I will hold with a white-knuckled grip of love to my family and my close friends. You come after them, you’re gonna have to deal with me. Chances are, when the dust has settled, I will have said and done some things in my zeal that went too far, but I will never regret being in their corner.
They are gifts too precious to let go.
I have wrapped my hands around the Scriptures, the creeds and confessions of the church, the faith which boldly proclaims, “Jesus is Lord.” I have sworn, before God and men, that I will suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. Mock me. Threaten me. Spit in my face. I’m not changing.
The gifts of Christ are of too eternal an importance to let go.
There are some things in life worth losing your life over. These are the same things that make life worth living in the first place. Soldiers die for their brothers in arms. Police officers die upholding law and order. Martyrs die for the faith they confess.
Good. It is good they understand that some things are too precious, too important, to let go. And if clinging to them means dying with them still in your grip, then I will stand and applaud you as a fellow human being worthy of honor and emulation.
I pray that if I am ever in such a situation, I too would rather have my blood spilled for the truth than remain in this world as a coward or apostate.
A Clownish Martyrdom
Only a fool, however, clings with hellish fury to things that are opinions, preferences, or predilections.
Would we not shake our head in disgust at a man who shoots another man over a disagreement regarding football? Would we not think two men mad idiots who brawl because they belong to different philosophical schools? Would we not mock people who sever relationships because they can’t agree on a carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan diet?
Do we have our likes? Well and good. That’s our prerogative.
Do we have our personal preferences? Fine. We can disagree and still get along.
Do we have strong personal preferences or convictions? Okay. Let’s listen to each other. Maybe I will convince you to reconsider or maybe you’ll convince me. In the end, we can still be friends, even if we disagree.
But none of these opinions or preferences are worth dying over. To give our lives for them would be a clownish martyrdom.
Belonging in this category is that sphere of life called the political.
Want to do yourself, your family, your friends, and the world a good deed? Hold on loosely to your politics. Don’t drop it. Don’t toss it aside. Don’t privatize it. But, above all, don’t hold on to your politics as if your life, your soul, and your salvation depend on it.
They don’t. However, if you elevate politics above all other things, your soul will indeed suffer, for you will have bowed the knee before the most laughably unworthy faux deity I can imagine.
Politics is a godawful idol that will suck all of life and love out of you and replace it with nothing but bitterness and hate.
Under Pontius Pilate
If you are a follower of Jesus, as I am, then you probably know that the only explicit political statement in our ecumenical creeds is when we confess that Jesus was crucified “under Pontius Pilate.”
Those three words, “under Pontius Pilate,” have often given me pause. Christianity began when the Roman procurator of Judea, within his full legal rights, had the founder of our faith publicly and horrifically executed to make a political statement.
It seems to me that this fact alone ought to make us inordinately cautious about ever getting too cozy with a political party or candidate, much less heralding them as God’s gift to humanity.
Crosses and national flags are a toxic combination.
Let the church corporate, and we who are individually members of the body of Christ, remember that when Jesus was about to take his seat as King of kings and rule over all creation, he left us some fairly straightforward instructions about what our mission should be. We are to make disciples of all nations by:
1. Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
2. Teaching them to observe all things that Christ has commanded us.
Those are good things to hold onto with all our might and main. Those are matters of eternal importance. They are worth living for and dying for. They are worth spreading with zeal and truth and love, beyond national, cultural, political, and ideological borders, to the uttermost ends of the earth.
Hold on tightly to what matters, to what makes life rich and full and resplendent with divine beauty and grace.
Hold on loosely to everything else.