We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.
Paul is speaking here of their conduct in the world, and especially with those who had believed. We in Jesus come from and go after it in life with a different perspective, and indeed heart, than what the world offers. Maybe we need to especially take that thought seriously in what is probably the most divisive and troubling election in the United States of my lifetime. It seems like some of my friends are intent on bringing their godly wisdom and knowledge to bear to influence this election a certain way. I have actually joined with them a little, because I see a real danger to the American republic.
And yet I wonder. Maybe this is God’s judgment not only on the nation, who would have two candidates considered evil and bad depending on which half of the publc you’re talking to. And if one of them is elected, there will be “no joy in Mudville,” and if the other one is elected, half of the nation will live in nearly an apocalyptic fear over what is to come, and with some justification, I might add.
But what’s a Christian to do in this mess? Maybe we do what likely Paul would have done in his following of Jesus and proclamation of the gospel, along with his planting of churches, he at the lead of that along with his associates (of course God used others in far flung places).
I certainly believe God’s hand is in the affairs of the world, but usually in ways we can’t trace well, or comprehend, except to guess in line with scripture what actually might be happening. And that’s far from foolproof. Not to mention just how much scripture is arguably, and to some extent surely misapplied in the attempt to do so.
But just maybe God is not only continuing to judge the United States, but is also, and probably more importantly- my guess, judging his people, judging the church. After all, both the religious right and religious left have given a piece of their hearts and souls, in some cases practically all of that to the American political process, as if that’s where the battle for God’s kingdom and his kingdom work are at stake. That’s a fundamental error on one basic levels, which is negative in a good number of ways, I think.
We too often are too much like the world. We probably often think that the best in the world by common grace is not unlike the best in Jesus, in God’s kingdom, since God’s hand and kingdom work is in all of that. While God’s hand and work can be in some of what the world is about at times, consider the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by and large our activity and heart must be elsewhere. We are to be servants of the gospel, in the sacramental and common life of the church, and as witnesses of Jesus and this gospel to the world. Period.
But the history of the church since Constantine has involved a church-state relationship in which when push comes to shove, the state always has the upper hand. Though God in grace still working his purposes out in the midst and even through the mess of it all. Imagine Paul being known as a supporter of one American candidate or party, or even being in that process at all. Not. Instead he would be at the heart of what God is doing through the gospel, showing the world the difference faith in Christ brings in terms of changed lives, the gospel worked out into the fabric of all of life, but never from any entity as its base: the gospel and the church.
And so we might do well to lay low this election, to learn to do so, to not do the usual, and to live out our calling in Jesus as lights in the world, not with the wisdom of this world, but by the grace of God. In and through Jesus.