It often seems that life is all about choices. As I reflect on my life, there are choices I’ve made that have truly blessed my life. The choice to go to Concordia College in Bronxville was so influential on my life. That’s where I met the love of my life. The choice to ask Edith to marry me is one of the greatest, talk about marrying up—I am very blessed. The choice to go to the seminary, the choice to buy a home, the choice to have children, all have been blessings. However, there are choices that have not been so great also.
This past summer our denomination was faced with choices, and voices spoke loudly and clearly on a variety of issues. In fact, sometimes it became more loud than clear, but that’s a whole other blog. The point is, when we need to choose, we are able to do that. We make millions of choices each day. Which socks will I wear; what tie; which earrings and necklace; which shoes, and it could go on. What will I eat today? How will I get to work or school today? I love the folks that wait until the last minute to decide, they’re usually driving in front of me… Life is filled with choices!
The only thing that we definitely don’t choose is God’s grace. It’s a gift, already given to us. Paul reminds us, “For by grace have you been saved through faith, and this not of yourself, it’s the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance that we might walk in them.” This passage, so familiar to many Lutherans, was a rally cry of the Reformation. It was a reminder that nothing we do, no choice that we make, no decision can impact what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. By His merit and favor, we have eternal life and salvation. We don’t choose God because in Christ Jesus our Lord we were chosen before the foundation of the world. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” We are special. We are loved. We are chosen with a purpose, to bear fruit for Jesus. We’re called to engage in the Master’s business.
As we live as His chosen ones in the world, we are called to be witnesses of His light. God chose us and called us with purpose to connect people to Jesus. Our worship life isn’t only about satisfying our own personal spiritual needs. God calls us to be built up so He can send us out. The Church is always at its best when it is a sending agency. Recently someone shared with me how the congregation they attend has sent a missionary to Africa, and that the congregation supports this missionary and his mission very passionately. At the same time he lamented that they do absolutely nothing for their local community. The truth is, we live in what is now considered the third largest mission field in the world. Africa is sending their missionaries here to evangelize the United States! Here’s my point—the opportunities for sending missionaries exist all around your church, and, by the way, God chose you to be His missionary, and He planted you right where you are to reach more people with the love of Jesus.
The other day I received a letter from one of our pastors concerned about our choices, or, in his words, lack of choices, in this political season. His purpose in writing me was to serve as a reminder that we as Christians have an obligation, a vested interest, a responsibility to be engaged. In fact, this is part of engaging in the Master’s business. It’s part of Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms, the spiritual realm and the civil realm. We aren’t excluded from the civil realm at all, but for the sake of Jesus and our Christian values stand up for what we believe and profess. That, my friends, is becoming ever increasingly important in a day that has devalued our Judeo-Christian values and sought to neuter the Church. Jesus said, to Peter in Matthew 16, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is not a picture of the Church holding back hell from breaking in. Instead it’s a picture of the Church breaking down the gates of hell to reclaim those who have been ravaged by the impact of sin and the devil. Some would say that’s where we intersect with politics. It’s so important that Churches understand their duty and rights when it comes to politics. Your church may NOT endorse a particular candidate or political party, but it CAN encourage the body of Christ to get out and vote. We hear all too often stories about Christians who choose not to vote because it’s all in God’s hands. God has chosen you to be His representative in the world, not to be of the world, but to operate in the world as an ambassador for Him.
President James A. Garfield, who served our nation as its 20th President, was also a lay minister of the Gospel. He was assassinated in office and served from March 1881 through September 1881. He had served as a major general in the Civil War and had a passion to see this nation return to honoring Jesus Christ. He wrote to the nation about the nation, “The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities….If the next centennial does not find us a great nation…it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”
The truth is, if we’re to impact our culture for the sake of Jesus, we need to be involved as examples of the light of Jesus in dark places. That includes becoming active in national elections, regardless of your political views. You have a choice, so let your voice be heard. Don’t worry about how God is going to bless this nation, that’s His business. Our business is to represent Him and share His grace and love, with a world that is mired in sin. Yes, we confront the sins around us with God’s law without compromise. But the goal is always to point people to Jesus, and to somehow help them turn their hearts to Him for forgiveness and new life.
As you consider the fact that you have been chosen, and that you have choices, may God’s Spirit fill you with wisdom and joy to engage in the Master’s business!
In His grip,