Being Spiritual in a Political World
When I graduated from Calvin College in 2014, I was certain that I would remain a reformed-thinking Christian for life. Not only that, but I was ready to go to seminary in order to become a preacher of the gospel in a reformed setting. While I remain a firm lover of the Gospel of Christ, I no longer can classify myself as a believer in reformed theology. Not because I don’t love some of the things that the Christian Reformed Church has historically thought and believed, but because I do not see the generational trajectory of belief becoming more spiritual in the Reformed Church. If anything, I’ve seen several generations of “Christians” mistake the political world for the spiritual world. Men and women alike are so concerned with the political state of things in our country [the States] that they have forgotten what it means to be in the world but not of it.
It has become clear to me, over the past several years, that man’s problem is far from political. It is, in fact, spiritual, and always has been in every time and place. There are, of course, politicized issues that we must be ready to fight for or reject, but the issues themselves have become an idol in the hearts of modern-day Christians. We are so concerned with the problems of the world, that we consistently seek a political solution to the difficulties that we observe. This is a progressively common issue in Christianity. The reverence and transformation of spirit has taken a back seat to political activism and the jargons of “Social Justice,” “Right-wing/conservative nationalism,” (and others) have become subtle focus points of our individual beliefs. A polarized society cannot be the sustainer of Truth. Only the Church and it’s ancient authority can sustain this Truth.
There is an online blog site for Calvin College English Alums called “The Post Calvin,” and it has maintained a fairly consistent readership and writer-ship. My wife reads it, and I take time to browse though it about once a year. I have many friends and classmates who have put their thoughts there over the years, and I care about what they think. What I’ve noticed there, unfortunately, is a clear lack of spiritual formation in the people of my generation. I won’t say that I don’t have similar spiritual problems—after all, I grew up within the same system for years. Despite this, I have experienced something that I can only hope my peers will one day experience—a great amount of humility and transforming of heart. I am, without question, an opinionated person. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I have realized: My mind is young and restricted in my understanding. I desire to see the world made better, and yet I have a limited vision of what Christ’s Kingdom looks like. As I have learned to submit to the ancient apostolic teachings of the Church, the more I have realized: I no longer desire political change in the way I used to. I desire spiritual change. I desire God’s Kingdom to come, and God’s will to be done, things that I simply cannot be a part of without being transformed by the Holy Spirit.
It’s a humbling thing to forgo your understanding to take on the mind of Christ. I have found that I believe things that I never thought I could have believed five years ago; and yet they have become the things I cling to as I have grown with Jesus. My advice to the young people of the world is this: do not fight for a political party, but seek to follow Christ. If you desire to see God’s kingdom come, than do not fight for social change; rather, seek to become more like Christ daily, and repent of your faults constantly. Pray as the Lord taught us to pray whenever you think to, and pray the Jesus Prayer wherever you go. Do not assume your righteousness, but pray that you may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. When we begin to fight our battles individually and spiritually instead of politically, we will find that it is the power of God and not the power of our vote that will bring God’s Kingdom to the world.
“We like to have everybody around us quite perfect, but our own faults—we never seem to correct them.” ~Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Book One, Part 16, Paragraph 3).
“If we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and remembrance of God.” ~St. John Chrysostom
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” ~St. Francis of Assisi
***For those of you who do not know the Jesus Prayer but would like to try praying it, it goes like this:
“O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”