It's political campaign season where I live. Or as I think of it, "Ugly signs all over the place" season.
The signs politicians put up usually have their names and a few descriptors about how they think they would execute their office if elected/reelected. Words like honesty, leadership, and integrity are fairly ubiquitous.
If I decided to run for a political office and I had billboards and banners put up describing myself as "Meek, Merciful, Poor in Spirit," how many votes do you think I would get?
I'm guessing that I'd end up getting more laughs than votes. My opponent would excoriate me. "We don't need meek and humble people running this government. We need bold people who take action to solve our issues!"
This strong, bold woman or man would almost certainly win the election and assuming they did not get themselves kicked out of office from some scandal, they would spend all their time trying to make sure they got reelected for the rest of their life.
We've come to expect such dysfunction from the political system in America. It's an endless steam of soundbites often designed to belittle and undermine political opposition.
But as a civil system, we can't expect it to experience the constant renewal of the Holy Spirit. And without that, it's like a branch severed from the vine - doomed to wither and die.
We can - and should - expect that from the church. The community of believers who have made faith in Jesus the most important element of our lives, cutting across all other identities to build bridges between other believers in all other times and cultures.
Yet, when we look here, we find some pretty big problems.
Ministers left and right leaving ministry due to moral failures.
TV evangelists trying to get money for mansions and jet planes.
I read an article explaining that one famous church in America spends over $11 million on promotion and $1.2 on missions. A friend of mine quipped, "Shouldn't that be reversed?"
It's unsurprising that the church is largely ignored or mocked by the rest of society.
It's a lot like our political system. Which is upsetting because Jesus specifically told us not to act like people who are trying to preserve and leverage power for themselves.
Check it out:
"But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
I mean, look, there's lots of stuff Jesus says that we straight up ignore, but this one is up there with the most blatant.
There's two pieces of good news, though.
First, as somebody who is part of the church in America, I know there are lots of honest, genuine people who love Jesus and aren't trying to gain power and positions to dominate and manipulate others. People outside the church may not know this because frequently the loudest examples of Christianity are often not the healthiest, because the rich and powerful can be loud, but usually not the poor and humble - which is exactly the kind of people Jesus hung out with most frequently on this earth.
Second, Jesus says that the meek will inherit this earth. That the merciful will receive mercy. And that the poor in spirit have a place in God's Kingdom.
God is going to set all the wrongs to right. To give justice for every injustice. To elevate those who did not spend their time trying to do it themselves.
Many elements of our society seem like a runaway train. The good news is that I don't have to ride that train. The path Jesus calls me to is challenging, but it is mostly much calmer and slower. He doesn't load me down with stress and expectations. He offers me hope and joy and makes good promises.
When God follows through on his promise to make all things new, the upside down economy of the Kingdom will be implemented - the last made first, those who gave generously receive much, those who laid down their lives receive life in full. Do I trust God enough to make what seems and feels like a foolish investment (especially in a place as materialistic as America)?