I received my overseas ballot for the upcoming American Presidential election, and suddenly I realised the problem facing every American. It isn’t just enough to know who you don’t want to be President of the United States of America. The ballot has a long list of names – not just two – and nowhere is there a box that says “anyone except for that person”. Staring at my ballot paper, pen poised, I realise that knowing who I won’t vote for is not the same as knowing who I will vote for. I have to choose who I am voting for. I have to make a decision. Who do I want to be President? Who am I voting for?
And I think of Joshua telling the Israelites – “choose this day who you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). He gave them a clear choice – go back to the way things once were or press forward with God. Now, anyone who has read the book of Joshua knows a lot of killing (whole towns massacred) happens in God’s name. I am not encouraging that. Personally, it’s not how I think God rolls. Rather, I am focussing on the choice. They had to choose. It wasn’t enough to just reject the past. They had to choose the future, choose God.
Which made me think of Jesus telling his disciples to “take up their cross” (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 14:27). You can’t accidentally pick up a cross or even half-heartedly pick up a cross. You can’t just nudge it down the road with your foot or maybe drag it along behind you. You are either carrying it or you aren’t. It isn’t just enough to say, “I don’t like the Roman Empire. Sure we have roads, but the taxes to fund their wars are unbearable. Why are we going to war so much anyway? Someone is making money off all these wars. Our young people die to make someone else rich” etc.
Jesus was clear. It isn’t just enough to reject the way things were. His disciples had to choose to grasp the new (God’s loving and merciful ways of doing stuff) with both hands and carry it. Even if it meant that the world’s ‘usual ways of doing things’ would try and crush them.
It’s a choice – who to live for.
I choose love, compassion, mercy, justice, kindness – God’s ways of doing stuff. I choose Jesus.
I try to choose the cross, even though sometimes it is very hard or I get tired and forget. I am still human, and you know what, I think God loves that about you and me. But, thank Jesus, when I forget, He reminds me. Don’t forget the cross, love. Trust me, I know how heavy it can be. We’ll find you a ‘Simon’, but until then let me help…
And yes, the “burden is light” cross gets heavy. This past week, three Catholic priests “disappeared” in parts of Mexico controlled by drug lords. A pastor and a co-worker in India were killed by an extremist. People of different religions are killed because their “brand” of faith offends someone.
I think of them, as I stare at my ballot paper. I can’t just vote for a person because I reject the whole political system. I have to vote for someone. Someone who won’t persecute people of faith – whatever the religion. Someone who will remember that weapons and capitalism are not what makes America great. Someone who will be honest about our painful history and how that informs the present problems in America. Someone who doesn’t just offer a rejection of the system, but offers a realistic alternative that may seem foolish to most.
Does such a candidate exist?
The question isn’t- what am I rejecting? The question is- who am I voting for?