On November 5 2008, history was made. A black/mixed race man is now the leader of a country known historically for racial problems.
As a Christian, what is our response to Barack Obama? What does his election mean for the church worldwide?
I can only give my own personal response.
The great thing about Barack Obama is that he inspired hope, belief and confidence in people from all over the world that we can be better. That life can be better. That we are capable of more and our culture is capable of being re-defined. That anything is possible. That even in difficult times, there is hope. I believe Barack Obama can bring radical change to America and indeed to the world.
The fact that so many people supproted him from all over the world, and so many Americans voted for him, gives me hope that the people of the world still have hope within them. That we haven’t given up. That people are still looking for something better to take them out of the wilderness.
That should be a great encouragement to the church.
What it says to me is that the church can change the world, if only we change to what Jesus intended us to be.
A movement, not a religion.
A way of life, not a set of rules.
United behind common values instead of divided over ones which aren’t as important.
Communicating that message without cheese, without legalism, without jargon, in a relevant, contempary, fresh and creative way.
Above all, rather than just talking about it, living it. Making it real and authentic.
What values do we believe in? Here’s what I think.
Grace - loving when people don’t deserve it.
Forgiveness, even when everyone else condemns.
Acceptance - welcoming of all people, of all backgrounds, genders, classes, colours, sexual preferences and regardless of whatever they have done in the past. God loves them all.
Justice for all.
Mercy to all.
Servanthood - serving and giving to all, even when they don’t deserve it or sometimes at cost to ourselves.
Humility - Remembering that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes and that despite believing in these values, we don’t always get it right and that we are in need of God.Sacrifice - that if we are willing to make sacrifces for the good of others, and put others first, then there is no limit to what we can achieve.
If we can communicate the values we stand for in a relevant way, using contempary lanaguage and methods of communicating, in a way that is true and authentic and has substance behind it in the way we live our lives, we can change the world.
If we can show people those values without letting religion, tradition, jargon, division, judgmentalism, hypocrysy, fundamentalism and legalism get in the way, then we will finally have communicated the good news in the way Jesus did and wanted us to.
People will finally see what we’re all about, and that all the negative stuff we put in the way and which has held us back is just a sideshow.
I know many of us are cynical over whether this can happen, whether the church or sections of the church can change and unite.
Maybe it will take a Christian leader as dynamic, positive and with as much faith in people as Barack Obama, and who can energise the church in the same way Obama as energised politics, to plant a church practising these values and being publicly recognised outside the Christian community for what he and his church does and stands for, to make it possible.
I wish that wasn't necessary. But maybe it is.
I believe its possible becuause I believe in a God of the impossible. I believe in the church. I believe that if enough people believe and unite behind a common cause, then things can change.
Barack Obama has proved that is possible. Starting with no money or party political backing, campaigning on the streets with no publicity, no security or anything a year ago, his movement has snowballed and he has become President, when 40 years ago a black/mixed race President seemed impossible.
We have no reason not to hope.
Jesus is the real, true hope of mankind, and it is only becuase Obama shares some of those values that he has been able to inspire such hope in me and in others.
We have no reason not to believe in the impossible.
Nothing is impossible with God.
If we believe, hope and act, then maybe things can change.
If we go on being cynicial and resigned to our fate, nothing will change. If we believe, have faith and hope in what we believe and what can be done, then change is possible.
We just need to believe.
As Obama himself has said “Yes we can”