-extracts by J. Lee Grady.

People didn’t vote in ancient Israel, nor did they put “KICK THE
ROMANS OUT!” bumper stickers on their chariots. But there was
plenty of political anger seething in Palestine, even without Fox
News, CNN and MSNBC around to stir the pot.

Jews especially abhorred tax-collectors, since (1) tax-collectors
were usually thieves, and (2) they worked for the hated Roman
Empire. Yet when a chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus showed
up to hear Jesus preach in Jericho, Jesus did an unlikely thing.
He called Zacchaeus down from his perch in a sycamore tree
and proposed a meeting at his house.

I´m sure the crowd was shocked that a holy rabbi who honored the
Ten Commandments would fraternize with one of Caesar´s cronies.
They probably expected Jesus to give Zacchaeus a stern lecture
on the evils of embezzlement. But the Bible doesn´t say Jesus
talked to him about his fraud or the injustice of Roman occupation.
Their meeting was not about politics.

After one visit with Jesus, the infamous Zacchaeus, who was
“small in stature,” experienced a great big conversion. He repented
of his crimes and pledged to give half his possessions to the poor
(see Luke 19:1-10). Jesus´ act of kindness led to a total heart change.

This was Jesus´ style. He looked beyond race, class, social labels
and sectarian divisions. He was as comfortable talking to prostitutes,
drunkards and condemned criminals as He was to synagogue
officials, high priests and Roman centurions. He looked into men´s
hearts with a piercing laser beam, not so He could judge their sins
but so He could shine the light of His mercy.

And today Jesus calls His followers to love everybody* that way.
*NOTE: “Everybody” includes Democrats, Republicans, bleeding-
heart liberals, Tea Party conservatives, Jesse Jackson, Rush
Limbaugh, left-leaning journalists, right-leaning journalists,
President Obama, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, Paul Ryan – and,
yes, Clint Eastwood!

I´m saying this now (and preaching to myself) because too many
of us are losing our religion in the current presidential campaign –
which promises to grow more divisive before Election Day. It´s not
just political commentators who are screaming at each other like
banshees on Sunday-morning talk shows; Christians are unfriending
each other on Facebook because campaign rhetoric has grown so
hateful. We can´t even eat a chicken sandwich without triggering
a war of words.

I propose we make some attitude adjustments so we can reflect
Christ both during the campaign season and after Nov. 6 –
regardless of whether Obama or Romney wins.

1. Love people regardless of their political views…
How can I be a vessel of Christ´s love if my heart is full of hate?

2. Quit making politicians into gods. At the root of today´s angry
rhetoric is the mistaken idea that politics can solve our moral
problems. Christians in the United States, especially since the
early 1980s, have embraced an unhealthy infatuation with
presidents and political power. We clamor for a King Saul to
save us when God wants us to trust Him alone.

News flash! Ronald Reagan didn´t save us. Neither did Bush
No. 1, Clinton or Bush No. 2. Neither Obama nor Romney will
deliver us. And let´s not forget that the greatest spiritual revival in
this country in the past 100 years occurred during the presidential
terms of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon – one Democrat and
one Republican!…

3. Frame your words with kindness. In our culture it has become
in vogue to be hot-headed. Candidates and commentators throw
vitriolic barbs like grenades, and when the discussion is moved
online, everyone starts dropping F-bombs to prove their point.
There is no such thing today as civil debate. In modern American
politics, we thrust, jab, kick, punch, skewer and impale each other
with our words. And this is equally true of Democrats and Republicans.

There is a higher way for people of faith. The apostle Paul called
us to season our conversation with grace (see Col. 4:6) and to put
on a heart of compassion, kindness and gentleness (see Col. 3:12).
But we can´t express kind words if our hearts are full of judgment,
racial bias, hatred of certain people or organizations, or anger
toward those we disagree with. If you hold judgments in your heart,
they will become like buried mines in a battlefield. When someone
walks near them and pushes your button, you will explode.

We must speak the truth, but we must say it in love. It would be
better for us to keep our mouths shut if we can´t say what Jesus
is saying with His tone of voice.

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