Brothers Bonifacio: I Hope

Growing up in a family of 3 very active and very competive boys, fighting was a common thing. We competed for everything. From who would get to the car first (which was usually Joseph because he’s fast), to who could make the most 3 pointers (which was always Josh because he’s the only one who can really shoot among us), to who computer games, we always turned everything into a contest. 

I can’t say I was very good at many things but I was fiercely competive – and hot headed.

Which led to a very physical altercation when my older brother, Joseph, pretended not to show me something, which ticked me off, and I wrestled him until we got into a fist fight. I don’t remember much of the details because things happened quickly. I do remember Joe hitting my head on the wall and cracking the wall, and my dad coming out of his room half asleep because it was midnight, and I, seeing the good boy Joe stop fighting out of respect for my dad, took advantage of the situation and released a series of punches on his face, bloodying his nose and eye. To Joe’s credit, he just took it because he didn’t want to fight in front of my dad. 

My dad told both of us to go to the kitchen, he wiped Joe’s face and something cold from the fridge for his bruises. Then he asked, “What’s this all about?” Joe explained what happened and we both got grounded simply because we weren’t supposed to be hurting our brother no matter who started things or how they were acting. He didn’t lecture as long but I can’t forget what he said last. Looking at us with our bloody shirts now crusting, he said, “I hope you will fight just as fiercely FOR each other the way you fought against each other tonight. I’m going to bed.”

Then he went to bed. 

I remember that incident the night before my wedding, as I read the posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter. The problem with personality politics is that the principle is always lost – even as we think we’re fighting for it. We know we are principled when we remain respectful of others choices despite not agreeing with them, simply because we know that the principle of freedom is that they are entitled to their own opinion. We know we are not as principled as we think, when we become defensive, unable to discuss with principles, and respect the principled decisions of others. In the car of my friend yesterday, the one with the big DC sticker, I had an animated discussion about the differences in our votes. Neither one of us ended up convincing the other, yet neither one of us felt slighted, insecure, and angry because of our disagreement. After we had dinner and chatted, and tomorrow he stands with me as one of my groomsmen. 

I think what makes that possible for us is this: more than politics, the man-made exercise of choosing man-made leaders, we love God and we love each other. These are the foundational principles by which ALL other considerations stem from, they are the primary principles that govern us, and IF secondary principles cause us to disagree, we shall disagree in a manner that does not violate our primary principles. We will vote differently, each based on our own defined values, convictions, and understanding, but we will protect our primary principle as we do by staying respectful, loving, and working together to serve others because we understand that while the president is a big man, he is just a man, and he is just one man. We all have a part to play.

Whoever wins you’ll find me doing the same thing I’ve been doing for over 10 years now, working very hard, being disciplined, building things, and using whatever little I have to honor God by serving others, building communities, and developing people to become the best that they can be. The conditions may change but my life purpose doesn’t. I’m glad to continue to contribute no matter who wins the spot.

So I end my series on the 2016 elections with a simple hope: that after the elections, we would fight just as fiercely FOR each other just as we did against.


Breaking the Third Commandment for Politics

When I was a kid, I used to think that the Third Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” in Exodus 20:7 meant not saying, “Oh my God!” I’ve realized now that it’s way more than that. Here’s an excerpt from an article I read:

When we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands (Luke 6:46), we take His name in vain and are in danger of hearing Him say to us, “I never knew you. Away from me” in the day of judgment (Matthew 7:21-23).

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His name in vain.

This leads me to something thats really been bothering me through these elections: That Christians, even Christian leaders who are supposed teachers of scripture, have used the Bible to promote their candidates in the coming election. The more I think about it, “bothersome” is a weak word for how I feel every time I see a Bible verse defending a candidate, or every time I read a “Thank God! He’s answering us!” when a candidate of theirs is showing good signs. This is something I see going on all sides of the political spectrum and not just one candidate. I think a better word is “terrified”.

I’m terrified at how we’re willing to outsource our thinking to “leaders” or “personalities”, as if their being high profile means they understand civil government better. Would you have your pastor run your company or choose where you spend your money? Why would you default to his opinion and not use your own brain? We live in a society that discourages thinking for yourself. If someone else is always doing the thinking for you, whose mind gets the exercise? If someone else is doing the pushups for you, whose body is getting stronger? You have your own brain. God gave you one. Develop it by using it.

I’m terrified at how easy it is for us to take God’s Word and twist it for our own agenda.

I’m terrified at how proud we are to presume that the Bible is there to agree with us, agree with our candidates, when it is through humility that we are exalted, and humility means allowing God’s word to refine our hearts and minds, NOT picking a position and searching the Bible for proof, and then quoting it as if it were God’s word.

I’m terrified at how easy it is for us to tear each other down, dishonor candidates, while at the same time, quoting verses, quoting the same book that says, “In your anger, do not sin.”, that reminds us “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”, and, so that we avoid any confusion about what matters most among seemingly contradicting priorities, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”, so that we would never mistake, in our quest for a better life, that love is front and center of God’s plan. I’m terrified that we’ve forgotten that as we are caught up in the euphoria of this political circus.

I’m terrified because, if all it take for us to forget our most basic Christian values of love for Christ and love for others, is an election year, then our faith is in vain. If all it takes for our “Christian leaders”, “Bible teachers”, and “Men of God” to compartmentalize their theology, quoting one verse to defend their pick while at the same time completely ignoring another opposing verse, is an election year, then where is the credibility? Why should I listen to any of them as God’s mouthpiece?

I’m terrified because this is incredibly prideful to say, “My pick is God’s pick.” And pride comes before a fall. It’s incredibly prideful to take God’s beautiful word and  use it to promote injustice, unkindness, unfairness, immorality, and ungodliness, without thinking about the Owner of those words, about what His whole word has to say.

I’m terrified because Proverbs 30:6 says, “Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Reading that gives me the chills, as it should.

Who Should I Vote?
I was explaining this to someone, who responded, “Who should I vote then? If I use the whole Bible as a basis for my pick, none of the candidates would remain.” I said, “It’s simple but not easy. It’s simple because you should vote based on your convictions. And your understanding of the Bible should help you form your convictions. So for example, if the Bible says, “Don’t steal”, then your conviction should be “Don’t steal”, and if it says, “Don’t murder”, your conviction should be “Don’t murder”. Now given that no one is perfect, you must use the Bible to order and prioritize what is more important than the others. While all issues are valid, and all are important, not all of them are of equal importance. So based on this ordering of importance, we now choose a candidate who represents our convictions most and whose flaws are most forgivable as based on our hierarchy of loves. This is why it’s not easy. The formulation of values and life principles is a rigorous process. The ability to cut through the noise, think for one’s self, and not compartmentalize our convictions but immersing in truths, allowing their blazing heat to refine us, is full of painful effort, yet leads to enlightenment.

He said, “You still haven’t told me who to vote.”

I said, “Your choice is your privilege, a gift and a responsibility from God when He gave you freedom and a mind. You honor God when you allow His word to define the priorities of your freedom and the thoughts of your mind. We dishonor God when our own thoughts and own priorities define His word.

So vote who your carefully crafted principles have led you to. Just remember that it reveals the priorities of your life. Whether your principles are pleasing to God is between you and Him.

But don’t use His word to endorse your chosen candidate, because your adding to His words. Don’t use it to tear others down for what father delights in seeing his children use his own words to curse one another when he loves them all? How can this be Christian? And if we are applying His word to promote people, ideas, parties, and agendas that are un-Christian, all for an election year, then what are we?