A Southern Gospel group I listen to recorded a song that I like several years back, and then recorded it a second time more recently. It is titled "I'm a Citizen of Two Worlds". The chorus goes:
I'm a citizen of two worlds
And it's hard to choose between them
I live here, but my home you cannot see
I'm a citizen of Heaven
Where's I'm going to have a mansion
My real home right now is calling me
I have been reminded over and over again in the last few months how true this is. Our country has been divided in the last 8 years more than it has been possibly since the Civil War. This election has proven that nothing is going to change in that regard, and that the America I grew up in is gone. Unless we have a revival in our country, the fear, hate, vitriol, and division that has increased in the last few months is going to continue to rule our country.
I don't claim to be a super Christian, and in fact if I look at myself and where I feel I should be, I feel far from being a super Christian. Yet, when I look at how far God has brought me, and the changes He has made in my life, I also realize I am most likely not as bad as I view myself. It is entirely possible - actually it is a certainty - that my ideas of where I need to be and where I need to improve are far from what God wants.
My church upbringing combined with my inferior views of myself, and who knows what else, resulted in this thinking I have had for years that I needed to reach a certain level of Christian maturity before God was happy with me. I had to be a Christian for a certain length of time, and get close enough to God before He'd answer my prayers, use me, and look on me as one of His children. What that length of time, and how close to Him I needed to be was something I never figured out.
These last couple of months have been interesting. The election, this house buying process, taking an unpopular stand among even my church and family members has changed me in ways I would never have imagined. I'm not even sure I can explain it, but I will give it a shot.
And before I do, let me make it clear I am not un-Christianizing anyone if someone assumes that. Yes, I am disappointed in people, and yes, I was hurt by some. I didn't always take a stand in the right way, and I don't feel I am better than anyone else. With that aside, and hopefully believed by anyone reading it:
I have truly grown spiritually in the last couple of months, and especially in the last couple of weeks. Certain things caused me to pray more, and draw closer to God. The last time I felt this much spiritual growth and closeness to God was back in March when I was hospitalized for 3 days.
As I looked at the political landscape, convinced that no matter who won this election that this country will be pulled further from God, and feeling like I didn't belong in the Republican party, the conservative movement, the evangelical Christian movement, and even in my church.....my focus turned in a different direction. I found myself wondering some things about we Christians - I'd say "I", but it is evident that I am not the exception, but just another typical Christian:
Are we truly living for Heaven, or has our lives here on earth in America eclipsed Heaven?
Are we too worried about keeping our freedoms and rights?
Are we too afraid, and losing our faith and trust in God?
Are we too addicted to comforts?
There is something that has been said of some Christians in years past, "they are so heavenly minded, that they are of no earthly good." What if the reverse is true of we modern day Christians, especially we American Christians? What if we are so earthly minded, so American/patriotic/freedoms minded that we are of no heavenly good? It is a sobering thought that has brought me face to face with a few things about myself that exist in many others also:
1) My freedoms and rights ARE too important to me.
In Muslim countries when someone wants to become a Christian, they are asked if they are willing to die for their faith, for doing so is not a rhetorical question, but a very likely reality. Here, we are so worried about our rights and freedoms that we will act and vote in ways that are not at all like a Christian should because we are too worried about being persecuted or inconvenienced in any way. We are afraid our Christianity may cost us something here in America.
2) I am too focused on this life.
Serving Jesus should be the most important thing to me, and my relationship with Him should overshadow everything else...how I treat people, how I vote... or if I vote..... but is He the most important thing?
3) I fear I have the wrong attitudes towards gay people, Muslims, immigrants, and anyone else who we conservatives have learned to fear and hate.
Yeah, I don't use the gay label for myself, as I feel it is an identity, but even having same-sex attractions and knowing what it is like to be in their shoes, I still fear the gay agenda and what many of them want to accomplish here in America.
Muslims....wow. I know they are not all terrorists, but the blunt reality is that every terrorist and and terrorist attack in this country since 911 have been by Muslims. You can't whitewash that as much as liberals want to....... but yet, I don't feel I have the correct Christian response to Muslims and the immigration issue. No, I don't believe we should have open borders and let people come in unchecked, but I don't believe I nor many other conservative Christians have a Christ-like view or reaction on this whole Muslim/immigrant issue.
If we are so afraid of gay people, Muslims, and illegal immigrants that we are focused on building walls instead of tearing them down - literally and figuratively - are we being like Jesus?
4) Politics are too important to me.
Yes, anyone with a brain should be concerned with who is elected for any office, but I feel that I and any voting Christians are too worried and focused on election outcomes while people are dying around us without Jesus...... the very people we are fighting politically.
5) My priorities are totally out of whack.
This kind of repeats my other points, but it doesn't hurt to emphasize something. The most important thing to us as Christians should be serving God and winning others to Him. Yet it would seem that to the evangelical voting block, nothing matters more than winning an election and keeping our freedoms and rights.... no matter what we have to do, no matter who we hurt, no matter how we may hurt our witness and the very cause of Christ....winning an election comes above all else.
Voting a third party for the first time in my life has helped me to see things in an entirely different light. I was 100% against both candidates, and had big fears and concerns about either one winning. To me, there was no good outcome and America was doomed either way. I had to step back, put it in God's hands, and trust Him - not any candidate - because neither was/is trustworthy to me. I still have concerns, but it has truly helped me trust God more and leave everything in His hands. I still have major doubts that the candidate of choice will carry through on much of anything good, but I am slowly learning to let go of my desires to have everything the way I want it. If I am really in this thing of serving God, I have to surrender everything, even my desires for freedoms, comforts, and rights.
I'm not saying you could not have done that by voting for the man on the GOP ticket. I don't mean to infer that at all. However, walking away from my usual "support the Republican nominee no matter what" thinking has forced me to surrender all of this to God. Politics and voting may never be the same to me, and I hope they are not. I am done doing what man expects of me in voting, and anything else.
A Facebook friend sent me a song via messenger after one blog post I did where I said that I don't belong anywhere. The song is titled "I Don't Belong", and was originally titled "Sojourner's Song". It has long been a favorite of mine, and was the inspiration for the title of my first blog, "Thoughts of a Sojourner", which I turned into a blog for book reviews and reviews of other things.
The reality is that. If we are serving God and have a relationship with Him, we don't belong here on earth. We don't belong in America. If we love this world too much, this country, our freedoms and rights, we may never feel at home in Heaven. In fact, we may never want to leave this earth.
What would our lives look like if we were "all-in" for Christ? If we were totally surrendered to God with even our fears, our politics, and all the issues that are important to us, what would it look like? How would we vote? How would we act towards and view gay people, illegal immigrants, Muslims, and anyone else who we fear?
There is a story that may or not be true. Michelangelo was asked how he managed to do such a good job on the statue of David. He replied that he just chipped away everything that was not David. What if we all prayed that God would do that with us.... that God would chip away everything that isn't Mark, or John, or Martha, or whatever your name is until only Jesus is left?
I definitely have not arrived, but what would my Christianity look like if I truly lived for the next world, instead of for this country I live in? If I really set aside being a Republican, conservative, evangelical Christian, and above all was a Christ follower?
Don't get me wrong. I am patriotic, I love America, I don't want to be persecuted. However, when I read stories of what Christians in other countries go through, I feel convicted. We conservatives like to talk about how we live in an entitlement society where people want free heath-care, welfare, and feel they deserve everything.....but what if we Christians have bought into this entitlement ideology also? Are we really entitled to the freedoms and rights we have as Americans? If we are, then why aren't Christians in other countries having those same freedoms and rights?
The day will come when I stand before God and give an account of all I have done. On that day, my freedoms and rights won't matter. On that final day when the earth exists no more, America will also exist no more. I won't be viewed more special because I am an American, or because I voted Republican most of my life. What will matter is if I lived as God wanted me to, if I did His will, if I loved people, if I showed Jesus to the world, and loved everyone..... even Muslims, gay people, and illegal immigrants.
It has been said that we may be the only Jesus some people see.....and if that is true, what do those looking on at we Republican/conservative evangelical Christians seeing? Do they see people who love everyone, or.....
We don't belong here, and we should be reminded of that fact occasionally.....daily. If we never feel like we don't belong here, we may need a spiritual check up.
As a guy dealing with same-sex attractions, I had to get to the point that I didn't let those rule me anymore and surrender them to God. I had to surrender my desire to have a family, and my fears of being a single lonely guy. That has made a tremendous difference in my life and in my relationship with this God I now believe loves me with a love we humans will never understand. But that is just one area of my life. I want and need to surrender everything else to Him...and lately it has been a glaring reality that this whole politics/freedoms/rights, etc is the next stronghold that needs to come down.
I can be patriotic and be a Christian, but being a patriotic American must always take a back seat to being a Christian. I don't belong, not even here in America.
I DON'T BELONG
words by Gloria Gaither, music by Buddy Greene
It's not home Where men sell their souls
And the taste of power is sweet
Where wrong is right And neighbors fight
While the hungry are dyin' in the streets
Where kids are abused And women are used
And the weak are crushed by the strong
Nations gone madJesus is sadAnd I don't belong
Chorus:I don't belong And I'm going someday
Home to my own native land
I don't belong And it seems like I hear
The sound of a "welcome home" band
I don't belong I'm a foreigner here
Singing a sojourner's song
I've always known This place ain't home
And I don't belong
Don't belong But while I'm here
I'll be living like I've nothin' to lose
And while I breathe I'll just believe
My Lord is gonna see me through
I'll not be deceived By earth's make-believe
I'll close my ears to her siren song
By praisin' His name, I'm not ashamed
'Cause I don't belong
I belong To a kingdom of peace
Where only love is the law
Where children lead And captives are freed
And God becomes a baby on the straw
Where dead men live
And rich men give
Their kingdoms to buy back a song
Where sinners like me
And we'll all belong
Yes I belong
And I'm going someday
Home to my own native land
Where I'll belong
And it seems like I hear
The sound of a "welcome home" band
Yes, I'll belong
No foreigner there
Singin' a sojourner's song
I've always known
I'm going home
Where I belong
Yes I've always known
This place ain't home
And I don't belong