Three Lessons for Christians from the Debt Crisis

July 29, 2011

I as I write this late at night, it still appears there is a stalemate on the debt crisis in Washington. Will the leaders come together and get a deal done? Will the markets react? We don’t know. But what can Christians learn from this crisis? I see three lessons:

1) When You Put Off Hard Choices, They Get Harder Later

Let’s face it, we are in this spot, because for too long we have not come to terms with our national debt. And this is the fault of both Republicans and Democrats going back many years. But really its’ the fault of us, the people, because until recently any politician on either side who told us what we needed to hear–that we can’t have everything we want and not pay for it–would have been soundly defeated in any election. The lesson for Christians is that putting off hard choices makes them only harder later on. Not dealing with family problems, marital issues, financial choices–they don’t get easier if we pretend they go away. It takes courage to prayerfully tackle tough issues early on, before they become unmanageable.

2) Punditry is easy, lucrative, and fun, but governing is hard. I get a kick out out ideologues who demand purity on every single vote from their members. And I don’t begrudge them their opinions and their platforms. But they don’t have to make tough choices. They don’t have to vote. You also see this when candidates become office-holders. All of as sudden the rhetoric they espoused has to become reality. This is a great lesson for leaders. Before I became a pastor, I was very critical of other leaders. Why don’t they do this or do that? The same revelation happened when I became a parent. The problem is that leadership is hard. You’re forced to deal with folks who disagree with you. You have to sacrifice some of your ambitious vision in order to govern and get things done. You have to back down and admit when you are wrong. And every decision is held up for scrutiny. It’s easier (and more lucrative and more fun) to sit behind a radio mic or blog or column and lob grenades. But it also has less impact.

3) Compromise isn’t always retreat. We elect leaders based on their principles, but we also elect them to govern. I think some have forgotten this. If you’re conservative, you should expect you’re representative to get the most conservative deal he/she can get, but then make a deal and get something. There is no virtue and no progress made toward your cause when you will only accept absolute purity. This should be even more so in the church. Sadly, in many churches, the same kind of inflexibility happens in leadership. I don’t believe we should compromise on the orthodox truths, but in church governance and management? We should be willing to “make deals” if that’s the best word. We should seek unity, which means sometimes, often, we give up our pet ideas for the greater good. Often this is an issue of pride, where we think our ideas are the only ones that will work. Sometimes leaders, elders, deacons, pastors, team leaders, etc must sacrifice their preferences for the sake of the gospel.