News reports out of Washington, D. C. today are recounting the sad story of the death of Christopher Barry, the 36-year-old son of the late former D. C. mayor, Marion Barry. It is just another reminder that politicians face the same day-to-day responsibilities you and I do, like parenting. But unlike us, they have to face them in a fish bowl with 24/7 media coverage.

barry

Christopher Barry

The reports are saying that Christopher Barry died of a drug overdose. His father, Marion, who died in 2014, struggled with drugs also, even spending some time in federal prison for drug possession. Legal problems dogged Marion Barry in his time as mayor and councilman, with charges ranging from tax evasion to perjury to unpaid speeding and parking tickets. My point is not to speculate on the spiritual condition of either of these men, but simply to say that children watch parents and when there is an unstable role model, the results can be catastrophic. We should all stop to pray for comfort for the Barry family.

The Bible isn’t without stories of governmental leaders who failed in the area of parenting. Kings David and Solomon are well-known examples of domestic disasters, so much so that the nation of Israel was divided in half by the time Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, reigned. But one example that may not come to mind as quickly came 300 years after David: King Manassah and his son, Amon.

2 Chronicles 33 tells the story of the beginning of Manassah’s administration. He did evil early on, refusing to listen to the Lord, but came to a crossroads when he was carried away to Babylon in chains by the king of Assyria. Then a switch occurred:

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. 2 Chronicles 33:12, 13

Manassah’s son Amon watched all this. Manassah ruled for over 50 years leaving a negative, then a positive model. When he died, his son chose which one to follow.

And he [Amon] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred guilt more and more. And his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his house. 2 Chronicles 33:22-24

As you pray for those in authority, pray for their home life. Pray they will exhibit the humility Manassah did, early and often, so that their children will receive the good influences of God-infused priorities. Pray that they will understand the importance of the legacy they will leave for their children and that their children will choose paths that honor God, not lead to the tragedy of self-destruction.

frustrated guyA frustrated friend and I were speaking not long ago about influence. Specifically, his influence (or lack thereof). He tried to convey how impotent he feels in the current culture to bring about any real change to his world. It’s a world that is increasingly headed in direct opposition to his beliefs and he wondered out loud, “What can one person do? What platform do I really have?”

He’s not the first to feel this way or ask those same questions. Even the Psalmist said, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)  For centuries well-meaning people have looked around themselves, despairing at the condition of society and their inability to change it.

I tried to encourage him the best I could but have taken a few days to think more about his statement. Then I came across these words from Solomon, no lightweight when it came to wisdom:

I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

The “powerless” person in this tale had the true power and teaches us several key lessons:

1)  Wisdom is required – In a world devoid of true wisdom, the Word of God is still the source of answers for what plagues our culture or any other. The keys, then, are to know it, apply it, share it and spread it.

2)  We all have a platform – No one is entirely without influence regardless of our situation or how powerless one may feel. Size of the platform is irrelevant; seizing the available opportunities is what counts.

3)  The platform may seem insignificant – Wisdom, while never powerless, could appear like small weapon but still overshadows public boasting of a foolish ruler. This passage says the audience of wisdom “heard in quiet” is better off because of the content of the message, not the size of the crowd.

4)  Start with your sphere – What do you think this poor, wise man did? I doubt if he took to the local airwaves to get his wise message out. Did he organize a community to deliver the city? With his connections? I doubt it. He probably had a very small circle of listeners, but somehow his wisdom caught fire and the city was eventually saved from the siege.

Who is in your sphere of influence? Thousands or a handful? Friends? Children? Grandchildren? Your wisdom passed along by your life and words can take hold in them and inflame their hearts to do the same thing as they gain wisdom. You are not without a platform.

5) Prepare for obscurity – Maybe we’ve watched Braveheart once too often then bemoaned the fact we aren’t all clones of William Wallace. Our heroes are the william wallaceones who get things done in a major, sweeping way. They are hailed, revered, famous. When they die there are processions, ceremonies, monuments. We don’t naturally default to peaceful, patient wisdom as a solution to oppression, but Solomon says it carries the day against foolishness – and we live in a world awash in foolishness. If you have to be stroked or feel gratified about getting the credit, learn to embrace disappointment.

It’s past time to stop decrying the voluminous foolishness in our world and start addressing the dearth of God’s wisdom.

Huge, loud problems met with huge, quiet solutions. What would happen if followers of Jesus spread wisdom this way? The sooner we accept God’s (seemingly) backwards plan and act on it, the better we all will be.

So get wise, identify that platform and save the city.

 

After a culmination of years of investigation and controversy, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York faced the judgement of his colleagues this week.  For the first time in almost 30 years, a censure was read on the House floor, this time against Rangel for several areas of ethical misconduct.  It was a reminder to our nation that there are powerful people in our government who are not above the temptations of corruption.  For followers of Jesus Christ in 21st-century America, however, it should serve as a reminder of a different kind.

As Rangel addressed the chamber on the day of his censure, he spoke a few words of truth, found in this quote: “Even though it is painful to accept this vote … I know in my heart I’m going to be judged not by this Congress but by my life, my activities, my contributions to society.”

Obviously, Rangel was referring to the judgement of his legacy as a congressman.  When all is said and done, he believes what will last will be his service over 40 years in the House, not just a censure near the end of his career.  No one can say whether that is true, but the words that he said that are definitely true in the ultimate sense are: “I’m going to be judged not by this Congress…”.

Ministry from the church to its governmental leaders is needed for this very purpose.  There will be a day of judgement on our lives, but the criteria will not be our work, motives, intent, goodness or altruism.   That day is surely coming for all of us, according to the Scripture:

“it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”  Hebrews 9:27

“For it is written, AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”     Romans 14:11, 12

It’s another of the many reasons we should pray for those who lead us.  In some respects, they are just like you and me, dealing with life’s everyday frustrations, joys and even tragedies.  But in another sense, the life of a politician contains a dizzying spectrum of the best the world can promise – pleasure, money, power, prestige – far beyond what the average citizen could be tempted with.  Pray for a spiritual heart change for leaders, that their priorities would reflect God’s.  Any other path is wide open to devastate marriages and produce all kinds of destructive corruption.