The donkey, the elephant, and the Lamb
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
What story are we telling?
It’s been said “a picture's worth a thousand words.” Considering all the noisy, incessant, dissonant political postings that have swept across our social media feeds the last several years, I'd say these pictures are worth far more than that.
I call this The Bloodbath, and it’s what I’m most used to seeing. Donkey and Elephant Christians walking away from the Lamb of God they claim to follow, bloodied and wounded. Because when we war, all we leave with is our wounds.
Because when we war, all we leave with is our wounds.
But what’s so fascinating to me about these images, though, is how simply rearranging them a little differently yields an altogether different story.
Now listen to what story this variation is telling:
What if, in the wounds of Christ, we could find healing for our wounds—and not only for our wounds, but for the wounds of the whole world—as we heed the words of the One who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened; I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Why is it that, as those who name and claim Jesus as Lord, we find our politics so utterly divisive?
Tim Keller offers helpful insight into this question by commenting on scholarly work by Kansas City born & bred historian Larry Hurtado. He writes: “The Early Church Christian social project was a unique kind of human community that defies categories. It had at least five elements: 1 - Sanctity of Life - strongly & practically against abortion & infanticide 2 - Sanctity of Marriage - revolutionary regarding the ethics of sex 3 - Concern for the poor/marginalized/including refugees & noncitizens 4 - Equality - Multi-racial and multi-ethnic 5 - Radical Grace and Forgiveness Each of the five elements,” Keller says, "are there because Christians sought to submit to biblical authority. They are all commanded. They are just as category-defying and both offensive and attractive today. The first two views (abortion & sexual ethics) sound “conservative” and the next two (caring for the poor & equality) sound 'liberal,' but the final element, of course, sounds like no particular party. Churches today are under enormous pressure to jettison the first two or the next two, but to not keep them all. Yet to give up any of them would make Christianity the handmaid of a particular political program and undermine a missionary encounter.”
Now we can agree or disagree as to what the government’s role needs to be in legislation in each of these five areas—and the answer to that question probably indicates where you land politically—but the point is: all five are marks of what it means for Jesus to be Lord in our lives. Ultimately, our faithfulness is neither pledged to a donkey nor an elephant, but to the Lamb of God slain for us.
So if you’ve ever wondered how to engage politically without losing your faith, here are three helpful principles to consider: 1. Recognize: no one political party completely captures all the causes of Christ. 2. Therefore, realize: Christians will be all over the political spectrum. 3. What’s our response? Offer grace to all (because to neglect to do so is to miss the 5th marker of being a people marked by radical grace and forgiveness!)
Can you imagine what could happen if Elephant and Donkey Christians chose to unite as people of the Lamb? What if these five marks became our marks once more? No longer an either/or but a both/and, wrapped in the kind of radical grace and love that covers a multitude of sins and shows there’s room for us all at the foot of the cross?
It changed the world before.
Couldn’t it change the world again?
Because here’s what I’ve found:
When you decide to follow Jesus, you quickly discover that being Conservative isn't conservative enough and being Liberal isn't liberal enough. The answer isn't to find some happy middle ground, but to live with such an extreme love for God and neighbor that it breaks out of the conventional system. This world can't categorize you when you're the citizen of another.
This world can't categorize you when you're the citizen of another.
We’re all telling a story. So, which story will it be? May it be none other than the story of the Lamb.