidency is the most influential office in the world. As commander and chief, the president holds supreme operational command of the most powerful military on the planet. Even with checks and balances, that’s a lot of authority. That being said, Jesus is Lord. And when I say Jesus is Lord, I don’t mean that a segment of humanity tries their best to live according to His teachings. I mean He is the one to whom everyone (including the president of the United States of America) will one day bow in submission, whether that happens with joy now or in fright later. Jesus once said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Then His followers bowed down and worshiped him. Having authority over the US military demands respect. Having authority over creation demands worship.
His Administration Will Last Longer
Unless something happens, our president will serve at least four years, maybe eight. This means one thing is for certain: the current administration won’t even last a decade. In stark contrast, the administration of Jesus (i.e. Kingdom of God) will last forever. Unlike the United States presidency, which is an elected office with term limits, we don’t elect Jesus to the office of Lord. We recognize and submit to His position. And there are no term limits. Jesus’ Kingdom will outlast the governments of China, Russia, Great Britain, and yes, even the United States of America. In the grand scheme of cosmic history, the current administration’s four-maybe-eight years is a tiny blip on the screen. Compare this to the eternal Kingdom of Jesus, and well … you get the point.
His Policies are More Controversial
We are all aware that our president has made some controversial statements on issues such as immigration, healthcare, and foreign relations. Yet it might be surprising to hear that Jesus’ public proclamations were way more controversial, way more radical. Anyone who tells you that Jesus was the meek and mild type who never rocked the boat either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s lying. Imagine the president tweeting, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” or “I have come here from God … God sent me.” What if the president’s first public statement directly following a domestic terrorist attack was, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” or the closing line to his first State of the Union address was, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”?
I’m not saying I completely understand or perfectly obey all of Jesus’ words. Far from it. But there’s something about them, something about Jesus, that makes me want to. Because of the beauty of Jesus’ life, I don’t hear His words as the cheap outbursts of a provocateur. I hear them as an invitation to trust and follow. The president’s controversial vision for our nation deserves thoughtful engagement. But Jesus’ breathtaking vision of God’s Kingdom deserves the furthest reaches of the imagination.
He Knows Your Name
I’ve never met the president and I can guarantee he has no idea who I am. He has no reason to know my name or recognize my face (and I don’t plan to give him one). As the national leader of 321.4 million individuals, why would he? Jesus, on the other hand, does know my name. And He knows yours too.
We often emphasize the importance of knowing Jesus, but I wonder if the significance of our faith lies just as much in being known. In my marriage, for example, knowing my wife is essential for the flourishing of our relationship (especially when I’m shopping for her birthday gift). But the moments I feel most connected are when she does or says something that makes me feel like she knows me. And it’s not just that she knows me. It’s that she knows me and, for some reason, still wants to be with me. Being known authenticates the experience of being loved.
It’s the same with Jesus. How else could a murderous, gospel-denying, Jesus-hater like Saul of Tarsus become the gospel-proclaiming, Jesus-follower we know today as the apostle Paul? Jesus appeared and called his name. Before ever knowing who that blinding figure was, he realized he was known. You undoubtedly know the president’s name. Jesus knows yours.
The president deserves some of my thoughts. Jesus deserves the total preoccupation of my mind. I’m going to try to remember that the next time I read a tweet or skim a headline.
So what are you thinking about?”
Written by Michael Carlson
on June 13, 2017