Presidential debates are fascinating, aren’t they? The aspects that intrigue me the most are that generally, as in this election, the candidates are professing Christians. Not only are they professing Christians, but they possess vast amounts of wealth and are attempting to become arguably the most powerful person in the world.
Jesus often had many challenging things to say to the wealthy and powerful people He encountered, so it’s rather interesting to see how these professing Christians live out their professed faith in situations where the stakes are so high. Yes, I realize I keep using the word ‘professing’. Surely people with the unquenchable ambition to be the leader of the free world wouldn’t lie about their beliefs just to get votes, would they? Would they?
It’s strange, I remember George W. Bush being touted as a strong evangelical when he was first running for office. During his presidency, I remember a book of his receiving enormous publicity in certain mainline Christian stores. However, I also recall him in 2004 saying in an interview with Charles Gibson that he believed sincere Muslims and Christians both pray to the same God and will both go to heaven. He never talked like that on the campaign trail in 2000.
So how can we know the truth, especially in an age like ours when deceit is at an all time high? Jesus calls us to the fruit test.
“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” – Luke 6:43-45
Whenever I’ve discussed this passage with others, a question seems to usually arise as to what ‘good fruit’ actually looks like. Ignatius, who was the Bishop of Antioch and a personal disciple of John the Apostle in the late first and early second century, made a simple, yet profound comment on the question at hand.
The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognized by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end. … Let us therefore do all things as those who have Him dwelling in us, that we may be His temples, and He may be in us as our God, which indeed He is, and will manifest Himself before our faces. – Ignatius 105CE, Volume 1, p. 92-93 [CD-ROM]
According to Ignatius, our fruit is synonymous with our conduct. According to Ignatius, good fruit must be fruit that perseveres to the end. According to Ignatius, good fruit is an outflow of a good tree. If we are truly part of the Jesus tree, than our lives should bear His resemblance in our daily interactions.
The coming election has propped up two candidates who claim affiliation with Jesus, yet in conversations I’ve had about the first debate, the winner seemed to be determined by which one seemed less evil. “__________ may be the great whore of Babylon.” “Yeah, well _________ may be the Antichrist.” And of course, it's possible that those designations could be true.
It’s been said that when we’re bumped we spill what we’re filled with. During the debate, we witnessed two professing Christians being repeatedly bumped and spilling gallons of poison into the audience and our living rooms. Unfortunately, similar copycat spills are being committed by their followers with every passing day.
So what are you filled with? In this heated political season, when you’re bumped, what spills out of you? Is it healthy or poisonous?
If what spills is poisonous, if the fruit is rotten, then perhaps we should evaluate where our trust is actually placed. Does God or government have our hearts?
It is so tempting to put our confidence in government. After all, it seems like the most pragmatic thing to do. However, even the best worldly governments in their best days bear little resemblance to the kingdom of heaven. So as things get less and less godly in the weeks ahead, may we heed the wise counsel of the psalmist: