Now that most of my academic work is finished (actually I feel as if I am the one "finished"), I picked up a book that I began a few months ago. My wife completed reading it last week. It is "The Last Lecture". You can go to the website here. Randy Pausch, now deceased, allows the reader to journey with him through his cancer and "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch shares his journey and insights into what he believes is important in life.
I would love to have read of the importance of a relationship with the Lord Jesus, but that is absent from the book but what is present is that he and his family were Presbyterians and although his parents were not wealthy people, they did underwrite a fifty-student dormitory in Thailand that was designed to help girls avoid prostitution and stay in school. There is much "this world" practical wisdom and insight into the life of a very brilliant man who was also a husband and father. I highly recommend reading this small volume.
In his last lecture, he said he had a better understanding of the story of Moses and how he got to see the promised land, but not set foot in it. He concludes, "So it's OK that I won't set foot in the Promised Land. It's still a wonderful sight."
My wife, myself, and millions of others watched the election returns and the overwhelming Obama victory. I could not help but be moved watching the telecast from Grant's Park in Chicago. I watched as tears streamed down the cheeks of Jesse Jackson and as Oprah rested her face on the shoulder of a white male whom she did not know. As news coverage shifted from place to place here and abroad, there was joy in the African-American community. I watched as predominantly African-American congregations in Dallas and Atlanta worshiped God in services of Thanksgiving. Strange. I don't recall that in the white evangelical churches in the years of Republican domination of the White House.
I recall Dr. King's words, "I won't get there with you" from his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. His wife, Coretta Scott King, is no longer with us.
Regardless of one's political persuasion there are some very good things about this election. For the first time in history, children of color in this country now have a role model in the highest office of the land. And it is an office where the occupant is chosen by the people of this land. A 51% majority of the popular vote means people of all colors voted for the candidate. The person who occupies that office is the President of the United States of America.
Perhaps this will be the beginning of our dropping the hyphen when we speak of people of ethnic background. All of us have an ethnic background. Could this be the beginning, especially among Christians, of seeing people as people first rather than the appearance that describes them?
I do not know if President-Elect Obama's "change" is the needed change. But I do know this. We need change.
Conservative Christians have been somewhere from center-right to the far right since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. The cultural issues, especially abortion and now gay marriage, have dominated the landscape of social issues. Personally, I am not convinced that the politicians who have used this group have been loyal to them. Loyalty, my friend, is a two-way street. And I question the loyalty of many those whom Christians have supported as being a two way street. Perhaps we have been duped into simply listening for certain buzz words. It is an old proverb: Watch what people do, not what people say. We still have abortion and the gay marriage issue is looming large on the horizon.
Are there other issues of life with which the Christian must be aware and involved? Yes. I believe it consistent with the Scriptures to say that a people will be judged by God for the way they treat the helpless among them. The Old Testament Scriptures speak of the widow, the orphan, and the alien. The tithe was to be brought into the Storehouse of the Lord. This tithe didn't build large buildings, institutions, or pay huge salaries and perks. It cared for the Levite, the priest, and the needy (Malachi 2:7-3:12. An excellent study of Malachi by Dr. Eugene Merrill is here).
We are commanded by God to pray for our leaders. There are no exceptions that say, 'when we agree'. We are told to pray for them (1 Tim 2:1-4) and to submit to their leadership (1 Pet 2:13-17). So if you follow Christ, it doesn't matter how or whether you voted. We must pray and we must live righteously.
May I suggest that we approach the Father without a laundry list of things we want Him to strong arm the President-Elect to do? What if we approached the Father with this attitude: "Father, since this man was elected to be our President, lead me to pray for him in such a way that you will be honored and your kingdom purposes extended." Then listen. God will lead his people.
What if when Mr. Obama's tenure as President is completed that he and his family can say with authenticity, "No one loved us nor prayed for us more than conservative Christians." That does not mean there will no policy disagreement. There surely will and would have been had Sen. McCain been elected. Policy disagreement will come.
But we of all people should be the leading agents of healing. Malachi 4 assures us of a time when the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings (Malachi 4:2). This passage is filled with powerful metaphorical language. Many believe this speaks of when Christ returns. But until that time, we as his followers are to live as he lived and do the works he did. Therefore, we are agents of healing.
In so much of the Christian life there are agents of division skilled in missing the point. The old cliche, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" has been true of many. Little issues and symptoms have been the focus rather than the larger root issues. Ministries have been built on these.
There is much of the promised land we may not set foot upon. But let's at least make it our goal with he empowerment of the Holy Spirit to at least look at it.