Donald J. and “One” Corinthians

Victor Chininin Buele

“All you need is love!” As I was praying this morning, an upcoming wedding came to mind, and I was remembering how an exercise often done at weddings is to take the word “love” in a critical New Testament passage and replace it.  Let me explain what I mean:

is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV)

Then, the well-intentioned preacher would ask you to do this:
Victor is patient and kind; Victor does not envy or boast; Victor is not arrogant or rude. Victor does not insist on his own way; Victor is not irritable or resentful; Victor does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Victor bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)

And then you get to stand or sit there certainly sorry you did this because you know it’s not true.  You just lost it at the cake lady or the photographer or the guy with the gigantic iPad taking a picture as your wife walked down the aisle and messed up your beautiful picture that was going to make or break the marriage… But you smile because the show must go on!

So, then the well-intentioned preacher tells you to do this:
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)

And because Jesus is the perfect one who actually is all these things you can have hope that He will hold you fast, that He will carry you, that He will do the work necessary to present you blameless at the last day.  There is nobody more invested in you being as He is than Jesus is.  He loved you to the uttermost.  He died for you to cover for every evil thing you have ever and will ever do, think, or half-ass your way through.  He died in love, so that you can love.  Truly love.

As I was listening to President Trump last night go on his usual rant, this time up in Montana, one particular section of this passage came to mind: “Donald J. is not irritable or resentful.” He went on and on, fed by his grudge with Senator Tester, on why Admiral Jackson wasn’t ultimately appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  And as I walked through the passage again, I want to make one very critical point.

Yes, obviously, President Trump can arise some very primary emotions in you. He is very far from being patient.  I don’t need to produce examples for that.  He is definitely not kind given that the insults list continues to grow (admit it, they are third-grade-playground sticky… they stick). Knowing how bad I am with envy, I am sure he can’t be worse than me at that, but envy is probably there, probably was there in that moment when President Obama made fun of him at the White House Correspondents Dinner that one time and made him long to take over the Oval Office. Who knows!  President Trump loves to boast.  Always has.  I hope it’s not an always will.  The gospel is that powerful.  I hope he can hear the gospel one day.  Contrary to what all the talking heads may say, the greatest need President Trump has is to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and be made new by the Holy Spirit.  Seeing the other day the freed brother pastor pray for the Spirit of God to guide President Trump, I couldn’t agree more with such a request. The Holy Spirit must come and regenerate and transform and give life to our nation’s president.  We should always pray for nothing short of that.  Transformation is possible, most definitely so.  I digress.  Let’s continue: President Trump loves to boast.  He is arrogant and rude.  He definitely insists in his own way, sentencing all of those of us common folks paying large hospital bills a few pennies at a time to higher insurance premiums coming up and higher deductibles to meet, among other things.  He certainly appears to rejoice at wrongdoing if 1% of what we see in the media is true.  And let’s not kid ourselves, there is an allergy to truth. The ironic thing is, he is doing everything he promised he would do, whether you like it of not.  In the middle of all the alleged and seemingly blatant falsehood, he is actually keeping his promises.

So, there.  I agree with you, my friend.  He is pretty bad.  Terrible even.  Very far from what Jesus is.

But you know what? I am still worse.  I actually know my sin and know myself to be worse than what I think he is.  The most terrifying part of the exercise remains me:

I am hardly a patient person at all.  I assume the worst out of people more often than I am called by Jesus to assume the best in them, so I’m not always the kindest person.  I am envious–envious of the rich, envious of the poor, envious of those who travel, envious of those who don’t, envious of those with large savings, and envious of those with mountains of debt, envious of those fake lives on Facebook, envious of the real lives behind the fake lives on Facebook.  I am boastful–worse than Trump.  He at least has a fairly contained list of accomplishments to rant about night after night.  I manufacture new reasons to boast all the time.  And it’s very hard to admit that very Pauline understanding of life that it is not I but the grace of God in me that accomplished them. I am arrogant.  Yesterday I was seemingly just giving an intellectual clause as part of a larger argument, but in the process I destroyed my listener’s opinion and hurt her deeply.  I am rude–just cut me off in the highway when I’m having a “bad day” and see.  I insist in my own way all the time.  And many times I will ridicule your way in some seemingly polite way.  I am irritable, very easily so.  I am resentful.  I keep a record of wrongs.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I am often horrified at how often I can tell date and time of when something was done “to me”–I crave for the vindication that can come to me for these wrongs perpetrated.  I rejoice at my own wrongdoing all the time.

But here is the thing: I am not what I once was, but I am not yet all that I will one day be by the grace and work of the Spirit of God in my life.

I am more patient and more kind every day, being conformed into the image of Christ.  That’s the part you often get to see and admire and respect.  I am growing in killing envy and boasting.  You often hear me boast in the Lord, and that’s because of His great grace to change my evil heart day by day.  I am not as arrogant as I once was, and you often see that through my sharing of things others wouldn’t share with you.  Again, Jesus changing me day by day.  I am not as rude as He changes me to love you all more and more.  I am not always insisting in my own way, and you perhaps compliment me on my ability to listen and respond with empathy.  That’s all Jesus.  I am not as irritable as I once was.  The same thing!  I am not as resentful.  I have learned more and more ways the Spirit of God empowers me to kill bitterness when it’s still seeds being poured into the ground.  I do not rejoice at obvious wrongdoing, and you often hear me giving commentary at how Jesus can change wrongdoing. Again, not I but the grace of God at work within me! You see me rejoicing in the truth, preaching the truth, pleading with you to see the truth.  Again, not me…

Here is the point I promised: Do you yet see how all that irritates the life out of you in Donald J. is because you are the chief of sinners?  President Trump is just the caricature that God has brought into your life of all your pet sins, those you guard closely, those you know are wrong but refuse to admit them, those you turn into culturally-accepted virtues worthy of cultural praise.

And you keep looking for a deliverer.  And while the Democrats will keep failing to give you one and the Republicans, too, all along you long for the fulfillment of this very text.

It is true–you want love.  You do.  

Turn to Him.

Be the beloved of the Lord.

Judging the Judge

Victor Chininin Buele

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the other end of this big mess. And you have sat in the seat–you have judged the judge, now an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Since I suspect it will take you no time whatsoever to revert back to saying it’s not cool or acceptable to judge, a few words are important to consider.

Why Do You Care So Much?

When allegations like the ones we have heard take place, and when issues that are at the foundation of the religious soul of America (whether the religion of secularism or any other) are brought up, the soul cries out for the truth.  Not just for “her truth” or “his truth” or “my truth” or “your truth.”  When it truly matters, such as in times like today, we can smell the fake from a mile away, and I’m not talking about President Trump’s fake fake.  Deep inside, we know that there is an objective truth, an absolute truth, and our soul won’t rest until the truth is found.

You and I, common folks, will probably never know what actually happened.  But something did happen.

And it bothers us.

Why Is It That You Want So Badly to Protest?

Augustine is famous for having said that our souls are restless until they find rest in God.  We live in a free nation where it’s entirely acceptable for you to exercise your freedom to proclaim that there is no God, that the God of the Bible is a figment of my imagination, or that you can’t quite figure out whether there is a God or not.  We always got along just fine.  But now, people are no longer just disagreeing with one another.  Now, there is an assumption placed on the other person.  And it’s a most terrifying one: I disagree with you, and you are, quite frankly, the scum of the earth, the worst human to ever have lived.  If you believe the opposite I believe about abortion, well, you just want to kill millions of women… If you don’t agree with the same set of moral imperatives we want you to affirm, well, then you are just hateful and should lose everything you’ve got unless you reform, of course.  We no longer listen to understand.  We just want our turn to shout louder.

We want to protest because as the apostle Paul says, we groan inwardly for redemption.  This whole circus went terribly bad.  It was horrible for Dr. Ford.  It was horrible for Justice Kavanaugh.  It is probably fair to say that many were auditioning for their next seat of power in the future, whether dog catcher, senator, aspiring White House occupant, or whatever.

You are mad. I understand.  And you should stay mad.

Why Do I Want You To Stay Mad?

I want you to stay mad because pretty soon, you’ll return to your old ways.  You’ll go back to your echo chamber.  You’ll get distracted with the noise and the sound of the things you use to silence your conscience.

You are desperately broken.  You are mad quite possibly because you’ve been where Dr. Ford reports to have been.  You are mad quite possibly because the thought of you or one of your daughters being in the place where Dr. Ford reports to have been is quite frankly a major source of fear and despair.  You are mad quite possibly because you’ve been the one who has afflicted this kind of pain upon somebody.  You are mad quite possibly because deep down you know that to a lesser degree you are guilty of at least one of the things that have been thrown out there.

But you may also say you are a righteous person, a good human being, trying your best.  And this just shows you the futility of it all, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” said the old writer of Ecclesiastes giving words to your more modern “WTF?”

We Groan.  The Judge Groaned to Death.

So, we are groaning, regardless of your camp. Whether you are willing to camp outside of the Supreme Court crying out for abortion rights to remain or whether you are quietly contemplating how badly this whole thing went.  Whether you are ashamed that this happened or whether you are secretly sighing in relief.  Whether you think this is the biggest victory for the “conservative pro-life” or the destruction of that.

We are groaning.  How does this get any better?

Our legal system is based on the fundamental principle of the assumption of innocence unless somebody is found guilty.  That is a system of grace, of unmerited grace.  The criminal, the terrorist, the rapist, the man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the serial killer, the scapegoat, the innocent man, they all share this–we cannot call you a criminal, a terrorist, a rapist, etc., unless we have proven that beyond reasonable doubt.  That means that sometimes people get away with something…

And here is where I bring you to the gospel.

You are mad because Kavanaugh got away with something.

You are mad because the Democrats got away with something.

I honestly do not know which way it is.  And I’m not going to tell you which side is more persuasive to me because that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.

You get away with sin every day of your life and still live!

We are singing a song at church tomorrow that goes like this:

All who strayed and walked away
Unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain
Let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners
You can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome
The power of the blood
We have all gone astray.  There is not one of us who can stand when we are placed in the  seat waiting our judgment.  And our Judge is more righteous than Chairman Grassley.  We have all sinned.  And we groan because our conscience bears witness of this, and we do not have peace.  We self-medicate.  We occupy ourselves with things to take our minds away from this.  We groan because the stain is deep and obvious, and we want to hide it.  We carry this scarlet letter in our robes, and we try everything possible from Chanel to Walmart’s George brand to try to cover it up.
Our legal system in the United States confronts us with grace.  If God calls the person who’s wronged you the deepest to Himself, and he comes in repentance to ask your forgiveness, would you give it? Can we imagine a redeemed Donald Trump sitting next to a redeemed Brett Kavanaugh sitting next to a redeemed Dr. Ford sitting next to a redeemed me?  The gospel is that powerful!  Paul closes his epistle to the Philippians in a most interesting way: [22] All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.[23] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:22–23 ESV)

Got that?  Let me write it in modern English.  “All the redeemed sinners of this part of the world known as the United States, made holy through the sacrifice of Christ, greet you, especially the Trumps and the Clintons.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

God can change those who are the farthest from Him.

You know you fail the judgement.  Do you want to be free? Do you want to be clean?

This all bothers you because the thing that’s happened confronts you with the fact that you are guilty until made innocent.  And only Jesus can make you clean.  And that’s grace.  You will get away with it because Jesus didn’t.  He took it all–your worst filth, your worst sin–it was all nailed to His cross.

It can only happen when you take off your stained robes and take Christ’s as your own.

Turn to Him and be saved.  Don’t delay.