Rising above Political Rancor

ran-cor. bitter, long-lasting resentment (from the Latin, rancorem, a stinking smell).

There is a stench surrounding the political climate in our nation right now…and its smell is getting on all of us.

It is hard to rise above it. It is hard to gain a breath of fresh air.

Our nation is polticitized, polarized, over media-ized. We have political news running out our ears with a politicized-round-the-clock news media eager to stuff us with more.

The more news we get, the angrier we become. We each have our favorite news outlets that tend to feed our own narrative and biases.

The angrier we become, the more divided and hateful we become.

We not only disagree. We despise.

And then we post it on social media.

Is there any hope? Is there any solution? Can we ever come back to a place of civil discourse where disagreement does not have to lead to intense, emotional, character-attacking division?

I wonder.

The world that Jesus entered was not a politically-neutral world. It was perhaps as politically-divided, racially-divided, and emotionally-charged as our own.

Among the Jewish people, there were political parties and political positions in vehement conflict with one another.

Pharisees, the religiously conservative, desperately trying to preserve the Jewish culture against the progressive, sexually permissive, pluralistic, pagan Graeco-Roman culture and slipping more and more into moralistic, compassionless legalism.

Sadducees, the religiously liberal, denying practically every supernatural element in their own religion, humanistic in approach, elitist in mentality, educated and willing to compromise with Graeco-Roman culture in order to promote their own social standing and political gain.

Essenes, the culturally separate, running into social isolation, disgusted with the religious debates and cultural compromises and determined to remain unstained from the world.

Zealots, the political activists, hoping for a revolution, disgusted with the Roman government and also with weak, wimpy, pansy-minded religionists, eager to create anger and chaos, through violence if necessary, to overthrow the powers that be.

That's just a slice of the political climate. It doesn't even touch the surface of other controversies and divisions such as the political legitimacy of Herod, the pervasive influence of Hellenism, and the racial hatred for Samaritans and Gentiles.

Into this world, Jesus was born.

Among these people, Jesus walked.

From these people, Jesus found His disciples…from a sell-out tax collector named Matthew to a politically-angry zealot named Simon.

And no matter how much the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Zealots tried to drag him into a political controversy, He consistently rose above it.

Upholding truth. Showing love. Confronting sin. Offering compassion. Giving of Himself…all the way to the cross.

Jesus cannot be labeled. He cannot be put into a political category. He can not be co-opted into one's own activist movement.

He is Lord. He doesn't bow to our wishes, desires, opinions, and agendas. We bow to Him.

And He is Savior. He doesn't come to market himself, gain popularity, and follow opinion polls. He comes to die. For us. Democrats. Republicans. Libertarians. Environmentalists. Conservatives. Liberals. Originalists. Progressives. Tax Collectors. Zealots. Humans…with self-minded, self-protective, self-justifying, self-gratifying, bitter, fearful, doubtful, prideful, sinful hearts.

Our problem is not political. It is spiritual.

Thus, the solution is not political. It is spiritual.

Our biggest need is not a new government but a new heart.

We need forgiveness. We need grace. We need cleansing. We need the Spirit of God to transform us from the inside out. We need the aroma of a new life.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

None of us are adequate for these things.

To navigate through an angry, unfair, biased, politicized culture is not easy. We must pick up the scent of our Savior each day and follow Him, letting His fragrance overpower the stench of political opinion and division.

Finding our joy, hope, and security in Him.

Living in integrity.

Being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, remembering that our anger does not lead to the righteousness of God.

Letting our gentleness be known to all men.

Letting our speech always be with grace.

Speaking the truth in love.

Engaging moral issues not because we love our moral codes but because we love people and recognize the deceptive, addictive, destructive nature of sin.

Praying for our leaders not because we agree with them, or even like them, but because we recognize their influence on people and their need for a Savior.

Holding fast to Jesus Christ.

Not the re-imaged, re-written, re-duced Jesus of popular culture who morphs into whatever shape we want him to be.

But the prophesied, incarnated, crucified, resurrected, ascended Jesus of Scripture, who is coming again not to run for office but to set up an eternal, unshakable kingdom.

If a rancorous world is bothered by our smell, may it be because we are scented with that kingdom and not with a temporal political party.

May we have the aroma of the gospel and not our own odoriferous agenda.

May we smell like we have been with Jesus.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

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