Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who Approved your message?

Below is the message (including scriptures) I shared with Good Shepherd on Sunday Nov. 4th.  It was not originally my plan or intention to talk 'about' the election this Sunday, but over the course of the week, I felt a real call to share these thoughts - maybe it was the robocall from Matt Damon . . . . anyway here it is

Matthew 22:34-40 (Today's New International Version)

 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

2 Corinthians 3 (The Message)

 1-3Does it sound like we're patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we're not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (The Message)

 4 Attention, Israel!   God, our God! God the one and only!   5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
 6-9 Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

I feel like I should begin by saying something like ‘I’m Chip Stapleton and I approved this message.  But if I never hear another political ad begin or end that way, I would be happy.  
In the culminating days of a national election it seems that everyone gets defined by who they are voting for or what party they are in.
But the passages we just heard from Matthew & Deuteronomy  remind us that republican, democrat or even American is not the primary way we ought to define ourselves – rather, we are first citizens of heaven.  We are Children of God and that comes with its own set of responsibilities.  The passages detail our primary responsibilities as the people of God – as citizens of heaven.
Simply put we are to Love God and Love people.
In the world of 24 hour news – everything matters in an election: words, facial expressions, clothes.  Everything.  Likewise, all that we do each day sends a message to the world around us.
As we go about our lives we are sharing a message to those we meet.  What does that message look and sound like?  Sometimes we are very intentional about the message we send – and we use visual aids – like lawn signs, bumper stickers or t-shirts.  We use images to help communicate the message we want to send
When we want to be clear about the message we are sending we make sure to reinforce it: we use our words, our actions and even our clothes, stickers or signs.
People then hear, read or see the messages we send in a variety of ways and often times make judgments about us based on the messages we send.   Just like in campaigns, when it comes to the message we send every day in life  everything matters, but especially our words and actions matter.
So the question is – do our words and actions match up with the message that has been approved for you by God, the simple message Jesus echoed to the Pharisee in Matthew?:
Love God
Love others
As we think about if we are living up to the actual message we have been ‘approved’ to give.  Let’s look at what this two part message from God might look like.
Love of God  - This is simply putting God first – having your love of God and your relationship with him at the forefront of your life – that means it has to invade every area of your life:
Even Politics
Jesus Christ has to be at the center of all we do – the base from which all that we do begins and ends.
The way we talk has to be colored by our faith.
The way we act has to be colored by our faith.
The way we live has to be totally colored by our faith.
Love of Neighbor - This one is a little trickier for us.  It is often easier said than done.
How are we doing in actually loving our neighbors?   Are the conversations we have with our neighbors laced with the love of God?
What about the neighbors that have different signs in their front yard?  Maybe we simply ignore them: What kind of love is that showing?
Jesus was clear about this.  The parable of the good Samaritan – the famous story Jesus tells to explain who we should view as our neighbor - is so powerful because of the back-story between the Jews and the Samaritans.  They didn’t disagree about economic policy or tax rates, they were real enemies – bitter rivals for centuries.  That was not an accident or a minor element of the story, It was the point of the story.  Jesus was saying that is the kind of love we are supposed to have for everybody
Not ‘even’ those we disagree with or are our ‘enemies’ but especially them.  Maybe you could care less about politics but the point is still true – you too have things you are passionate about and that people disagree about. 
There is the first place you have to make sure you allow the love of God to invade in your life
When we identify ourselves as Christians – by what we wear, what we say or what we do – even if it is ‘just’ by coming to church.  We are putting ‘Jesus Christ approved this message’ at the beginning and end of everything we do
There is a recent book, based on years of work from the Barna research group about what non-Christians think about those of us that call ourselves Christians.  The book was particularly focused on 17 to 30 year olds  - the ‘quote, unquote’ next generation.
The Book, titled, ‘UnChristian’, paints a chilling picture of just what message those outside the church see, hear and perceive from Christians.    %87 thought Christians were judgmental.  %85 felt like Christians were hypocritical.  %70 saw Christians as insensitive to others.
At one point, the author states:  The primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians, is not because of any specific theological perspective. . . . The growing hostility toward Christians is very much a reflection of what outsiders feel they receive from believers.  ‘Christians cannot generally live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe’
The final, staggering insight is that we, as Christians have become famous for what we oppose, rather than what we stand for.
But is that really a surprise –We see, not just in politics, but seemingly in all areas of our lives that to lift myself up, I have to pull you down. 
Nobody likes ‘negative’ attack politics, but it works, so people keep doing it. 
But remember, It was God that spoke his name in the beginning of our lives – and who’s Spirit emanates every aspect of our life and message – if we allow him to. 
This way of communicating is not the only way.
In a book written by an Anglican priest called ‘Never Silent’ I came across a story that highlights exactly how to live the message approved by God, even in the face of extraordinary circumstances.  In a section called, ‘I love Idi Amin’ by an Episcopalian Bishop from Uganda –
The bishop, Festo Kivengere writes: I had to face my own attitude towards President Amin and his agents.  The Holy Spirit showed me that I was getting hard in my spirit, and that hardness and bitterness toward those who were persecuting us could only bring spiritual loss.  This would take away my ability to communicate the love of God. . . . So I had to ask for forgiveness from the Lord, and for the grace to love President Amin more . . . for he is one of those for whom Christ shed His precious blood.  As long as he is still alive . . . Pray for him.
This is the message we have been approved to share:
Love God, Love people
Bishop Kivengere sought, through the power of the Holy Spirit to find love for a murderous, terrorist, dictator of a ‘president’.  He found a way to love even the man that was directly responsible for unspeakable acts of violence and persecution. 
Kivengere sought to love him – so that he could communicate the message he had been approved – that he had been called to give.  Love.  Love God.  Love People.
Many of us spend too much time focused on whatever our differences may be – and make no mistake we have real differences and disagreements.
But Christ calls us to be known and marked by our love and we can and we will – through the power of the Holy Spirit change the message outsiders hear and see when they see us.
Democrats and Republicans, all of us, children of God can be united in bringing one message to the world – Love.
Love God, Love People.
Every day, everywhere you go and you will change the world in a way no election ever could
Together, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can change the world by spreading the message of Jesus Christ’s saving, redeeming love to every single person we meet – starting with our neighbor that is voting the ‘other’ way on Tuesday.
Because our primary message and concern can’t be about taxes or jobs or the economy or anything but Love. 
The Love Christ first showed us.
The love we return to God.
The love we share with others as a response to the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.
Love.  Nothing more, but nothing less is the message we have been approved to share.


  1. Profund post. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Chip.

  2. Very thoughtful, let's wrestle...

    (Stuart, through Sally's gmail)