At age 19, Augustine Aurelius – later to be known as Augustine of Hippo – read a dialogue by the Roman philosopher Cicero in which Cicero stated that every person sets out to be happy, but the majority are thoroughly wretched. Truly, no one dreams as a child of one day growing up to be miserable, and yet many people’s lives are characterized by conflict, frustration and unfulfilled longings.
Augustine set out to discover why it is that most people are so discontented in life. His conclusion was that for most of us, our lives are “out of order”; we have disordered loves. Sin, Augustine said, is ultimately a lack of love, either for God or for your neighbor. He famously stated that “The essence of sin is disordered love.”
Disordered loves means that we often love less important things more, and more-important things less than we ought to, and this wrong prioritization leads to unhappiness and disorder in our lives.
This is essentially what James says in his epistle:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1-3)
James is saying that what makes people miserable is not their circumstances, but that they are chasing after the wrong things, for the wrong reasons. The things they love are out of order.
So, what does this have to do with politics and finance?
If you ask almost any Christian who, or what they love most, their first answer will likely be “God,” or “Jesus.” (You can’t go wrong with that answer!) However, the best indicator a persons greatest love is the thing they are most passionate about, or talk about most often.
In other words, if Jesus and the things of God are the things a person talks about most often and most passionately, then you can be sure those are his/her true loves. However, if the things they talk about most often and with greatest passion are money, golf, politics, complaints about government infringements on their personal freedom, and the complaints about the economy then you have your answer. Yes those are important things. That is not the point. But those cannot be the most important things for true followers of Jesus. If they are they may be disordered loves, or other gods.”
The Christian highest allegiance is to God and others which has to include their salvation. Evangelicals are supposed to be focused on evangelism. However, as Pastor Andy Stanley said in a recent podcast, “Evangelicals appear to be more passionate about Saving America than about seeing Americans get saved.”
Yes, we should be concerned about injustice. But injustice for others first, not first for ourselves. Yes, we should be concerned about the economy and finances but primarily for how they affect the poor, not just how they affect us. Yes, we should be passionate about immigration, especially how it affects immigrants, the poorest of the poor, not primarily how it affects us personally. Yes, we need to control our borders. I actually believe we need some form of a wall to do that. But there isn’t one of us who if our family was living in poverty and fear would not want something better for our families and do whatever it takes for them to obtain it. As Christians we should be advocates for sensible, compassionate immigration policies. That doesn't mean everyone who wants to come to the U.S. should get in. But anyone who has seen videos of hundreds of families living under a bridge in 90 degree heat cannot tell me our nation cannot do better.
When I turned 65 I got Medicare, like all of my Christian friends who said they're all against “government paid healthcare, “ until they got it! Do you mean the richest country on earth cannot afford good healthcare for everyone? Hear me out, I’m not advocating for socialized medicine. Medicare and Medicaid isn’t. But people who claim to love others more than themselves need to be vocal advocates for better healthcare for others, even if it means cutting some of our own benefits we more privileged enjoy.
I once facilitated a discussion at a large local law firm on ethics with Christian attorneys. I pushed back on one lawyer’s thoughts and he responded, “The law gives me the right to do that!” My response back was this. “Yes the law gives you the right to do all kinds of things that a Christian shouldn’t do. The law informs us of our rights. But love informs us of what we ought to do.“ American Christians ought to think more about what rights we can give up for others than keep for ourselves as long as it does not violate a clear teaching of the Bible.
I’ve been asked a hundred times what can be done to help make America a more civil society. My answer is always the same. Each of us must demonstrate by our words and actions that we love God and love others more than ourselves, whether those who oppose us do or not. That’s not only the essence of Christianity, it’s what it means to be a true patriot. That is ordered love!