This morning, Americans awoke to the reality of a government shutdown–the first since 1995. While this news certainly isn’t surprising to anyone who’s been following the political turmoil in our capital over the past few days (and really it’s not even that rare of an occurrence in the modern era), it has still exasperated many Americans. It’s easy to understand why approval ratings for Congress are at an all time low. We are asked to put faith in our leaders to work in the best interest of us and our nation, and more often than not we end up feeling let down.
Of course, it’s easy to determine who is at fault if you subscribe to one political party or another; it’s always the other guys’ failure. I’m sure that your Facebook feed is full of rants and accusations flying back and forth from the different ends of the political spectrum. That is the way of things in a broken system though, is it not? In a nation, and a world, that refuses to acknowledge the much deeper brokenness of sin and rebellion against the God–who alone gives life and breathe–what more could we hope for?
I for one am not surprised by the failings of our earthly governments. The reality is that we have no reason to place our confidence in earthly powers or rulers to protect us, provide for us, or offer a fulfilling life for us. But this isn’t a thought that should bring sadness or cause alarm, because we have a much greater promise than anything this world could offer us! Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Throughout this chapter, Paul is talking specifically to the Christians in Philippi about not conforming to the Judaizer’s requirements for traditional circumcision, but we can’t miss the fact that he’s also addressing a much great truth. He purposefully goes on at length about how he had completely abandoned all faith and confidence in the systems of his day that relied on earthly principles and worldly practices.
Paul makes it clear that he could have easily continued to live in relative comfort, and he could have continued to climb up the ladder of “success”, but once Christ opened his eyes to the emptiness of it all that was no longer an option. The Scriptures clearly teach that nothing this world offers us can last us into eternity, and in fact, it won’t even provide us a foundation secure enough for this life! In light of all Paul had found in Jesus, the offer of sonship under God and citizenship in Heaven, it was no issue for him to consider everything he had built his life on before that as mere garbage.
The Irish Jesuits had a great word a few weeks ago on their prayer site, Sacred Space, and I think it speaks well to what I’m trying to express:
“In the Christian scriptures, Babylon is a godless construction, which tries to reach to the skies and displace God. Today the term can stand for a widespread culture that is seductive, glamorous, but unreal and unsatisfying. It is superficial and one-dimensional. It is black-and-white rather than abundant in color. Instead of fostering healthy imagination, it limits and prepackages it. Babylon impoverishes us. It cuts us off from many enriching dimensions of human life. It imprisons the spark that is within us, the soul that is invisible, intelligent, free and immortal.”
Every Babylon falls and fails us. It’s foolish to put our faith in worldly people or any worldly powers. God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and nothing our culture, our government, or our world does or teaches can change that. Likewise, nothing they offer can satisfy us. We were are all created with much greater things in mind.
Jesus has secured for us that same promise that led Paul to forsake all worldly things: that we too are counted as sons and daughters of God, by faith, and because of that our inheritance, security, and hope are no longer tied to the mirage-offerings of this world. Let’s give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). Our Caesars gets the taxes they demand, and the respect due the positions God has allowed them to have. Our God alone gets our faith, our hope, our love, and our deepest allegiance.
So let’s not fret, God is sovereign and he is never reckless with his children.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” – The Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 1: 7-12