It was very early 1994 and I was sitting in an office with Michael Sulivant and Mike Bickle in Grandview, MO. I was in an interview about going to the field as a missionary from Mike’s church. I was hoping for support but some key leaders had told me it was unlikely Mike would help much. For me, this was part of my journey of faith. These were pre-International House of Prayer days and we were in a small nondescript office building that smelled like burnt coffee when you walked in.
Mike looked across the table at me, leaning back a little in his chair. He was always good at asking questions that pull out deep things. “What is more important?” he said. “Are gifts, fruit (i.e. character) or wisdom more important?” I didn’t reply immediately because I was cautious about a trick, something I was missing within the scope of his probe. Then I said as confidently as I could as a young man in his early 20’s, “It’s got to be both fruit and wisdom. Those are what count in the longterm.” Mike smiled and me, “You got it right Marcus, character and wisdom will bring you further than the gifts. They are the most important ones.” I felt at that moment I had passed some test, like the tension in the room eased or something. We also were generously supported by the church for many years to follow.
I share that story because I believe it applies to the politics of today. Most people in America are in politics because they are gifted. Even if at base level that only means they bring a lot of money and family connections to the table for marketing their public persona. But the majority of them are smart, savvy networkers who leverage opportunity adroitly.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them … The righteousness [character] of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust” (Proverbs 11:3,6).
Character creates an inner guide that protects you from negative influences and choices.
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established … for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:3,6).
Wisdom builds communities, cities and nations and helps you design strategic plans.
It appears to me that much of the American church has divided over these two categories in its view of politics. It’s an ugly divorce as wisdom and character are meant to work together. On one side we have policy or platform, and in the other camp we see character. In Donald Trump’s specific case, we could consider character guarding the tongue. See James 3:2. Qualifiers: I recognize these are broad sweeping categories, and I am speaking specifically to what is called the conservative and more evangelical vote. I know a short blog can’t cover the complexities, I’m just offering a few observations.
Is it possible that God is allowing us to experience this unacceptable divide so we would trust him and not these little leaders of our planet? Even wisdom and character fail in human beings because eventually gaps appear and need the grace of God. We are facing a huge gap right now, and it’s creating dividing lines in the church and the nation.
These musings bring me back to a cross where Jesus was placed unjustly by Roman soldiers. The king of the universe was silent before his political accusers. His message was his cross, his victory began by laying his life down for friends who deserted or betrayed him and all his enemies. How are we applying this to our political/moral ideologies?
I love the political yard signs I’ve been seeing around my city that say, “Jesus 2020.” They are a simple and stupid way to lift Jesus up against the political milieu. You may be wondering how this is anything but unrealistic sentimentalism. But even in the naiveté, this is at least getting closer to the message of the foolish cross we seem to be forgetting in our political fervor.
If we can get past the dust cloud of 2,000 years of culture and tradition, the cross is the great fount of all spiritual wisdom. This election craziness shows us a logical reason we need a heavenly judge of the entire earth. No human being can set planet earth right, only Jesus can because he would die for any one of us, even those we label expendable or vile. Jesus is our hope because he, and only he, can establish a government with wisdom and character in eternal harmony. His path to life leads through a cross.
Have you spent time considering the way of the cross in your politics?