John Kasich’s bid to be the Republican presidential nominee dwelt in relative obscurity for the first several months of the campaign process. His often conciliar and more hopeful perspective was frequently drowned out in a setting dominated by brash comments, insults, and grand promises. That began to change in New Hampshire where the Ohio governor finished second to Donald Trump in the polls but still ahead of more prominent candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush.
But despite his success in New Hampshire, questions lingered about how his platform would translate to South Carolina and the other southern states. On Thursday, those questions took a back seat to one of the more powerful moments of the campaign thus far.
At a meeting with supporters prior to his appearance on CNN‘s televised Town Hall that night, Brett Smith, a young man who had, in quick succession, lost a close mentor to suicide, saw his parents get divorced, and his father lose his job, told Kasich how he found hope in the Lord, his friends, and in his preferred presidential candidate. He then asked Kasich for “one of those hugs you’ve been talking about” and the two embraced.
It was the first thing CNN‘s Anderson Cooper asked about later that night. Kasich described how events like his encounter with that young man have helped him understand that, while policy changes and government help can perhaps make aspects of our lives better, real improvement will come when people slow down enough to help each other and work to “carry out our God given destinies and potentials and gifts.” Essentially, the nation works best when we work to better our lives and the lives of others rather than waiting for the government to do it for us.
My purpose today is not to support Kasich or any of the other nominees but rather to examine his comments and help us ask whether or not we are living that out sentiment in our daily lives.
The willingness to help each other is one of the central tenets of Christ’s message and should be a defining characteristic of all believers. As Paul told the Galatians, we fulfill the law of Christ when we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
While such aid often focuses on helping the poor and the needy, bearing the emotional and spiritual burdens of others may be a more pressing need in many instances. That is not to minimize the importance of offering physical and material help, as Jesus was clear that such actions are important as well (Matthew 25:31¬–46). However, we cannot afford to stop there. Feeding the body may help for a day but feeding the soul can help for eternity. As Christians, we serve a God who wants to use us to do both.
The second part of Kasich’s comment bears examining as well: his emphasis on using the gifts God has given us to live in the manner to which we are called. It would be easy to limit such sentiments to a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality—and that could have been part of Kasich’s thinking. However, he also reminds us that we all have a part to play in God’s plan for this world. While we should never attempt to fill that role apart from his guidance and strength, we must also avoid the opposite mistake of simply waiting for others to do our part.
2 Thessalonians 3:6–12 tells us that such dependency on others as a result of laziness is against God’s will, and Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians that everything we do should be to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Choosing to sit idly by while others work in your place does not glorify God.
A popular church quip says, and with good reason, that eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people. Friends, that should not be the case. If God is going to accomplish all he desires to do through us, that simply cannot happen.
Using our God-given gifts to help others and further his kingdom is a message that should resonate with all Christians because it is one of the most important and prevalent sentiments we find in Scripture. But it’s also a message that often appeals to us much more in theory than in practice. John Kasich’s encounter with Brett Smith on Thursday showed the kind of difference that can be made in a person’s life when that distinction between theory and action ceases to exist. Who is the Brett Smith that God wants to minister to in your life?