Christian “values” or Christian worship?

Every morning at work I have a basic routine to kick things off, before I actually clock in and start to business.  I fire up my computer, get all the basic programs I need loaded, and pop up a browser window to glance at Google News for what’s going on.  It’s interesting to see what gets pushed to the top, and the other day one appeared that really caught my eye: “Trump: ‘We’re Saying Merry Christmas Again.‘”

President Trump reignited the “war on Christmas” on Friday, telling a crowd of supporters that “we’re saying merry Christmas again” now that he’s president.

Speaking to a packed crowd at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Trump argued political correctness has gotten in the way of celebrating the holiday.

“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct,” he said to strong applause and cheers from the audience at the Christian public policy conference, sponsored by the Family Research Council.

So I am in a position where essentially I find myself at odds both with my very traditional-minded conservative brethren as well as my friends on the left.  The latter is probably more normal for my experience, but as I have tried to push forward in seeking Christ in obedience to the gospel, I have noted many times that what often passes for Christianity in the US is, unfortunately, very much the opposite in various ways.

Those ways differ from place to place, but they work out the same way: rather than worship God boldly and joyfully, obeying the commands to not fear and to rejoice in all things, they instead are seeking after themselves.  They use the name of Jesus, they claim to love and believe in Him.  Yet they operate in fear and they do not rejoice, at least not in Him, not the way modeled by the early church.  They put immense weight on cultural expressions of Christianity (like visible decorations and holidays) but their handling of such issues rarely reflects the heart of Christ towards others.

The apostles left the beatings they received at the command of the Sanhedrin “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].”  Are Western Christians similarly ready to truly suffer loss and pain for the sake of Jesus?  Or are we fleeing from pain for the sake of our comfort?  Are we trusting to God in all things or are we trying to control the world to our tastes?

When I see the President or any other public figure standing in front of a group that has declared itself to be Christian and delivering the line “We’re saying merry Christmas again” as though it is demonstration that victory has been won over the godless pagans who only say “happy holidays,” I am deeply concerned.  I am concerned that for many in the West, Christianity has been reduced to platitudes and traditions.  I am concerned that the Jesus worshiped in the hearts of many is not the Savior who died on the cross and the mighty King who sits upon His throne, who will one day dispense both justice and mercy perfectly.

What I see is many evangelicals trying to build a fortress to hide themselves and their families inside, lest they be impacted by a society that is darkening around them.  They are doing exactly what Jesus said not to do, and hiding their light under a basket.  And when they do try to drag it out, there is little love in it.  Rather, there seems to be a great deal of arrogance and self-righteousness.

Brethren, if the thing that excites you is the idea that “Now we can give Christmas-specific greetings rather than generic holiday ones because the federal government is slightly less antagonistic towards Christians,” I would suggest you need to stop for a moment and examine your own heart.  As Christians we ought to be thinking about things like “How can we look at the people near us who are hurting and lost and serve them in a way that glorifies Jesus?  How can we make the gospel our speech and walk every day?”

And if we’re going to talk about Christmas, then perhaps ask yourself, “How can we use this celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God to show what it really means to worship a God that is so mighty He requires nothing, and yet cares so much about His creation that He became flesh to pay the price for our wicked and sinful deeds?”  We should be able to live even in a society that truly despises us and still be serving and loving, because that is the model Christ set even as He was despised and rejected.

The point of this post is not to hate Trump or rag on him.  I do not hate him and to despise him like that would likewise be un-Christlike.  But I believe that it is unwise and just as un-Christlike for believers to attach their affections and hopes to a man who is so manifestly manipulative and who clearly has no interest in the faith beyond what it can bring him in the moment.  Hope in God alone.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.–Psalm 146:3-7

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