November 2nd, 2008

RTFM

Calf making

Our church just began a sermon series (likely a long one, since the intent is to preach through the whole book) on Exodus. It'll probably be months before we get here, but much of the political drumbeat in our congregation and elsewhere reminds me of nothing so much as the golden calf of Exodus 32.

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There's a ton to unpack in this account, but for now, it's the golden calf and the reasons behind its creation that have my attention. In so much of the political buzz, I fear the desire to craft our own salvation and how that might affect our decisions. For those not professing a trust in Jesus for their salvation, "vote your conscience" is sound civic advice consistent with being good neighbors in our shared nation. For those who do trust Him, not making a golden calf of our government and our role in it is far more important than what box we might check at the polls—this matters so much more than even the most important candidate or issue.

As our pastors were briefly fond of saying, "Please don't hear what I'm not saying." There's nothing inherently idolatrous about being politically interested and active. Indeed, our vote is an important duty. Neither was there anything inherently wrong with:
  • missing Moses and being concerned about his absence.
  • being frightened at the base of the mountain after being led out of freedom (and all things familiar) by an awesome and terrible God, who was up on that mountain.
  • gold.
  • making things.
Where they jumped the track was how they dealt with the uncertainty and what they did with their resources to try to make things more certain and lock down their salvation—even though, to this point, they'd clearly had nothing to do with saving themselves.

Christians are called to live as citizens of God's Kingdom in the here and now as well as through eternity. We're to be ambassadors of the King and represent His reign, which is already in effect. We're to be a blessing for others. It'd be misguided and outright silly to suggest that such a mission calls us to be aloof and inactive—we're called to the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do, and it's reasonable to conclude that means both activity and planning. But if we're more interested in the salvation we can bring about—politically or otherwise—than in the One who truly brings salvation and in being part of His people, then we're likely engaged in calf making (even in His name).

Only God and we know our own hearts, and we always less than He. When we're reluctant to search them with Him, their state is probably already revealed. Whether left, right, or center, our civic religion must never take precedence over the truth of the gospel. Not even during an election season.