What Would Jesus Say to... Part 1
What Would Jesus Say to Paul Martin?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 24, 2004

 

(If you’re reading this on the Internet, Paul Martin is the current Prime Minister of Canada)
 

Years ago, there was a joke going around: “If Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark and Ed Broadbent were in a canoe on the McKenzie River and it capsized who would be saved?” The answer of course would be, “Canada.” I suppose we could just change the names and the joke could be recycled today.

It’s been over ten months since Paul Martin succeeded Jean Chrétien to become the 21st Prime Minister of Canada. And what a year it’s been. Martin rode into power on a wave of optimism, all set to fix all that was wrong in this country and in the Liberal Party. Now, ten months later, I’m sure Prime Minister Martin and his advisers are shaking their heads wondering what in the world happened, and where their majority government went. For the first time in 25 years, we have a minority government in Canada. And in recent weeks, there have been a couple of times when this minority government has narrowly avoided a vote of non-confidence which could have meant the collapse of the administration.

But then, that would be no surprise. The average lifespan of a minority government in Canada is only 1 year, 5 months and 27 days. You may recall Joe Clark’s minority government, which lasted a mere six months. According to CTV News, the best guessers are predicting that this government will last 18 months to two years. If that’s true, then get set to see all those campaign signs plastered all over the city again within the next year.

Our country may very well be at critical spot in its history. Over the next six months, 18 months, or five years decisions will be made that will tug at the very moral fibre of our nation. And as God and His values are pushed more and more to the sidelines of society, you and I need to discover where we fit, what our role is, and how we stay true to a Holy God while living in an unholy world.

Let me ask you a question: Regardless of which side you’re on, what are some of the major moral issues that are facing our country right now?

PARTICIPATION

Our country is not just facing moral issues. There’s internal politics, national security, foreign affairs, scandals, and a host of other problems and pressures that demand our Prime Minister’s attention, pressures emerging both from here in Canada and from countries around the world.

So given that reality, it begs the question, “What would the most powerful Being in the entire universe say to the most powerful person in Canada? What would Jesus say to Paul Martin?”

We’re going to take a stab at answering that here this morning. But before we do that, let me start by saying that there are three things we’re not going to do this morning. First, we are not getting into partisan politics. We’ve been very careful to steer clear of the entire party thing here at Sunrise and we’re not going to change that now. We can and have discussed issues, but we’re not going to get into endorsing one party over another. Secondly, we’re not going to second guess Paul Martin’s relationship with God. Martin was brought up in a Catholic home and I understand that church attendance is a priority for him no matter where he might be or what he might be doing. But I’ve never met the man and I don’t expect I ever will. So we are not going to comment on his faith or try and second guess his relationship with God. And the third thing we’re not going to do this morning is spend time critiquing Paul Martin and his policies. You want to discuss politics? We have a place for that. It’s called Tim Horton’s. But we’re not going to do it here this morning.

What I want to do instead is focus in on a few of the many things that Jesus might say to Paul Martin, and on a broader scale to look into the wisdom that is given from the Bible for all of us in positions of influence. Perhaps you’re a leader at work, in the classroom, in the home, in the church, in a community group. I’ve been told that even the most introverted of us will influence at least 10,000 other people in the course of a lifetime. So really there’s a message for each one of us here this morning.

So what would Jesus say to Paul Martin? I think the first thing that Jesus might say comes from the Old Testament, from the book of Psalms. Psalm 78 in particular. This is a very long Psalm… a Psalm that chronicles some of the rebellion of the people of Israel and some of the problems they had through their history. At the very end of the Psalm, though, it talks about King David… a leader that God anointed for Israel and some of his characteristics. And I would think that these would be characteristics that God would want for leaders today as well. So in verse 72 of Psalm 78 we read…

Psalm 78:72 (NLT)
He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.

In the NIV it puts it this way…

Psalm 78:72 (NIV)
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

And so the very first thing that I think Jesus would say to the Prime Minister would be, “Paul, lead with integrity of heart!”

 

What Would Jesus Say to Paul Martin?

 

1. Lead with Integrity of Heart

Integrity. It’s one of those words that we are hearing used more and more. You ever wonder where it comes from? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. It comes from the Latin integritās, which is also the root word for integer. You all remember your junior high school math? Do you remember what an integer is?

Here. You tell me which of these numbers is an integer. (19, ¾, 27.3) If you answered 19, then you answered correctly. An integer is a whole number, 1, 5, 19, 32, 111, 1,324,567. An integer is not written as a fraction like ½ or ¾ or like a decimal such as 27.3. It’s a whole number, not fragmented in any way. So integrity suggests a wholeness, a completeness, a oneness.

Another word that shares the same root is integrated. And so we could say that integrity is when all aspects of your life are integrated. That is, they are all working together as a whole.

You see God wants his people to function as whole people. If you can remember back to the Greatest Sermon in History, you’ll remember that Jesus said…

Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

You can’t serve two masters because if you try to do that your loyalty will be divided… fragmented. So as a Christian, integrity means wholeness… a wholeness between your beliefs and your behaviour, between your creed and your character. A person with integrity has consistency… what he believes is how he acts. What he says is what he will do.

That’s why I have a problem with politicians who say, “I’m a Christian but I don’t let my religious beliefs affect my policies.” Something’s wrong with that picture. A leader of integrity doesn’t talk about how they have a faith but it’s a private faith. In politics the concept of a private faith is very convenient. When their private faith is in line with public policy, they trot it out and show it off. But when they come to an issue that is at odds with their faith, they retreat into the shelter of faith being a private matter.

Faith needs to be personal, but never private.

I don’t want to suggest that leaders need to be standing on rooftops proclaiming their faith or quoting Bible verses every other sentence… not even Jesus did that. But what I am saying is that a faith that’s just a faith in the interior of your heart is a faith that’s too small. If a person takes their belief seriously, then that faith should have an impact on how they live, what they say, and how they act.

And so I think that Jesus would say to Paul Martin and all leaders, “Lead with a heart of integrity. Let there be no inconsistency between you beliefs and your behaviour.”
 

And then, from the same verse in Psalm 78, I’m sure that Jesus would say, “Paul, it’s important to lead with integrity. But it’s equally important to lead with skillful hands.”

 

2. Lead with Skillful Hands

Psalm 78:72 (NIV)
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

If you were to go back into the original language here you would discover that “skillful hands” was a Hebraic euphemism. You know what a Hebraic euphemism is, right? It’s a euphemism in Hebrew. It’s another way of saying something… a figure of speech. In this case, referring to discernment or wisdom.

It was Samuel Johnson who wrote…

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
~ Samuel Johnson

So you need integrity, yes, but you also need knowledge… you need know-how… you need wisdom. Why do leaders need wisdom? Well, first of all it helps us to know when it is legitimate to compromise and when we need to stand firm. Compromise is often seen as a dirty word but it doesn’t have to be. All too often when we think of compromising we think we lose, but it’s also about winning. As a matter of fact, in a perfect compromise everyone wins. Politics has actually been called “the art of compromise.” And that’s never more true than when you’re dealing with a minority government. Often, in order to achieve anything of consequence in politics, there’s got to be a little give and take. “You do this for me and I’ll do that for you.” Wisdom gives us the ability of knowing when to bend and when to stand and say, “no more.”

Our Prime Minister also needs wisdom to govern effectively as a Christian in a pluralistic society. You see, Canada isn’t a theocracy. It’s not governed directly by God or the Bible… it’s governed by a constitution. And even though our country may have been founded on Judaeo-Christian principles, we live in a country made up of people of all different beliefs and backgrounds. So how do Christian values function in a pluralistic society? Well, there are certain principles from the Bible that apply in all cultures at all times and should be enforced by law. Things like a respect for the sanctity of human life… “Thou shalt not murder.” That’s a non-negotiable. It’s a law in Canada and should be.

But there are other things that the Bible calls sin that aren’t against the law… that in a pluralistic society you can’t directly outlaw and send people to prison for. Think about adultery… martial unfaithfulness. The Bible calls that a sin, but can we send people to jail for it? How about honouring your father and mother? If disobeying that was a criminal offense, I’d be serving a life sentence. What about private consensual homosexual behaviour? The Bible says it’s wrong, calls it a sin against God, I’ve preached against it, and it’s clearly condemned as inappropriate, but should we prosecute people in a pluralistic society for private consensual homosexual behaviour? Gets a little tougher, doesn’t it? Where do you draw the line? And make no mistake, there are lines that need to be drawn. But where do they need to be drawn? That’s where discernment and wisdom comes in.

A Christian leader also needs to know when to stand up and say, “Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it right, doesn’t mean it’s moral, doesn’t mean it’s desirable, doesn’t mean our society should embrace it, promote it, or give special privileges to it. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

And wisdom comes in handy when you have two opposing moral views colliding. Happens everyday in Ottawa, the Legislature and City Hall. You see, it isn’t always a great good versus a horrible evil. As a matter of fact, in life it is very seldom that clear cut.

For example, I think we would all agree that it’s a good thing to pay down the deficit. No one would argue with that, but what if it means you also loss some jobs? how do you find the balance? If you could balance the budget with the loss of one job would that be good? Probably not to the person who lost the one job. How about with the loss of 10 jobs? 100 jobs? How about 1000 jobs? Where do you draw the line?

How about embryonic stem-cell research? Advances in medical science are good and can benefit thousands of people, but is it right to destroy life to save life? And in a country where abortion is legal and even government sponsored, where as a leader do you take a stand? It’s tough being in charge, isn’t it?

Earlier I spoke about the issue of consensual homosexual activity. How do you balance respect for people with the fact that the Bible condemns their behaviour? Plus, hatred is wrong, whether it directed at homosexuals or heterosexuals. And so we struggle with the morality of “love your neighbour” and all that implies, along with the fact that God’s Word condemns homosexual behaviour. In that same way, by the way, that it condemns heterosexual behaviour outside of marriage.

And so I’m sure that Jesus would say to the Prime Minister, “Paul, it’s not enough to lead with integrity. That’s a start, but as important as that is, you must also lead with wisdom.” And probably Paul Martin would ask the same question that most of us would… “Ok, how do I do that? Where do I get that kind of wisdom?” James tells us. Read this with me…

James 1:5 (NLT)
If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.
 

Number three. I think the third thing that Jesus might say to Paul Martin is, “Paul, listen to My voice.”

 

3. Listen to My Voice

Jeremiah 7:23 (CEV)
“If you listen to me and do what I tell you, I will be your God, you will be my people, and all will go well for you.”

I’m sure Jesus would tell the Prime Minister, “Paul, listen for me above the clamour of the crowd.” Leaders are being barraged constantly by the voice of the people which in a democracy needs to be listened to, and by lobbyists who to a certain degree need to be listened to as well. But if we are going to lead with a heart of integrity and wisdom we need to keep our ears attuned to God and what He is saying to us.

Anyone watch The West Wing this week? After a terrorist attack, everyone wanted President Bartlett to order a retaliatory attack against Iran. The public, the Congress, the military, his staff, even his Chief of Staff was pressuring him to order the attack. Problem was, there was no evidence linking Iran to the terrorist attack. So despite the fact that virtually everyone was pushing for him to retaliate, he wisely held back.

The danger of listening to the lobbyists or the crowd is demonstrated in an ugly incident recorded in the New Testament. It involved a man named Pontius Pilate, who was the governor of Judea. And into his neatly ordered world came some lobbyists looking for a favour. They were leaders of the established religion, and the favour they wanted was to have Jesus killed. He was rocking the boat and they wanted Him stopped.

Now, Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong, and he told the people that on three different occasions in the book of John. But then to the voice of the lobbyists was added the voice of the crowd. And they clamoured for the crucifixion of Christ.

So now Pilate had to decide, should he follow his conscience or should he follow the dictates of the crowd? Maybe he should have read Harper Lee, but then again Lee wouldn’t be born for another 1900 years. But if Pilate could have looked ahead, he would have discovered that Lee said…

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
~ Harper Lee

If Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, what went wrong? How did Jesus end up on the cross? Jesus ended up on the cross because Pilate listened to the wrong voice. He listened to the combined voice of the crowd and lobbyists instead of listening to the voice of Jesus.

The Crowd spoke and the lobbyist spoke, and then Jesus spoke. And He said…

John 18:37 (CEV)
“…everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.”

And Pilate’s response was so cynical. He just looked at Jesus and said, “what is truth?” And with a wave of his hand he had Jesus killed. Or more accurately, with the washing of his hands he symbolically said, “I’m personally opposed to killing Jesus, It’s my private belief that he’s done nothing wrong, but the majority has spoken. So let them have their way.” So he let the roar of the crowd and the whining of the lobbyists drown out the voice of truth that was coming from God.

Often leaders will use the will of the people as an excuse for doing something they know they shouldn’t do. You often hear political statements beginning with the phrase, “the majority of Canadians feel…” So what? Even if the majority does feel a certain way, does that make it right? So Jesus might say to Paul Martin, “Paul, go ahead and listen to the crowd… hear their views and check out opinion polls. They can and should influence your decisions… sometimes. But when I speak, listen. When I lead, follow. When it comes to issues of truth and morality, of right and wrong, then only one voice matters… Mine.”

How do you stay in communication with God? Not just by being a churchgoer, but by having a relationship with God… a personal living relationship that keeps you in communication with the King of the universe. Not just by reading the Bible, but by having it shape your worldview. And by going to God and asking him to lead you.

Psalm 95:6-7 (NLT)
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!
 

I think one more thing that Jesus just might say to Paul Martin as a way of encouraging him is, “Paul, remember you are being prayed for.”

 

4. Remember You Are Being Prayed For

“Paul, there is something you need to know about… something you need to be aware of. And that is that all over this country I have asked my people to pray for you. My people are praying for you, Paul. All over this country they are on their knees and they are praying for you, for your family, for your cabinet and for this country. Paul, I have told… no, I have commanded my people to pray for you.”

That’s something Jesus might tell Paul Martin. How do I know that? Because of what His Word says.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT)
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God's mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

1 Peter 2:13-14, 17 (NLT)
For the Lord's sake, accept all authority—the king as head of state, and the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish all who do wrong and to honor those who do right…
Fear God. Show respect for the king.

Want more? Check out Romans 13…

Romans 13:1 (NLT)
Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God.

You and I are told to respect, honour and pray for the authorities that rule over us. All believers are to do that. And there are lots who are doing that. There are Christians who support the Liberal party who are praying for Paul Martin, and there are Christians who support the Conservative Party and the NDP and the Bloc who are praying for him as well.

Praying for our governing officials is not a partisan issue and it does not depend on who you voted for last summer. And it doesn’t even matter if you agree with everything they say or do. Pray for your leaders. That is our responsibility as believers. To pray… not only for Paul Martin, but also for Pat Binns, Shawn Murphy, Clifford Lee, Members of the Legislative Assembly, city councillors, and whoever else is in a position of authority in our government.

So cut back on the criticism, stop the character assassination, and learn to pray for and support your leaders. Now, that does not mean a blind allegiance. It does not mean that we can’t state our disapproval. It does not mean that we support them and obey them no matter what. When laws or policies are in direct conflict with the Word of God, then your allegiance is clear. As Peter and the other disciples had to tell the authorities who were trying to stop them from preaching…

Acts 5:29 (NLT)
“We must obey God rather than human authority.”

But even when you disagree with your leaders and can’t condone or comply with their decrees, you should still pray for them. Not against them, but for them. Pray for the power and presence of God to be realized in their lives, pray that God will soften their hearts and make them sensitive to His promptings, and pray for their personal needs for faith, security, trustworthy advisors, and for the health and welfare of their families.

Can you do that? Will you agree this morning to pray for your leaders? Will you do it on a regular basis? Maybe daily, maybe weekly, maybe monthly? Will you commit yourself to praying for them? If you will do that this morning in obedience to the Word of God, then this is what I want you to do…

I brought with me this morning five letters: one to Prime Minister Paul Martin, one to Premier Pat Binns, one to MP Shawn Murphy, one to Senator Percy Downe, and one to Mayor Clifford Lee. If you will commit to praying for them, then I want you to sign your name at the bottom of each letter. And then I’m going to mail it to them. Because if Jesus would tell them that His people are praying for them, and if we are His voice in the world today, then we need to tell them we are praying for them.

 

 

 

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