Political Influence


Political Influence

President Trump and Jerusalem

Each morning at 9am I get a very short news brief from NPR and an update on the weather for the day. One of these days I may switch it up to another news source just for fun. Regardless, I just listen for the highlights and take everything with a grain of salt.

This past week those news highlights have all focused in on President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel with a bit of NPR’ish concern about what kind of affect this will have on life in the Middle East and across the world. Please understand me… I do not think the conflict in the Middle East is funny or trivial. If there is any particular humor to me in this situation, it is that President Trump, who has never been shy about making waves in the media, has apparently stumped them on one subject for a week. 13 months in and everyone ran out of material… who would have thought?

This has undoubtedly created great waves, both among those working on President Trump’s impeachment proceedings as well as those who will use this as leverage to rally to his defence. Once again, Israel is being used for the political agendas of the rest of the world. This is not a new problem either God warned Israel about being manipulated by the multi-stringed forms of support the rest of the world would throw at them. Major passages in most of the Old Testament Prophets warn Israel not to put their faith in the support of other nations, but instead to keep their faith rooted in God Himself.

I’m not a citizen of Israel or Palestine, nor am I Jewish or Muslim, so I really don’t have a dog in their fight. My understanding of the Bible though gives Israel two main options in dealing with their status as God’s chosen people in the world today.

  1. They can continue their long history as God’s chosen people. Should they choose this route, they really cannot seek aid, or perhaps even accept it when it is offered from other nations – especially when there are strings attached to that aid. Treaties are forbidden because they are a form of covenant, which Israel is only to have with God. If they are going to remain God’s chosen people and faithful to their own scriptures, they must remain utterly independent of the rest of the world.
  2. The second option is much more difficult. If they recognize Jesus as Messiah and the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the world, they can recognize that God’s chosen people are no longer only the citizens of Israel or descendants of Abraham. God has opened the door to all the nations to give Him their trust and obedience and be grafted into the chosen family of God. I think this is a much more Christian viewpoint of Israel, but it also recognizes that Israel is not God’s chosen nation, nor Jerusalem His chosen city anymore. The covenant promises God made with Israel are being fulfilled through the people, not the land. If this is the case, then Israel has no more right to call on support from other nations than any other nation, as God’s people have spread across the entire world.

Would I feel differently if I were Jewish? Yeah, I probably would. As it is, I’m mostly European immigrant and a little bit Native American… one part of my family having stolen the birthright of the other part, like Jacob and Esau, leaving me in a conflicted mess and knowing that at the end of the day nobody deserves any of it… It’s all a gift from God that we cannot earn. No, I’m not talking about salvation. I’m talking about land. There are enough homeless refugees in our world that those of us who “own” land are a blessed minority and we probably ought to be more grateful, and better stewards of it.

Circles of Concern

Stephen Covey has been a proponent of identifying two distinct areas in our lives. The first is called the Circle of Concern. This is the circle that identifies what things in life we spend our thoughts, energy, and worry on. It is likely different for each of us. Some of you have the nation of Israel squarely in your circle of concern, while others may never give them a thought at all. Some of you have President Trump in your circle of concern and others may only worry about him when he addresses topics which are more rooted in your circle of concern. Regardless of what it covers, each of us has a circle of concern and we typically spend a significant portion of our life dealing with the issues within them.

Circles of Influence

Somewhere inside our circle of concern is a smaller circle that is called the Circle of Influence. This is the area of topics that we can actually do something about. We may have direct control over these issues, such as, how we spend our money, what news station we listen to, who we vote for… or we may have indirect influence over them such as what kind of food our grocery store stocks (based upon our purchases), what businesses succeed in our community, how well our children do in school, how healthy our families are, etc.

It is likely that there are many things in your circle of concern that you have no real influence over, either directly or indirectly. It is possible that there are things in your circle of influence that is not inside your circle of concern… in other words, there may be people or things that you influence that you just don’t care about. Both of these outliers can be problematic if they get too extreme.
When we spend our energy worrying about things we have no control over, we waste our time, energy, and life.
When we neglect to care about the things we do have influence over, we are poor stewards of the influence we have been given.

Our culture has actually locked us into a reactive pattern when it comes to political influence. We may be following after the political culture of Mexico. I was once told in a Political Science class that the people of Mexico were more likely to blow up the ballot box than to actually vote. It is easier to just get mad about things you cannot change than to actually work to exert political influence in the areas you actually have responsibility over. We may not blow up the ballot boxes, but our whole nation loves to blow up Twitter and Facebook with ridiculous posts about subjects far outside their area of influence. When was the last time you saw a post about someone taking action to be a responsible parent and raise up the next generation of leaders in our world? When did you last see someone picking up litter in their own neighborhood? It’s just easier to get online and complain about it rather than take action and make a difference.

Praying Circles

Mark Batterson takes the idea of circles of concern and influence and applies the concept of prayer to it. Instead of focusing all our prayers on things outside our influence (which is not bad) he teaches that we should start in our area of direct influence – ourselves, and pray that God would work in us first, fixing us, remaking and redeeming ourselves, before we take on the rest of the world. If we will not allow the peace of God to lead and guide us, how can we honestly pray for God’s peace and guidance in the Middle East? It is kind of hypocritical.

Something amazing happens when we take Mark’s approach to our lives. We become better stewards of what God has given us influence over, and then our influence suddenly begins to grow out into that circle of concern… and beyond. It works very much like a story Jesus told His disciples.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” – Matthew 25:14-30

The question that Jesus asks us is:
What are you doing with what you’ve been given?

The political implication of that question is:
What are you doing with the political influence you already have?
I’m content for you to be supportive of Israel as a nation, or any other nation as well – for their good and the good of the world. But how are you supporting them? If you are claiming to be supportive of one leader or another… how are you supporting them? Facebook and Twitter posts only go so far. Those means of support probably do more to support Facebook and Twitter than they do for the particular leaders. As a writer, I know from working with publishers that Facebook friends are an ok sign of a following, but they are much more interested in email and phone number lists as a sign of potential sales than Facebook and Twitter.

What is even better though is actual, physical, real involvement in issues. Are you in support of helping the poor? What impoverished person have you personally helped this week? Have you bought meals for anyone or provided a home for someone without housing? It is more than putting your money where your mouth is… are you putting your time and your actions where your mouth is? Are you leading by example?

Jesus never was given an opportunity to vote, but people tried to figure out what leaders He supported. Instead of giving away His political influence to politicians, He used it to make a difference in the lives of those around Him, leading by example.

What are you doing with your political influence?

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