Finally, this week, the news broke in New York that Congressman Wiener, and a front runner for the post of Mayor of New York had resigned. The pressure had been building steadily since the revelation that he had been guilty of sending sexually suggestive e-mails to a female supporter including one bizarre message that said, " I have my wardrobe demands too, I need to highlight my package". And so ended what had been acknowledged as a promising political career. Sadly, and perhaps appropriately Wiener had few sympathizers as he had disappointed so many of his voters. Also in Jamaica, news broke this week that, the most eagerly anticipated report had exonerated everyone, included our Prime Minister of any wrong doing in the Mannatt - Dudus affair, and which proceedings had captured the interest of the Jamaican public as no other had done before. Expectedly, there was for the most part, great disappointment with the report as the conclusions
" flew in the face" of what people had witnessed on prime time television. And like the Congressman in New York, albeit for entirely different reasons, a very promising politician who came to office with enormous political capital, generated even from those who did not vote for him, it would appear, has lost the confidence and trust of the people. What went wrong? Even if both were to regain power at some time in the future, what could have occasioned this bizarre behavior in one case, and inexplicable action in the other - succumbing to base pleasures in one case and being found guilty by the bar of public opinion of placing the interest of a powerful and notorious supporter, and thus party, over the interest of the nation in another case. What went wrong?
I believe, a seemingly simple, but yet very profound passage of Scripture gives us an insight into human behavior, which explains in large part why the actions of so many of us, all of us, at different times in our lives, result in disappointment, hurt, pain and much trouble for self, family, friends and community. And which explanation goes to the heart of the Christian message: " Repent and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit".
In the New International Version the passage is contained in a section entitled " Judas agrees to betray Jesus" (Luke 22: 1-5) and I began reading it as the next section gives an account of the Last Supper and has within it a verse which has meant a lot to me in my journey with Christ in recent times. " Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.' Luke 22 : 31. But the dramatic verse occurs early on, " Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the twelve". Luke 22: 3 NIV
The point here, is that as we now know, Judas was a thief and used to help himself from the money collected to help the poor as he was the " banker". So long before this final moment came, he had been doing things that made him vulnerable to the wiles of Satan, who we now know according to Scripture " is like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". And the reality is that, like Adam , who for just a moment, just one fatal moment, disobeyed God as the Devil suggested to Eve and himself that perhaps they had " misinterpreted", the command of the Lord God not to eat the fruit of the tree in the garden, we have all been born with that disposition to disobey God. And the only way to escape from this sin, the wages of which lead to death, according to the Bible, is to repent and accept the gift of God, which is the Atonement for sins wrought on the Cross of Calvary by the shed Blood of Jesus the Christ. The reality is that all those who are not " covered by the Blood of Jesus" will fall easy prey to Satan. Satan will enter you and lead you to do all kinds of evil, some of which you cannot even begin to imagine much less dream about. And worse, even the " saved" , if we do not persevere in " dwelling in the secret place of the most high" ( Psalm 91), if we do not remain obedient to God ( Trust and obey as there is no other way to be happy in Jesus...), then we too can fall prey to the evil one, as has happened to high profile members of the Church throughout history and in recent times. In fact it is only by the infinite mercy and compassion of God, both within and outside the church why more scandals and embarrassment has not taken place. Thank God for Jesus.
So how should we treat those who have been held up to public ridicule? With compassion and mercy, not with boasting and triumphalism, and behaving as we are all paragons of virtue, lest we too, fallen creatures that we all are, run afoul of God's mercy. That does not mean that we should not hold our public officials to very high standards of behavior, as we should our entertainers and other " stars" in the society, whose behavior reflect " Satan entering them", but even as we do so let us pray without ceasing for mercy for the new kind of society that Jesus came to inaugurate. A society heralded by that famous passage of Scripture, the familiar KJV of which I quote " Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." 2. Cor. 4: 17.
Mr. Golding and his colleagues in Jamaica, and Mr Wiener in New York will have to give an account before God in the fullness of time for their actions. Also some terrible things have been done in the name of politics and in pursuit of gaining and preserving state power in my country. One of which, the widespread use of the gun which has wreaked so much havoc, has occurred because " Satan entered the minds " of someone or persons to provide these weapons of death for their followers. Equally some terrible things have happened in my country in pursuit of fame and success in the music industry, one of which occurred when " Satan entered the minds" of some persons and helped them to pervert a conscious music, born out of the struggles of the working class and transformed it into something that has corrupted the minds and hearts of our people, especially the young and vulnerable. The same kind of wickedness has affected the body politic of the American society, as repeatedly " Satan has entered the minds of men and women" causing them bring disgrace on their nation and on themselves. All of them will have to give an account to god one day. That's why President Obama, in particular needs our unfailing prayers, so that he may escape the trap set for him by the evil one.
So what is the solution! A reflection by John Stott, about whom I have written before provides a context for this question to be answered this week, as I journeyed with the Lord in reading and in prayer. In Chapter 7 of his Book " Life in Christ" Stott recommends the following. One that we live for Christ as His love compels us. Two that we are obedient to Him as that is His command. Thirdly, that we go on mission to tell others as we are His ambassadors. And fourthly and finally, that we suffer for Christ as He did for all mankind. And thus by living for Christ in these ways we help to bring in the new society and rescue all who have fallen under the rule of Satan. Each of these noble aspiration are grounded in Scripture.
" For Christ' love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them ad was raised from the dead". 2 Cor. 5: 14-15.
Note the reaffirmation of the death of all as occasioned by the sin of Adam, and the the new life of all who have been raised to a new life in Christ.
" If you love me you will obey what I command.....Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will show myself to him.....If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14: 15, 21, 23.
Note the great joy and power available to us ( to resist Satan and other kinds of evil) when we obey Christ. The Father and the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit will abide with us - today in my church we recognize this important theological truth in the celebration of Trinity Sunday.
" So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5: 20-21.
All Christians are then to be on mission for God to tell the story of Christ. A fact which was highlighted today in the sermon on the Triune God today by my pastor. He explained that life is about relationships. And that in Christ the Three parts of the Godhead - Father Son and Holy Spirit became manifest - in order that we may have a relationship with a " very real and present God among us" - the meaning of incarnation - and not a distant God in heaven. So, having had this experience with God in Christ, we are now given a mandate to tell the gospel story. A mandate which is captured well in a hymn he quoted.
We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for men in all the earth;
the gospel of a saviour's name;
we sing his glory, tell his worth.
Tell of his birth at Bethlehem,
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim:
the word made flesh, a light for all.
Tell of his death at Calvary,
hated by those he came to save;
in lonely suffering on the cross
for all he loved, his life he gave.......
" Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. rejoice and be glad......." Matthew 5: 10-12
" Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. " Matthew 24.9.
The reality is that our decision to follow Christ is going to lead to suffering. The intensity of which and the length of time is determined only by God for His purpose and will. The " saving grace" is that suffering that leads to perseverance will in due course bring about holiness and righteousness. And thus like Christ, over whom Satan has no authority, we will be able to live a life protected by the power of the Holy Spirit from the wiles and temptations and evil that Satan produces in those who are unprotected by the Spirit. It does not mean that we will not be subject to the " sifting by Satan", as the Lord allows, but we will be given the grace to persevere. And in that crucible of suffering for Christ, we will become better ambassadors, more obedient, compelled by Christ's love, and willing and able to help Congressmen and Prime Ministers and Ministers of Government, Opposition leaders, other parliamentarians, entertainers, and all others in the society, and even within our own church to resist Satan, who is truly like a roaring lion seeking whom he will. All for the good of our homes, our communities, our nations and for the protection of our own souls from evil.