Approval ratings

This morning on the radio a feature story was announced with: “President Obama’s approval ratings slip below 50% in Ohio.” Ah, now expectations are set. Will he do something to win them back? Will he shift policy? Hold a town meeting in Akron? In a political system like ours, elected officials are responsible to their constituency. You don’t get votes by not paying attention to what people need (and want). There is heavy pressure to perform for people’s approval rather than for what one believes to be most just and good for the well-being of all. It’s great when the two (people’s approval and one’s beliefs/vision) go together. But what happens when they don’t?

In John 5 this coming Sunday, we’ll find out that what Jesus has to say, at least the way the narrator tells it, is convoluted and difficult to follow. But this much is clear. Jesus is speaking after he has lost the approval ratings of the religious leaders. The reason? He healed a man on the Sabbath. It doesn’t matter that the man walks on his own now and has a better life; the rules of the sabbath (NO WORK) are broken. Sure, it would have been easy for Jesus to have compromised in the first place. He could have chosen to heal the man on another day; the man wasn’t going anywhere. That would have garnered him more votes. Instead, Jesus tells the leaders that he is going to do nothing on his own, but only listens to the his father (God) and does what the Father wants.(v. 30) Jesus says: “My purpose is not to get your vote….I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? I know that love, especially God’s love, is not your working agenda….If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him….How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” (The Message/ NRSV). Guess Jesus doesn’t care about approval ratings.

Which leaves us in a dilemma. Sure, we should listen to God more than to people. But given the fact we can’t call God up on the phone or shoot God an email to get the day’s directions, how do we really know that what God wants is anything different then what good, even religious, people around us want? And, anyway, isn’t there danger of thinking we know what God wants, but of really being out in left field? Haven’t people murdered with words of listening to God on their lips?

Jesus’ litmus test for us to follow the Father’s direction, like he did, rather than going with human approval ratings seems to be twofold in John 5: having the love of God within (v. 42) coming to Christ himself for life (v. 40). I don’t think these are meant to be simply abstract theological ideas, but, for Jesus are quite pragmatic and ordinary.

So what does that mean for us? That’s what I’m pondering at the moment. Is it as simple as asking: Is what I am doing being done out of God’s love? or Does what I am doing lead to Christ? Hmmm….