I had watched a couple of his speeches online. I have even seen him speak at my high school during my freshman year at Portland Adventist Academy. His story is inspiring. His achievements are remarkable. His contribution to medicine is unquestionable. Although I was not sure about how much to support a presidential candidate openly, I was prepared to be an anonymous voter, a set of hands in the crowd, lifting him and moving him forward to the presidential stage. Now, as the Trump-a-thon continues steaming along, Ben Carson is sliding into political obscurity. At the time of this writing, his shot at the presidential nomination, let alone the presidency, is all but gone. For that, I realize, I am glad.
SELF-RELIANCE VS. THE GOSPEL
A promo came out around December. This was about the time the Carson campaign really began to struggle. It showcases every day workers and Americans holding up their hands with the caption of what they accomplish with those hands. At the end, Carson is shown, with lifted hands. The word “These” is written on the right and “Hands” written on the left, with the caption “Are working to heal America” in the middle.
It’s a great ad. The only problem is it sounds similar to someone else. “Is this not Great Babylon which I have built” (KJV, Daniel 4:30), pondered Nebuchadnezzar before his great fall.
We fail the moment we rely on self. That is the great controversy. The battle is for ourselves to become less and Christ to become more. The moment we work from our own reasoning and effort we have already pronounced judgment on ourselves. “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:17).
The rich young ruler walked away sad and downtrodden after hearing the conditions of his salvation. I think that I would act differently until I remember I struggle to let go of my worldly interests and the temptation to believe that I’m doing pretty good for myself as a Christian.
POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE ISOLATES US FROM OTHERS
There is a temptation to fix. To fix the nation. To fix the growing gap between rich and poor. To fix the aggressive erosion of morals and ethics and to undo decades of social, economical and political decline.
However, this is a clever trap and only that. What is our real assignment? As a church and as children of Christ, what are we asked to do? "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mathew 28:19).
That is: all nations, all cultures and all class of people. When we align ourselves with a specific political party we risk excluding segments of the world's population. We should be mostly silent about preaching politics. Instead let us joyfully, contagiously, and as one body, shout the good news that Christ is coming again.
The apostle Paul was a tremendously effective evangelist. What did he learn about taking sides on issues? "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews...To them that are without law, as without law.... That I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).
Should we be more concerned about arguing our political views or showcasing the love of God? If we publicly align ourselves with political parties we compromise our ability to reach people with opposing beliefs. It is Satan's plan to isolate us on any point or issue he can. His greatest fear is a church united as one under Christ.
THE GAME CHANGER
I want to end by taking a brief look at the life of Peter. His experience will be the same for any true believer living at the close of the world because the greatest end time struggles will not be political in nature. The greatest struggles will be internal.
There are two Peters in the Bible. The first Peter we meet sinks while walking on water. He argues with his fellow disciples about being the greatest and thinks about ephemeral honor and wealth. When it comes to religion, he makes great boasts but falls flat on his face.
The second Peter is the Peter I like. One who’s brave but not impulsive. Who stands up to the religious hypocrites without flinching. Who sleeps so heavily the night before his scheduled execution that the angel sent to rescue him, after filling his cell with blinding light, still has to punch him on the side to wake him up.
What changed? It’s quite simple. He stopped trusting what he knew and could do and trusted One he knew was faithful.
There are many storms ahead. We can oppose the evils of this world only when we don’t put trust in finite wisdom and strength. Instead, we must be broken like Peter. Broken of our worldly loves and self-reliance. Then, no matter what comes, we will be witnesses for Christ to all the world