I always dreaded student council election time in high school. Everyone made such a big fuss over a relatively pointless institution. I know, I am being very negative and cynical. But, really, did your high school student council ever completely overhaul school policies and culture in such a way that they made a lasting, positive impact? I remember one presidential candidate who won on the platform of the promise of a new pop machine in the lunch room. It didn’t hurt that he was also a popular athlete.
We never saw the pop machine.
Of course the same thing happens at higher levels of government. Many politicians have made names for themselves by making promises they can’t or never intend to keep. Or maybe I am judging too quickly. Maybe they always intended to keep them until they discovered the difficulty or danger to their careers, and so they changed their minds. Whatever the case, politics has become a bitter subject for many people. However, kingdom politics are meant to be different.
We are all politicians. We do our best to influence one another, to push our agendas (whether selfish or otherwise), to sway the public’s opinion of us. When we encounter people we generally want them to like us, so we smile, and exchange pleasantries, and do our best to keep up our images. This is especially obvious when we encounter people we view as difficult, inconvenient, or just plain annoying. We will do everything we can to limit contact with such people while making sure they don’t know we are trying to limit contact with them. And when we really want to say, “No,” but we don’t want to hurt feelings or collect glares and frowns, we give answers that sound like, “Yes,” or, “Very likely,” but really are intended to leave ourselves a way out.
But, Jesus invites us to try a different style of politics:
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)
By this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been addressing some of God’s laws that the people had twisted and abused. In this case they took a law that said that any oath made to God must be kept, and they found a way around it by coming up with all sorts of oaths that sounded solid, vows to heaven, or Jerusalem, or the earth, but were intended to leave the oath-maker a way out. And Jesus tells them plainly that this is evil.
Thinking about Jesus’ teachings here is not pleasant. When I think about answers I’ve given, answers intended to keep the questioner from thinking poorly of me, but designed to be a “no” in a “yes” disguise, I feel pretty guilty. When I think of broken promises and flat out lies, I feel very guilty. It’s easy to justify my answers, and claim that I am just looking out for the other person by not hurting their feelings. But, then, Jesus leaves little room for doubt when He tells me to say “Yes” or “No” and mean it.
As much as I get aggravated with sneaky politics, broken promises, and misleading statements, you’d think I’d have learned by now to avoid them in my own life. But I haven’t. Lord, help me to be more honest.