Tomorrow Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States. Much ado has been made of the new President-elect in the last year. He has captured the attention of a nation with his charisma and his message. Many, unhappy with the direction of the country in recent years and finding their financial situations strained, have turned to this new President and the rhetoric of change that he has so convincingly “preached.” Things are bad (or at least we are told). Somebody has to fix it.
Obviously part of the attention Barack Obama has received is due to his color of skin. And for that he is indeed noteworthy. It is a good day in American history in this regard. Slavery and racism are wrong, and while these things will never be completely gone (for these wrongs are rooted in the selfishness of the human heart, which will always be with us), we have taken a positive step forward as a nation. Despite this, and despite my own youth, I cannot remember seeing any President step into office with as much fan fare. Neither have many I have spoken to.
Many have exalted this man as they seek the life they feel they have lost, or quite possibly have never had. He will fix our problems. He will get things back to the way they should be.
What is behind this clamor is an insatiable lust for material gain and financial prosperity. Life is about me. And it’s about me getting as much as I can. America has seen the extravagance of its wealth prove to be less stable than it had thought and it does not like it. And so many are looking for a savior. And they believe they have found him.
Human beings are interesting creatures. It is amazing how easily we can be deceived. Satisfied with so little. C. S. Lewis once said that it is not that our passions are too strong, but that they are too weak. We are too easily satisfied when there is far more to be had. “We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when something greater is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We are convinced that our greatest salvation, our greatest need to be fulfilled, comes in the form of a meaningful romantic relationship. A large house. A stadium full of people chanting our name. Tax relief. These are our most pressing needs. We are consumed with the pursuit of these things. We search for the one/ones who will lead us to them.
We are not the first people to search for such things. Humanity, it would seem, has always been pursuing these ends. It was especially true in the days of Jesus. Jesus was pursued by great crowds, but mostly because he made them well and gave them food to eat (it is estimated that as much as 90 percent of the Jews in Palestine in the first century were deeply impoverished due to Roman taxation). These Jews were indeed looking for a savior, but one that would save them from Rome, not so much from their sin. Ultimately they would have Him crucified because His salvation was not the one that they wanted.
Therefore, let us remember several things as our new President assumes office. First, we have a more pressing need than financial gain and material comfort. Jesus said what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose His soul? Timely words for America. We are desperately in need of salvation, but not from the Bush administration. We have much bigger problems than foreclosure and job security. We are dirty inside and I believe each of us knows it when we lay our heads down on our pillows at night. What about our souls? What about our “badness?” Eternity looms in the distance for each of us. It stalks us. Barack Obama will save no man from their sin. He offers nothing to the one who will soon pass from this life into the next. Only Jesus has a say in what happens from that point on. Questions regarding our standing before God, the question of our eternity, should consume us far more than whether we will be able to afford a new car this year.
Second, our new President is nothing more than a man. He is a civil servant, not a messiah. Will we foolishly put our hopes in a mortal man? Even if it is for such meager things as money and economic prosperity? God is the giver of all things. He also appoints kings and rulers and removes them. They are men, just as the one sworn in tomorrow is.
And thirdly, tomorrow is not a bad day. But it is an important day. And worth reflecting on. May Christians be sober-minded as we move into the coming days and years. Let us not be deceived, for the change we need cannot be delivered by a President. Even the President of the United States. And let us take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world, and is a true and trustworthy Savior.