When I tell people how many siblings I have, their eyes usually grow to unflattering proportions and they say something like, “Wow! Now that’s a lot of kids!”
None of us are adopted. My mum just always dreamed of having a big, beautiful—and slightly chaotic—bunch of kids of her own, and seven children did that job perfectly.
One of the luxuries of having so many children is that there’s never a shortage of comic relief. Who needs Cheaper by the Dozen or The Brady Bunch when you have your own tribe to entertain you? For example, when one of my brothers was old enough to learn to dress himself but still young enough to need coaching, my mum began reminding him every day to put on clean underwear. She thought that this plan was working well and that her young man was sprouting wings of independence—until she noticed that his backside was growing and beginning to resemble a small watermelon.
Upon investigation, she found that my brother was being quite faithful in putting on clean underwear each day. In fact, he had several pairs on. The problem was that he was neglecting to take each old pair off!
See what I mean? Kids are quite entertaining. Odd, but definitely entertaining, especially when it comes to things they don’t understand, like wearing clean underwear. What’s the big deal anyway?
I once picked up a children’s book that actually addressed this question. I don’t remember the title, but I do remember the life lesson the author communicated: our parents teach us to always wear clean underwear because what we are on the inside should accurately reflect what we present to others on the outside.
Intuitively, we all know this to be true. Integrity, rare though it be, is something that we find as refreshing as Gatorade after a marathon and as valuable as Wi-Fi in a shopping centre. We instinctively know that the person we are when others are around should be the same person we are when we’re alone, when no-one is watching. And we expect the same of everyone else.
But nowhere is our desire and need for integrity more glaringly apparent than in leadership. When we elect leaders, we want to know that they’ll have backbone, that they’ll be the same through and through. We want to know that even when they’ve been stripped down to their moral underwear, we’re going to find people who are still just as clean as they appeared to be in their suits and ties.
Unfortunately, if you’ve ever spent even five minutes reading a history book or watching the news, you know that humanity has never found someone who fits that description. I can’t help but think back to the recent United States presidential election. I haven’t lived through many presidential elections, so I don’t have the right to brag about how “back in my day things were different” (unless we’re talking about the price of lollies).
However, even I can tell that this last race was unusually tumultuous, confusing and—quite honestly—crazy. In the months leading up to voting day, the media did a fabulous job of stripping both Clinton and Trump of all their dirty laundry and stringing out each stitch for all the world to see, like lights on a giant Christmas tree. The scandals, the gossip, the allegations, the question of which candidate had the larger gap in moral integrity—all created mounting tension surrounding November 8.
But once we’d crossed over, I didn’t hear many sighs of relief. Only aftershocks of uncertainty. I felt some shock myself.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a night or two after the result was in, slogging through political status after political status and as I read, I began to feel the weight of people’s fear, anger, disappointment and bewilderment settling onto me like a suffocating blanket.
But then I got this phone text from a close friend: “Hey, I just had an idea. It has been an interesting past 24 hours and I’m realising that time is short for us on this earth. I made a Google doc for jotting some notes—just some reminders for me about the things I know for sure are true, no matter what the world looks like or what everyone else says. I was thinking about maybe sharing it with a few friends so we could each add and be encouraged by these reminders.”
I opened up the document with a sense of relief, a little like coming up for air after being under water. After stepping in all the political cow pies on social media, I didn’t mind being immersed in something stable and true. And I wasn’t disappointed. As I read my friend’s thoughts and continued to ponder them for the next couple of days, my mind was redirected. No matter what the world looked like, I could know that the following words are true: “Love wins through self-sacrifice, not through violence or manipulation or bullying or lies or vengeance or anything that is not found in the broken and spilled body and blood of Jesus.”
"Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God."
The year 2016 was chaotic, and as we’ve moved half-way through 2017, we still can’t say with certainty what the future holds. But at the end of the day, God is love and He will win. No matter where you or I lean on the political spectrum, as Christians, this is something we all know to be true: Jesus is our King, He sits on the throne and heaven is our real home.
The Bible’s book of Daniel devotes a lot of space to foretelling the future of our world—so that we can know what’s going to happen ahead of time and we don’t have to freak out about it as if we had no hope in the world—and there’s a passage I find especially comforting:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:20–22, NKJV).*
So, clearly, God is ultimately the One in control. He isn’t freaking out about who is or isn’t the president of the United States, so my guess is, we probably shouldn’t either.
The reality is that since Adam and Eve sinned, humans have always looked to other humans for salvation. And we’ve always been disappointed. We’ve searched high and low for leaders who, even when they’re stripped down to their moral underwear, are still going to have integrity. But the stink of dirty laundry has, one way or another, eventually disillusioned us and reminded us of what will always be true: “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. . . . Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:3, 5, NKJV).
There is only one Man I know who has always been worth following. He never made promises He couldn’t keep. He never stooped to mudslinging when His enemies tried to lure Him into the ring. He never campaigned to promote Himself but was always living to serve others.
Oh, there were definitely rumours that followed Him like dark shadows. People gossiped about the circumstances surrounding His birth, they questioned His faithfulness to the Law and they looked down on His uneducated companions’ sometimes shady associations.
But He always and only showed love. He healed people, believed in people and transformed people. As He did so, His popularity rose—and then quickly fell, like it has for so many other leaders throughout history.
Public opinion swayed, the “tabloids” trashed His reputation and supposed scandal was exposed. Everyone was done with Him and #Messiah wasn’t trending anymore. Religious and political leaders joined forces as they mutilated His body, literally stripping Him to His underwear to humiliate Him, before killing Him.
But instead of finding out He was hiding a skeleton in the closet, we find that God willingly exposed His own flesh to us. As author Bruce Shelley points out so succinctly, “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God.” Why is this so significant? Because if God had been hiding behind a mask, if He’d been making empty promises, if He’d only been saying what we wanted to hear, the cross would have been the place to find out. But unlike every other human leader’s moment of humiliation, this point in history revealed to everyone in the universe that this Man was exactly who He said He was all along: Love.
God was God in His underwear, and—forgive me for the awkward image—it was His moment of glory.
In the greatest irony of all time, the event we’d expect to bring the utmost disillusionment—the crucifixion—actually brought the greatest enlightenment. What looked like the ultimate political “scandal” was actually the grandest revelation of love. And no matter how deep we continue to dig into His heart, we’re only ever going to find love through and through, as we did at Calvary.
When was God in His underwear? When He was in His glory.
May we always remember that no matter what happens, no matter how chaotic this world gets, no matter who’s in power over what country, this is something we can know to be true: Jesus is the real King and He’s the only one we can safely put our trust in, because He has proven Himself to be faithful, even in His underwear.
* Bible texts marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.