God Will Not Be Mocked

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

July 7, 2019
4th Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture readings – Galatians 6: 7-10 and Luke 10: 13-16

The election was a harsh one… and one that left a bad taste in the mouths of anyone who looked closely and wondered about our republic.

To recap, the two candidates represented two completely different approaches to the office of President of the United States: one from a political dynasty and one a well-known political outsider with national appeal.  Both spent much of the campaign describing how horrible it would be to elect the other.  Both camps found rumors and accusations to be more effective than actually discussing issues that faced our country.  Both demonstrated a complete lack of Christian civility that was embarrassing to watch much of the time.

In the end, as if things were not bad enough, the election was greatly contested.  In the quirky way our republic works, the candidate who won the popular vote did NOT win; the candidate who won the Electoral College vote was the winner. 

The rancor and the bitterness and the hate and the completely anti-Christian behavior demonstrated by the players of that disputed election was still present long after things were legally settled and the new president sworn into office. 

Unfortunately, I am referring to the election of 1824…in which General Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but John Quincy Adams, the son of former President John Adams, was elected by the Electoral College. 

In other words, Christians, we’ve been here before…

Whenever Independence Day rolls around, I always take the opportunity to look hard and honestly at our country and how we are doing.  As your preacher, I always try to do this through the instructional lens of the Bible.  As someone who loves you, I take this responsibility very seriously – seriously enough that I won’t bend anything I see to make you comfortable, I won’t shy away from the truth because it is risky to say things, and I won’t be silent because I’m at the age of 61 I just don’t have time I used to have.  As it says very clearly in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, “God will not be mocked.” 

That line has bothered me during much of this past week.

When I say that I take some time to look at our country, I do not mean from a financial point of view, or a social justice point of view, and especially not from a political point of view…the next election is in 16 months, and already I’m tired of the politics!  No, I look at how things are going from the point of view of a Christian who lives in this wonderful country, and who wonders what the Biblical lens would reveal about America.

So, let’s start with a few questions:

How is our country doing – from a biblical point of view?

Are the Christian Americans doing what Jesus would want us to do?  In other words, what WOULD Jesus say? 

Or do we care at all about that answer?

Have we been blessed as a nation? 

In fact, have we been blessed in abundance?

And finally, are we mocking God?

If your answer to any of those questions is “yes” then isn’t it fair to assume that if we have been blessed in abundance, then it is also fair to assume that much should be expected from us?

Let’s go back and examine something from Luke’s Gospel reading for today that may have been missed.  Didn’t you think it was a little odd that the only part of the Luke reading that we heard was Jesus cursing various towns and villages in Galilee?  Listen again to what he said: “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  No, you will be brought down to Hades.”  Not exactly the good ol’ Jesus who casts out demons, heals the sick, welcomes little children, and tells us to turn the other cheek. 

But this particular passage points out an uncomfortable truth:  Jesus spent a large portion of his ministry on earth in the area he knew best: Galilee.  The five towns that he mentioned were all in or near Galilee.  It is reasonable to expect that Jesus spent a large amount of time in those areas…and yet Galilee was the region that rejected him the most.

So, Jesus gave them love and attention in abundance…and they rejected him, either deliberately or slowly or harshly or possibly without even thinking much about it.  Perhaps they were still relying on the old adage: “Because we are the people of God, the chosen ones, God will love and protect us.”  How did that work out for Israel 500 years earlier? 

To those who were blessed in abundance, much was expected. 

That’s why Jesus yelled, “Woe to you!”

Much has been given to America too…we have been blessed in ways that most other countries only dream of. 

We who are blessed in abundance…much is still expected.  If we do not respond appropriately, I wonder who will yell “Woe!” at us.  God will NOT be mocked.

Next, how are we doing when it comes to following Biblical instruction?  Now, I am usually NOT an advocate of taking a few lines of Scripture out of context and then applying them to all sorts of situations that seem to fit my purpose and my core beliefs.  If that were all I needed to do, my job would certainly be much easier.  What about those lines that don’t fit with what we believe right now?

For example, Deuteronomy 21 states the following biblical instruction if you are having trouble with your son:

If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. “They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.”

That’s a pretty clear warning, Christians, especially that last line.  The problem is it was written for a society much different from our own today.  It was written for people who are not Americans in the 21st century.  It is also terribly, terribly illegal!  Stone your son to death at the city limits sign and bring your male friends from church, and somebody will tell the cops. 

The point I’m making here is this: Christians are great at quoting the Bible at outsiders…and even at one another.  But when we do this, we only anger and frustrate those who receive it – especially if those who receive it are not believers.  With Biblical words of vengeance and judgment, why should anyone flock to the nearest Christian church and join up?  That kind of behavior gives us all a bad name.  Isn’t there a better way…such as living as the embodiment of what you actually believe?  Or perhaps being a little choosier about which Biblical quotes you claim.

How about Micah 6: “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  How many outsiders would love Christians if all of us did a little more of this and a little less of stoning our sons for being rebellious drunkards?

Or perhaps, “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”  I think the entire Congress should read this Psalm daily.  Then perhaps they would remember that many of their kindred have done good work together in the past. 

And as long as we’re dreaming…dare we dream that setting aside the past and coming together would possibly be good for our country?

Or should we return to the good old days of the 1820’s and see what happens next?  (I’ll give you a hint…Andrew Jackson’s wife was so upset by some of the nasty things that were said about her that she died before Jackson could take office in 1829.  Jackson was so utterly heartbroken – and so famously furious – that he challenged several Washington opponents to duels.  He would have won them all…Jackson was a crack shot.)

Last Biblical quote, I promise: “Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”  This verse from the end of the Book of Revelation shows us how it will all come out.  We worry so much about everything that we sometimes forget to keep our eyes on the prize at the end: the ultimate salvation of believers.  No matter what we build, what we create, or what we do, it will all pass away.  It will all be gone in the end, to be replaced by a new Heaven and a new Earth, with Jesus as the judge for everyone.  We spend so much time hating this or hating that, or yelling at that guy on the freeway or that referee who obviously needs new glasses or that fool who just won’t agree with us.  Do we actually do any good at all when we do this?  Or do we just raise our own blood pressure? 

What good does it do?  How does any of that serve the Lord?

I was recently stunned when I heard the following:  Do you remember the story and the photograph of that migrant father from El Salvador and his two-year old daughter who were found drowned in the Rio Grande as they tried to cross back over into Mexico?  A few days after that happened, the new president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, had something to say about this.  Instead of assigning blame on America or on the President or on previous leaders in his own country…this is what he said:

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” the President said last Sunday at a news conference in the capital of El Salvador. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.  They fled El Salvador, they fled our country,” he declared. “It is our fault.” [from the New York Times, 7/1/2019]

What an incredible statement!  This new president risked his new political status by saying something that was not going to be easy for his own people to hear.  Yet, his words ring with a truth that has been missing from our world for far too long.  Perhaps this man realizes that we only have so much time on this earth to do something about what needs fixing.  Words do no good without action to back them up.  But actions will only go so far without a loving heart to back them up.  With our eyes on the end prize – salvation for all believers – perhaps today’s Christians could learn a thing or two from this unique Central American leader.

On this Independence Day weekend, with the echo of all the celebrations and all the festivities and all the fireworks that help us celebrate, let us also remember that as a country blessed, we have a responsibility to act in ways that would please our Lord.  No matter what your political stripe might be, no matter what your opinions are, and especially no matter how strongly you hold those thoughts, as Christians we are each called to do better. 

We have been blessed as a nation; I truly believe that!

But the One who blesses us continues to watch what we do and say and how we act.

To whom much is given, much is expected in return…because God will not be mocked.

Let us never forget that; if so, then we will always be a nation blessed by the Lord.