In Together in Christ, Erskine Wright shares this story: “Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the Depression, and he was quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the children.
At any rate, one bitter cold winter’s night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.
She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. “My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor,” he said. “She’s got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson.”
The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you,” he said. “The law makes no exception – ten dollars or ten days in jail.”
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. “Here is the woman’s fine,” he said, “and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”
The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen – and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they handed over their money.
That’s how it will be with God’s world. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, and goodness and mercy shall never win, the Great Judge will come to set things right, deciding for the hungry and the meek of the earth.
The following was selected and somewhat adapted from an anonymous source...
Preaching and politics tend toward the toxic when we fall prey to the idea that somehow political parties, powerful personalities and various changes in public policy can become sanctified delivery mechanisms for ultimate hope. Yes, “there comes a time” when we must speak up—and out. But we must never forget that our best efforts are spent using spiritual weapons.
Like Sean Connery’s mockery in the movie “The Untouchables,” about how dumb it was for an enemy to bring a knife to a gunfight, when we fail to show up in the church or marketplace of ideas with anything less than the Word of God, we will be ineffectual and frustrated.
Paul reminded Timothy that we must pray for leaders—all those in authority—but not because they are the most effective agents for cultural change. Instead he said that the focus and motivation for such “political” praying was “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (I Timothy 2:2). In other words, “May God bless and keep the Tsar … far away from us!”
The stubborn strongholds of this world—political or otherwise—cannot be effectively countered by merely human methods and power: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3-4).
It may be that 2016 is one of those moments when “there comes a time…” for preachers to step out of the pocket and scramble a bit, but we must never lose sight of the line of scrimmage, not to mention the ultimate glorious goal line.
- selected and adapted
1. Don’t look at anything that draws you away from obeying God. “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:9).
2. Don’t look at worthless things. “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way” (Psalm 119:37).
3. Don’t look at the world’s attractions. “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
4. Don’t look at the dark side of life. “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).
5. Don’t look away from the path God has for you. “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you” (Proverbs 4:25).
“Ships are not made for the harbor. They are made to set sail.” This quote from an article I read some time ago really struck me when it was connected with an obscure Old Testament passage by the author – 1 Kings 22:48. Jehoshaphat was a king in Judah, and a pretty good one (1 Kings 22:43), and that is really saying something! There were not many good kings at all. However, the episode narrarated in verse 48 is not a highlight of his reign, and reflects most likely a great economic disaster for Judah, and a terrible embarrassment for the king. One of those things that stains a politician’s legacy.
Verse 48 says, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” Ezion-geber was a port harbor for the nation of Judah. Earlier, King Solomon has followed this trade policy, apparently with great success (1 Kings 9:26-28). King Jehoshaphat, however, sees his policy go up in flames.
One wonders why those ships were stuck in the port at Ezion-geber. Aren’t ships made for the seas, not for the ports? As you read the text, it sounds like bureauocratic malfeasance and delay led to a terrible disaster that reflected poorly on an otherwise good king.
I wonder if there is not a spiritual lesson here for us? Are any of our plans and dreams stuck in port, stranded in the harbor, awaiting our oks and our release – our bon voyage? Dreams are great. Plans are necessary. But we need to keep in mind that ships are made for sailing, not sitting. The longer our hopes and dreams sit, the more likely they are to be wrecked. Remember that we serve a God who can do much more than we even imagine – so just how long ought we to wait? Could we miss out on the move of God in our lives? It is certainly a possibility.
Always remember Paul’s words of prayer – Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
John Stonestreet writes; "Between 1986 and 1991, Adriaan Vlok served as South Africa's Apartheid-era Minister of Law and Order and also sat on South Africa's State Security Council. Vlok was behind many of the regime's most repressive and drastic measures: hit squads, bombings and assassinations of anti-apartheid activists. The regime was desperate to stay in power in the wake of growing unrest at home and near-universal condemnation abroad.
"All of which makes Vlok's post-apartheid story all the more remarkable.
"On Aug. 1, 2006, he entered his old workplace in Pretoria and asked to see Frank Chikane, a minister and former anti-apartheid activist who was now serving in the government. As Eve Fairbanks tells readers in the New Republic, Vlok and Chikane had some history: Vlok tried to assassinate Chikane by lacing his underwear with paraoxon, a potent insecticide. As comical as that sounds, the effects were no joke: Chikane survived only after advanced medical treatment in the United States.
"Why did Vlok want to see Chikane that day? Well, to ask forgiveness. Quaking as he stood before the man he tried to kill, he read from something he'd written on the front of his Bible: 'I have sinned against the Lord and against you! Will you forgive me?'
"He then pulled a bowl out of his briefcase and asked if he could wash Chikane's feet.
"A startled Chikane said yes, and Vlok proceeded to wash his feet. As Fairbanks put it, 'both men dissolved into tears.'
"It shouldn't surprise you to learn that Vlok had had a powerful conversion experience…Reading his story, what comes to mind is that it's the kind of turnaround that only Christianity can produce. It's a story about repentance, forgiveness, humbling oneself and ultimately restoration of what was broken. Yes, forgiveness figures in other religions, too, but Christianity uniquely marries forgiveness to restoration and newness of life…
"Fairbanks writes that Vlok's 'transformation has been so complete, it seems almost too good to be true'... For those who know Jesus, it's not too good to be true. It's what His Gospel is all about."