Liberal. Heretic. Arrogant. Apostate. Godless. Foul. Fool. Ridiculous. Weak. Unbiblical. Evil. Self-righteous. Monster. Reckless. Destructive. Pathetic. Stupid. Hack. (HT: Matt Redmond’s twitter page).
What do all of these words have in common? They are all words that have been used by “evangelicals” to describe John Piper after he posted an article explaining why he could not, in good conscience, vote for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden in the presidential election.
What does this indicate? Several things.
First, it proves Piper’s point. In the article, Piper argues that it is biblically naive to focus only on the policies of a nation’s leader while discounting the impact of the character of the leader. He writes, “This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.”
If you notice a parallel between the way Trump deals with his political enemies and the way many have responded to Piper’s article, there may just be a causal connection.
Second, it proves that some Christians have confused the City of Man for the City of God. How does a Spirit-indwelled believer in Christ identify more with Donald Trump than John Piper? No matter who you voted for Tuesday or what you think of Piper’s political opinions, John Piper is a fellow heir of the grace of Christ. He is a brother. If you are “in Christ” you likely share more in common with John Piper (identity, hope, destiny, family, Father, inheritance…) than with members of your own family. You certainly share more with him than you do with Donald Trump.
We must not confuse the City of God with the City of Man. Though we are called to labor in this world side-by-side toward justice and peace with the citizens of this world, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). The hope that we place in politics is misguided. In the words of the Avett Brothers, “Your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected.” We want so desperately to dwell in a kingdom where righteousness reigns, but we must remember that the kingdom we want requires God to be worshipped. As Augustine argued in the City of God, a society cannot be just if it denies the one truth that makes us fully human: we were created to love and serve God.
The 2020 election will not move the needle one inch closer to that goal. Praying for your brother John Piper as he labors to bear witness for King Jesus will move mountains.
Third, it proves political idolatry. People don’t like having their idols attacked. That’s true in the Bible and it continues to be true today. If you find yourself losing control of your emotions in response to what’s happening, you need to check what you’re worshipping. If the results of the election cause you to lose hope or joy or fellowship with others, you need to check what you’re worshipping. This election is only the most important one ever until 2024. Christ’s kingdom is forever. You may find some measure of satisfaction when your side wins, but those victories have term limits. Christ’s joy will never expire.