Dear Bernie Sanders, I Am a Christian

I try to avoid politics whenever possible. The political arena has become so emotionally charged and off-putting that I’d rather remove myself than be buried in the constant stream of negativity and noise. But there are moments when I cannot and will not remain silent. This is one of those moments.

Yesterday, an exchange occurred between Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought during a confirmation hearing that alarmed me. During this exchange, Senator Sanders referenced Mr. Vought’s comments regarding his Christian faith and his position on salvation. Mr. Vought continually and respectfully said, “I am a Christian.” The exchange ended with Sanders concluding, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

The implication of Bernie Sanders comments are not only shocking from the standpoint of religious freedom and the separation of church and state, but they’re degrading to those of Christian faith. To assume that because I am a Christian that I am a bigot or a racist or condemning or any other list of false stereotypes is simply untrue. To assume that because I’m a Christian I’m something “America isn’t about” is a lie. While I could address the unconstitutional nature of Senator Sanders remarks, I feel compelled to speak otherwise.

I am a Christian. And I’m writing this to my Christian brothers and sisters, today. The time is now for us to stand up and stand together in the face of a culture that desperately needs the hope of the gospel.

We Cannot Remove God From Our Life

I grew up in the Methodist church in a healthy, Christian home. I was a “good kid” who was baptized at birth and confirmed at the age of thirteen. But I didn’t understand the dynamic of salvation until I was a young teenager. Even then, God was limited to my white, southern, evangelical bubble. It wasn’t until I experienced His presence on a small Bahamian island at the age of eighteen that my understanding of God began to grow. I was thirty-one and struggling as a father and young professional before God truly softened my heart to the absolute of His reality. That’s when God became my reality. He wasn’t a distant God who saved me and called me to live by a certain set of rules, He was a personal, real God who gave me my very life and being.

We cannot separate our life from God like we cannot separate ourselves from oxygen. Our beliefs don’t remove His presence. Neither do our political structures. We don’t have that choice. His presence is what gives us our ability to experience, to reason, to breathe, to live—this is His prevenient grace. We can’t argue against Him just like a lamp can’t outshine the sun. However, our beliefs and our actions can limit our capacity to breathe in His life more abundantly.

The point is, we cannot know God until we are humble before Him. It’s our nothingness before Him that allows us to experience our fullness in Him. The pride in man demands another way, but the humility of Jesus made our path clear. Until we are humble enough to accept that truth, we will be at war with our emotions, popular opinion, and our own assumption of what is fair and what isn’t.

The world wants to distort Christianity and call it condemning. But the truth is, Jesus was condemned, even by His own people, the Jews. In fact, they tried to remove Him by killing Him. We know how that turned out. Therefore, our choice isn’t to remove God. Our choice is one of faith. Either we believe that the Bible is true and what it says is an account of how we were made, why we’re here, and how we’re to live, or it isn’t.

Instead of fighting to breathe or finding another way, we must make our choice before God and live it out in community with our fellow man.

Our Generation

We live in a generation where Christianity has become clouded. The opinions of man have infiltrated the purposes of God and we’ve compromised the gospel to make it more palatable. Even still, some have become warriors for the gospel making their own condemnations when the Bible clearly says that God is the judge. But this isn’t new. This has always been a part of God’s story.

If you read Paul’s letters to the early church, you’ll see his encouragement in their struggle. They struggled with extremism, false prophets, and those who would bend God’s truth. And every time, Paul calls them to remember their salvation. To remember Jesus.

Go back to that moment when you were captivated by the love of God. When you knew, like for real, that Jesus was who He said He was and that He died for you. Remember what that felt like to repent from your old life and embrace your new life in Christ. Now, in that place, consider the simplicity of God’s offer. If we are Christians, we are called to live as such. We are to mature in Christ and become His expression in the world. There is simply no other way.

Do you remember the grace you received? Do you remember being covered and redeemed by the blood of Jesus? If so, then why would you condemn and why would you not mature fully in Him?

Bernie Sanders’s comments are not a moment for Christians to panic, or fear, or worry, or fight. God doesn’t work in fear or anxiety—He works in peace. More importantly, He promises to fight for His people. But as His people we cannot remain silent and seated while the world casually attempts to dismantle what we know to be true.

So How Do We Respond?

I’m reminded today of the Apostle Paul.

Here’s a man who had everything. He had money, power, religious standing, and a certain future. But when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life forever changed. In that moment, he made a choice. A choice from which he would never retreat. He was condemned, criticized, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and shackled. But he never wavered.

Paul was dedicated, to the point of death, to spread the truth of God to the world. And now, two-thousand years later, the name of Jesus has spread from a small, nothing town outside of Jerusalem to the entire world.

Consider this: A Jewish Rabbi born into the poverty of Bethlehem is now declared across every continent, every nation, every ethnicity, throughout the entire world. That’s the power of God. And it has been completed by men and women of faith who lived with the uncompromising conviction of Paul. That’s incredible.

So where do you stand?

There’s a moment recorded in the Book of Acts where Paul stands up in Athens, Greece and delivers a declaration of the gospel to the people. But this wasn’t in just any setting. Paul was standing in the temple of Areopagus—the temple of the Greek god of war. I find his words fitting for us today.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

      “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

       “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” —Acts 17:22‭-‬31 ESV

In a culture that tries to condemn and shut in the truth, may we respond with the boldness of Paul, who in absolute love and peace, declared the gospel with unwavering conviction. And not just in the privacy of his home and in the confines of his community, but from the stages and in the relationships which God prepared.

As a Christian, as one of God’s chosen sons and daughters, you have been prepared and equipped to become His expression in the world. There is nothing more satisfying and nothing more fulfilling. May you stand, like Paul, with uncompromised faith in the face of any persecution and count it as nothing but pure joy.

With that surrendered posture, the power of God will be displayed in the world.

Will you join me?

MH

 

Matt Ham is a Christian author and speaker and the cofounder of YouPrint, a faith development organization. Learn more at www.youprint.life

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  • Matt – the event you bring to light is a profound moment for our country – and not a good moment. As someone who has studied the former Soviet Union, and been to both the USSR and Russia many times, I’m reminded that socialism requires complete and total allegiance to government authority. Any other creed or belief is a threat and must be eliminated.

    • Mike –

      What sparked me to write the article was the anger I felt in Sanders’s tone. I didn’t feel like He wanted freedom, He wanted compliance. As Christians, we cannot compromise the gospel. Thanks for your thoughts as always.