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Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Marry. Cry. Rejoice. Buy.

And do politics as though you were not doing politics

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

Politics is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as though not doing it. Here is a strange text:

The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

This sounds bizarre. First it says: Don't flee the world. Marry. Cry. Rejoice. Buy. Deal. But then: Do it all as if you weren't doing it. So with politics. How does this work?

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"Let those who have wives live as though they had none." If she is exquisitely desirable, beware of desiring her more than Christ. If she is deeply disappointing, beware of being hurt too much. This is temporary-only a brief lifetime. Then comes the never-disappointing life. Marriage-good or bad-is for making much of Christ.

So it is with politics. Its outcomes are not our greatest joy when they go our way, and not demoralizing when they don't. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.

Let those who mourn do so as though they were not mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the truth that for Christians the best is always yet to come. Always. The Lord gives and takes away. But He remains. And we remain hopeful in our mourning.

So it is with politics. We win or lose. Either way our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. In the long run Jesus wins.

Let those who rejoice do so as though they were not rejoicing. Christians rejoice in a thousand created things. But none of them satisfies the soul. Even the surest sights of glory now are in a mirror dimly. Such delights will soon be as though they were not. They will be replaced by a vastly better joy.

So it is with politics. There may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived and shot through with imperfection.

Let those who buy do it as though they had no goods. Christians earn, give, spend, and buy. But our treasure is in heaven. Car, house, books, computers, heirlooms-we possess them with a loose grip. If they are taken away, we feel that in a sense we did not have them. We are not here to possess the world. We are here to show, by how we use the world, that Christ is more precious than the world.

So it is with politics. It does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.

Let those who deal with the world do it as though they had no dealings with it. Yes, we deal with the world. But there are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. The full passions of our heart are attached to something greater-God and His purposes. We will inherit the world soon enough. For now we deal with it to show that Christ, not the world, is our treasure.

So it is with politics. We deal with the system, the news, the candidates, the issues, the outcomes. But they are not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over His people with perfect supremacy after every election and after the vanishing of every nation.

So we do not revel or retreat. Our reward is in heaven. Our comforts are great. Our task is clear. Make much of Christ, not Caesar.

John Piper
John Piper

John is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.

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