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lamentations

From Grief, to Repentance, to Hope—A Lesson from Lamentations

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Jerry Falwell, Jr. says that we are choosing a President, not a pastor. So he endorses Donald Trump.  But what is a pastor?  He is one whose body is given over to be the body of Christ, as He cares for the souls our Father God is drawing to Himself through Christ. Donald Trump has given his body over to many things but, for God’s sake, remembering the body of Christ is not one of them.  He is, therefore, definitely not a pastor.

But what if we, the People of the United States, are under judgment for abandoning the trust in God with which our nation was founded? In critical times we have always drawn our strength from that trust. That’s why it was the motto of our coinage.  In critical times, it expressed the core of our effective identity as a people. If we mean to reclaim and perpetuate that identity, our greatest care must be to restore it.

For dark indeed are the clouds of judgment gathered by the wrath of the Lord. On account of them we may be tempted to say, with the Prophet “He hath set me in dark places as those that are dead forever. …And my soul is removed far off from peace; I have forgotten goodness.” (Lamentations 3:6, 17) We might also say, with the Prophet, “My sustenance and my hope perishes on account of the Lord.”  Is there nothing for it then, because God has turned against us?  What have we to do when “He has covered the realm with thick clouds, and cut down the leaders thereof.”  (Lamentations 2:2)

Reputed pastors, like Jerry Falwell, Jr., admit that leaders like Donald Trump fall short of God’s standard for leadership, which is Christ. They endorse such leaders, saying we have no choice but to support those whose ways of life God disparages. If we lift up someone like Christ, in the election he or she will end up being crucified, like Christ. Therefore, we must rebel against God’s will, abandoning the standard of striving Christ’s admonition keeps always before us— “Be you, therefore, perfect even as your Father, who is in Heaven, is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) After all, elections are about politics, not faith, right?

But even when it came to the most practical requirements of our survival, Christ said “Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear’…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Given the time and place in which he spoke, Christ’s words were directly subversive. When it came to practical affairs in the Roman Empire, putting any king’s authority above the authority of the Roman Emperor was treason.  No matter what god you worshipped, you had first to give worth to (worship) the will proclaimed in the House of Caesar, who was worshipped in Rome as god on earth.  This challenge to Caesar’s authority was precisely a charge laid against Christ by the High Priest and elders who brought him before Caesar’s minion for trial.

In every election in which those who profess to be members of the body of Christ participate, His body is again put on trial. Are we then to give in to fear and refuse to lift Him up His body to represent us? Are we to elect Barabbas in His stead, because according to the world’s estimation Barabbas will win the election? Has His resurrection not convinced us of Christ’s victory by the election of God, so that whatever fate we suffer as members of His body, we are confident of victory?

Have we no hope in this world but to fight evil with evil? We should think otherwise simply because Christ is Risen. We should think otherwise, because our elections take place under a Constitution devised, in light of God’s endowment of right, to secure the rights of those committed to acting according to His code. If we have the faith (trust) in God that we profess, what excuse do we have for tapping the rock in worldly measure, even though by our profession the water of life already overflows in us, seeking to pour forth so as to cleanse the world?

Our hope should be in the Lord, no matter what the world devises.  With Christ before and within us, is it given to us to see less than the Prophet of old. Even in the midst of his lamentations, the Lord permitted let him see hope, for he writes:

My soul is prostrate within me. But this my heart within me recalls, and therefore I hope:

By the Lord’s mercy we have not perished; His mercies have not come to an end.
They are new every morning.
“Great is the portion of Your faithfulness to me, Lord!”, says my soul. The Lord is good to the good one who trusts in Him;
To the soul that seeks after Him;
The good one waiting quietly for the salvation of God;
The good one who has carried the Master’s yoke in his youth.
He will sit alone and quiet as he bears it.
He will eat dust, if bound to do so.
He will give his cheek to one that strikes it.
He will accept to be overburdened with reproaches.
For my Lord will not forsake him, ever.
If He afflicts him, He will have mercy, according to the abundance of His mercies.
For, from His heart, He does not humiliate or afflict the sons of man.

(Lamentations 3:20-33)

When they face the wrath of God, the good do not turn away from the standard by which they are justly judged. Rather they fall before the Lord, trusting in His mercy, patient under the yoke, ready to “eat dust” as they bow their heads in respect of His standard. For from the goodness of His heart, God calls for them to live in the image and likeness of His perfection. On this account, we must hold fast to the God’s standard, not accepting the standard of men He is cutting down before our very eyes.

So the Prophet says “Let us question our ways, investigate, and return to the Lord.”  This is the path of repentance that eschews the false promises of “greatness” made by those who walk, unrepentant, according to their pride.  It is the way of the Lord, that trusts in the mercy of God and His salvation.  Should we then heed those who would have us trust the promises of men?  But what then of the warning of God conveyed by the Prophet, who says to the people of Israel: “Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee; they have not laid open thy iniquity, to excite thee to penance: but they have seen for thee false revelations and banishments.”

Christ said “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Today men tell us to fear the terrorists, fear the immigrants, fear the Muslims, the Christians, the Jews.  They foment our fear of the Democrats and leftists, the Republicans and right wingers—the reds, the blues, the whites, the blacks, and all the colors of the rainbow. Against these evils we must lift up champions of evil, skilled from practicing its ways.  We must fight evil with evil. Repentance can wait until after the evil is done.

But if Christ is true, then here’s the simple truth: By acting in this way we are surrendering ourselves to evil, not fighting it.  All those who invite us to do battle by means that ignore the standard of God lure us ever more irreversibly down the path of that surrender to evil.  Donald Trump may be chief among them. But not one of his supposed opponents sincerely offers an alternative that champions the only hope that will renew the hope our nation was, and is still supposed to be.

That was and is the hope for justice, measured by God’s rule; of right, endowed by His primordial will. It is His promise of true security, prosperity and rightminded liberty.  All such goods are rooted in the strength that comes of our commitment to live by God’s intention for humanity, exemplified in Christ: Making peace first of all with Him, and then with all willingly share our dedication to His goodwill.

I began by questioning Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s specious observation about our election for President, and indeed for every office.  But now I see what gives it the appearance of truth. American voters who profess to be members of the body of Christ are not electing a pastor for our nation. Rather, by the election of God through Jesus Christ, we are all of us called to be pastors, in imitation of Christ.  We ought therefore to be striving to elect only those who clearly represent our God-fearing care and love for our nation—trusting in God and the victory Christ has already won.



 

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