An Epiphany of Grace

Like you, I watched in shock as protestors breached the security of the United States Capitol. Like you, my heart raced and my stomach tied in knots as images of senators hunkered in the sanctum of our federal government pushed their way past my hopes for a more peace-filled new year. Like you, I have struggled to understand why darkness seems to be winning and what we—what I—can possibly do to be salt and light in such a time (see Matt. 5:13–16). 

The events of January 6, a day observed for centuries on the church calendar as Epiphany, have stuck like an irritant in my heart. As I’ve prayed and searched the Scriptures in the days and weeks that followed, an ugly pearl has emerged—I see myself in every rebel fist raised high on the Capitol lawn and every finger pointed in blame since. My own eyes look back at me with rage as I study the faces of that day. I am capable of every sin we’ve seen on full display on our screens, yet fixated on the failures of everyone else. I’m inclined to justify why my own heart is filled with fear and frustration toward those who do not think like I think, and I struggle to drum up compassion for those who are offended and angered by my point-of-view. 

Jesus’ words found in Matthew 7 are for me. They are for now. 

Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye?” (v. 3–4)

This is not a political post (though many will try to read red and blue between the lines). It is, instead, my heartfelt manifesto of repentance. It is a siren, calling us back to pure love for Jesus. 

The Judas Effect

Journey with me from the Capitol riots to the scene of another moment of darkness. 

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed and he went and hanged himself. (Matt. 27:3–5)

What sorrow. What suffering. What shame. Judas, realizing he had sinned by turning his back on Jesus, tried to pay the price for his guilt himself just hours before his Savior would give His life as a ransom for many. 

I’ve often wondered what drove Judas to turn over his teacher and friend? True, Scripture tells us that Judas was possessed by Satan (Luke 22:3), but what was the gateway? What door did Judas leave unlocked in his heart that gave an opportunity for Satan to wreak havoc in and through him? Scripture doesn’t say, but I suspect that Judas thought he was making a way for Jesus to reign within the existing political systems. Perhaps he thought that if he could just get Jesus in the right room with the right people, Jesus would take his place and the flawed human government would be overturned. 

Pause. Examine your heart. Does a version of that false hope exist in you? It sure exists in me. I had hoped that the 2020 presidential election might usher in an era of prosperity for Christians, despite Jesus’ warning, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). I’ve craved a comfortable faith supported by public policy and widespread acceptance of the hard-to-live Truths found in God’s Word. I’ve hopped on the band of tribalism, wanting to create echo chambers with those who agree with me and to dismiss and tune out those who do not. I’ve not prayed for leaders with whom I disagree, despite Scripture’s clear command to do so (1 Tim. 2:2). And, perhaps most tellingly, I’ve had more conversations in the past twelve months about politics than anything else, including the precious, life-saving, world-changing gospel of Jesus. That’s a real problem because “out of the abundance of the heart [my] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). 

The disciples were often confused about the kind of kingdom Jesus came to establish. They tried to look at spiritual things through their human eyes and they struggled to understand that Christ’s kingdom could never be of this world. They pictured physical thrones and political power. Jesus would not give them either. He gave them a better portion. He gave them Himself. 

My eyes have filled with tears often since the Capitol riots with the realization that some of what may have driven Judas sometimes drives me: 

  • I have put my hope in a human system and given up my peace for the sake of a single election. 
  • I’ve desired for Jesus to work within human constructs and questioned Him when those constructs fail. 
  • I’ve tried to force His hand to move my way on my schedule. 

“Why did Judas betray Jesus?” is a tributary in a much larger steam of questions:

  • Why does any of us forsake our first love for Jesus for the love of lesser things like security, personal freedom, or the “right” to be heard?
  • Why are we ever drinking from leaky cisterns of control when only the Fountain of Living Water can satisfy our desperate spiritual thirst?
  • Why do we look to our systems as saviors and our Savior as a last-ditch-effort?
  • Why do we expect a lost and broken world to recognize Jesus as its only hope or to celebrate those of us who have chosen the narrow path?

A Painful Epiphany

As we’ve watched so much that was familiar and comfortable crumble around us in recent months (regardless of our political persuasions), I’ve seen with fresh eyes that Jesus will not bend to stand on a political platform. He will not operate in an election cycle. He will not veer from His mission to bring glory to the Father and rescue those who are perishing. In His mercy, He will not allow us to worship at the altar of anything or anyone other than Himself. 

A strain of sin has existed in my heart that I had never seen until now. I’ve let Jesus’ words become gobbledygook. I’ve hoped for conservatism to come more than I’ve hoped for Christ’s kingdom to come. 

King David’s words, recorded in Psalm 85 are a fitting prayer for the church in our day: 

Lord, you were favorable to your land;
   you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
   you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
   you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
   and put away your indignation toward us! (vv. 1–4) 

What we see described here could be called revival. And by its very nature, revival is for God’s people. “Restore us . . . .” This reality forces our attention away from all God (and/or Satan) might be doing in the world and toward what He wants to do in the Church. We are liberated to stop obsessing over what He might do in an election or with the economy or in a new administration and freed to ask a more pressing question: how will He defibrillate the heart of His beloved Bride? 

He’s doing it! In stripping away every false sense of security, He is wooing us back to Himself. 

Epiphany celebrates the revelation to the wise men that Jesus was the Christ. The Capitol riots produced in me a deep and urgent longing to seek Jesus anew as my solitary Savior. It is an epiphany of grace. Truly, wise men still seek Him. The revelation hasn’t changed. It never will. Jesus is, and ever will be, our only hope. 

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11–12)


About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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