A ‘flip-flop’ is when a political leader changes their position on a particular issue or set of issues and begins to speak, act, and legislate in a way contrary to their original position. We hear examples of it all the time. Its not ALWAYS a bad thing… sometimes a political leader grows in their understanding, sometimes their views evolve with changes in the society, sometimes their personal experiences impact and change their perspective.
Aaahhh…. But most of the time it is not so noble, not so evolving, not such a personal development. The truth is, most flip-flopping happens when a politician’s interests (usually re-election prospects) are no longer served well by their stance on an issue. They simply change their position in order retain their political position as a matter of expediency.
Money, favor, power, fame…. these, unfortunately, are a very powerful currency in the politics of our day, as they have been throughout the politics of human history. Justice, liberty, human rights, civil rights… these, while given a whole lot of lip-service, have never moved the needle very much in comparison.
And so, this creates a culture and society in which there is no foundation of commonly held and cherished, commonly protected and served, set of ideals by which we chart our course forward and fulfill our greatest potential. Sure, such ideals are spoken about. There is given the vague illusion that they still command our respect and allegiance. But, in truth, the fickle political winds blow and our politicians bend and sway and flip and flop to achieve their up-side as much and as often as possible.
Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:25-28)
In this passage, Jesus is defending John the Baptist after John, possibly in a moment of weakness of faith, sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is REALLY the coming messiah. John had already staked his life and reputation on the claim. John had already acted to his own personal sacrifice to proclaim justice and righteousness. He had repeatedly confronted King Herod on his adulterous relationship, and has now found himself in prison. John the Baptist was no flip-flopper!
Jesus, in his defense of John, contrasts him with the rich and powerful of his day. Jesus is attempting to show the crowd what true greatness is… not the greatness that comes from political power, fame or fortune:
Not a reed swayed by the wind
Not a man dressed in fine clothes
Not a man indulging in luxury
Not a man in a palace
John, Jesus proclaims, is a prophet and more than a prophet. A prophet is one who truthfully speaks the reliable word of God to the people. John does this as well as preparing the way for the coming messiah and the Kingdom of God.
This task can only be given to one who is 100% committed to the values of the Kingdom of God… obedience, repentance, justice, righteousness, mercy… even if it means sacrifice and the loss of his own life (which by the way is exactly what happened… he was beheaded by Herod while in prison). John was so committed that no matter what ‘better offer’ might have come along to benefit him personally, he would have remained a steadfast champion of the Kingdom of God.
We may never be able to achieve a culture and society in which there is a foundation of commonly held and cherished, commonly protected and served, set of ideals by which we chart our course forward and fulfill our greatest potential. The rampant practice of political expediency will not allow it.
But, thankfully, as Christians, we are not primarily citizens of the kingdoms of this world. We are not primarily dependent upon the promises of flip-flopping politicians. We belong to God and we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom does not bend or sway. It has a firm foundation in Jesus. And if we hold true to the Kingdom values of obedience, repentance, justice, righteousness, and mercy with honesty and integrity, even in the face of personal sacrifice, we too shall be called great just as John was.