Unpopular Opinion – A Short Story
Dear Friends, we pray you had a wonderful Resurrection Day of Remembrance!
It's a mid-term election year, and the media is buzzing about what the government will hand out tomorrow and which politicians will promise the world next week. As believers in Jesus Christ, we must continue to pull back and remember what God's priorities truly are. What is His will and will we choose to trust and obey Him? More often than not, man's ambitions do not line up with God's will. Here is a short story about a young mayor who's learning that lesson with the rest of us. ~David Telbat. [NOTE: be sure to see our announcements after the story.]
by D.I. Telbat
Mayor Trevor Sullivan smiled broadly and returned a greeting to a man who was raking leaves in his yard. Two kids even rode their bikes past him, calling to him, "Mayor Sullivan!" It was nice to be known, even in the small community. Some people still had his sign on their lawns from when he was running for office. His face was everywhere.
"Taking care of our town, Mayor?" a middle-aged woman called from a balcony where she was watering several plants.
"I'm working on it!" He couldn't remember her name, but waved enthusiastically, and shouted his campaign slogan, "We're investing in tomorrow!"
Continuing on, Trevor checked his phone for the correct address, then walked past two more apartment buildings to reach a small retirement complex. He knocked on the door and sighed contently. It was a beautiful day. He was mayor, his approval rating was in the seventies, and he was about to visit an old friend.
The door opened, and Trevor fought the urge to take a step back from the frail, old man who stood before him.
"Yes? How can I help you, young man?"
"Mr. Huston? Maxwell Huston?" Trevor offered his hand. "It's me, sir. Trevor Sullivan. Remember me?"
"Trevor?" Maxwell's bushy brows furrowed as he fumbled slowly to fit his glasses onto his face. "Ah, yes. I see the boy in the man's face before me. It's been some time, Trevor. How've you been, son?"
"Ah . . ." Trevor turned to survey the neighborhood. Two mayoral signs with his face were within sight of the man's front door. "Actually, I couldn't be better, sir. But I was hoping to visit with you for a few minutes. I could use your advice on some things."
"Oh? The advice of an old man, huh?" Max turned slowly in his doorway. His back was bent as he hobbled into the apartment. "Well, come on in. I'm sure the years will melt away once we find out what the good Lord's been doing between us."
"He's been pretty busy with me, Max." Trevor grinned and closed the door behind him. "It's been an eventful year for me."
"Is that so?" Max groaned as he eased into a soft chair. "Go ahead and help yourself to a glass of water if you want, Trevor. The tap water tastes good enough."
Trevor eyed the kitchen, clean but quaint, like the rest of the small apartment. The door to one bedroom remained ajar, and the coffee table next to Max's chair had only a candle, a Bible, and a notepad.
"That's all right." He sat on a faded sofa next to the lounge chair. "I ate lunch a few minutes ago with Judge Oskins, so I'm content."
"Okay." Max folded his hands and gazed through his glasses at his visitor. "So, you've found contentment in the Lord, Trevor?"
"Yes, sir. I would say so." Trevor beamed. "You know . . . I'm mayor now, right?"
"Mayor? Of this town?"
Trevor felt his chest deflate.
"Well, yes. Of this town. You didn't know? One of your own Sunday School students has become mayor."
"Well, that's certainly something, isn't it?" Max gestured to a wall stereo with giant speakers. "One of the grandkids set that monster up for me. I don't know how to work it, but I can turn it on and off to hear the weather report once a week or so."
"Oh, no, not for some time now. Not since before Barbara passed."
"Right, right. Barbara." Trevor nodded. "I remember her. She used to sing in front of the church some Sundays."
"Yes, she sure did. A voice like an angel beside this old hound dog."
"Those were good years." Trevor sighed and offered a little polite silence before changing the subject. "Say, Max, I was hoping to get your advice on some things. You know, now that I'm mayor."
"Oh? I'm not sure I know anything that would help a mayor."
"But you do. I remember how you used to tell us all those Bible stories about Moses and Joshua and Abraham in the Bible—real leaders! So now, I need some of that, uh, wisdom for leading this town. Oh, and Solomon. He was really something, too."
"Yes, yes, he was."
"There are so many issues today," Trevor said. "I mean, society is a mess. Crime is on the rise. People are threatened by inflation, rumors of war, rising rent, and some new fraud scheme every day. But I want to be a mayor who offers them something relevant. You know, something that can improve their lives."
"Hmm, I see." Max nodded thoughtfully. "I'm sorry, Trevor. Why come to me? I don't know anything about being a politician. And I've never run for any office. I'm not even sure I could tell you what the inflation rate is right now."
"Well, that's just a small part of the puzzle." Trevor cringed and glanced at the door. Maybe this was a mistake. Max lived in a different era. He hadn't even known Trevor was the mayor. "Maybe if we put aside some of the current events, you could just talk to me about being a godly leader. I want good results for this town. Politicians aren't too popular these days. I mean, my ratings are high enough, but if I don't show some results right away, the polls will reflect it."
"You know, there are polls that are taken every now and then. They show the approval ratings of the public for an official."
"Of course, I know what a poll is, Trevor. I just never thought that a leader who knows what he should do for God should concern himself with how others approve or disapprove of what he's doing."
"Yes!" Trevor slapped his knee. "See? It's that kind of logic I'm looking for. Straight down the middle, Max. Explain that—not worrying about the polls. Go on."
"Do you want a good opinion from the people, or do you want to obey God's will as a man who follows Jesus Christ?"
"Well, there needs to be some consideration for the polls. I'd lose my job if I didn't listen to what the people wanted."
"Certainly." Max nodded. "I suppose you would. Serving God isn't too popular. It would definitely show in the polls if you listened to God more than you listened to the people."
Trevor stared blankly at the old man. He felt the color drain from his face. Something about Max's tone collided with Trevor's own hopes.
"Well, what kind of things should I do for this town that would please God? I mean, God's will can't be that controversial—that I'd lose polling points for doing it."
"Are you asking me as mayor or as a born-again believer?" Max sat back in his chair. "You know, I remember when you stood up in class, in that small room in the basement, and you said you believed that Jesus' resurrection was every bit as important to you as Him dying for you. That was a memorable moment. Yep, it sure was."
"I remember that morning. I'd like to think that I can be a mayor and a Christian," Trevor stated softly.
"Of course, Trevor. You could try that."
Trevor sighed and bit his lip. This wasn't exactly the kind of conversation he was looking for to lift his hopes and dreams for his new job.
"Well, what would God's will be for me to do as mayor?"
"You're asking this now?" Max tilted his head. "It seems that would be something to know long before you considered running for office."
"Yeah, well, I knew I wanted to serve God . . . once I got into office."
"I see. Well, Trevor, God's will for you, no matter what job you hold, is the same for any other believer."
"Right, right. And what's that?"
"To trust Jesus as your Savior from sin and obey Him as His follower in this broken world."
"Trust and obey, like the old hymn your wife used to sing?"
"Yes, that was one of her favorites."
"Sure, trust and obey. That doesn't sound too difficult. I could do that."
"Well, I think politicians over the centuries have also thought it could be done." Max smiled like he knew something no one else did. "But that may be where integrity begins to separate the sheep from the goats."
"What do you mean?"
"Integrity obeys God privately as well as publicly. Integrity trusts and obeys God as much in the chapel sanctuary as on the street curb. Integrity speaks the truth and lives the truth without shame."
Trevor found it difficult to swallow. He wondering if he should've accepted that glass of water after all.
"I know you don't listen much to what goes on in the world, Max, but Christians aren't too popular right now."
"Oh, I don't need a TV to know that, Trevor." Max chuckled. "Following Christ has never been popular with society—not in Christ's day, not one thousand years ago, and not today. This is the world we live in. It will never be popular to live godly among the godless."
"Well, then, I couldn't really remain in office, Max, if all I do is live an outspoken Christian life."
"Would your office matter? If you're serving and glorifying God with your mouth as well as your hands?"
"What do you mean, does it matter? Of course, it matters. I'm mayor."
"Well, it might matter to your polls and people's opinions of you. But where it matters most, with Whom
it matters most, trusting and obeying Him is all that should concern you."
"Wait a minute." Trevor rubbed his face with his hands. "Okay, let's start over. What do I have to do to trust and obey God? And which of those things intersects with what the public wants to happen?"
"I suppose that's a compromising way to look at it."
"What?" Trevor wasn't sure he'd heard the man right. "I don't understand."
"Are you asking what's the least possible you can do for God, and still gain the approval of men?"
Trevor clenched his teeth. This wasn't going his way at all.
"Maybe we're speaking too generally. Let's talk about something specific. Tell me this: as a mayor, people want me to fight crime in this town. What's God's will for fighting crime?"
"Well, Trevor, what you call crime, the Bible calls sin—missing the mark of God's righteousness. We're all born into sin, and we all sin."
"Okay, then, sin. How do we fight sin in this community?"
"Oh, yes. From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God explains from infinite directions the one method to fight against sin."
"What? There's just one method? Why am I just hearing about this now? I think I'd know about this, Max." Trevor held up his hands. "There must be fifty programs for fighting crime in this town alone. And you're telling me God has only one?"
"And it works perfectly. Every time. When people receive it by faith—changed hearts, renewed minds, transformed lives. It's amazing."
"What are you talking about?"
"The gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel solves man's sin problem. Your crime problem would decrease . . ." Max snapped his fingers, ". . . in proportion to those who trust and obey the gospel."
"Just . . . the gospel?"
"Yes, the gospel. Teach people that they're dying in their sins and they need a Savior. Explain to them that they must believe in Jesus the Son of God to be saved from the penalty of sin."
"The . . . penalty of sin? You want me to tell people about eternal hell?"
"Only if you want to tell them the true gospel. And then, once they're believers, disciple them to trust Jesus in word and deed to find their joy in their deliverance from the power of sin. The Holy Spirit will do that mighty work in them."
"The . . . Holy Spirit?"
"He's the miracle worker in saints' lives every day. After all, the Bible teaches that we trust in the gospel of grace not only to be saved from sin, but grace also directs our lives through the Spirit to live free from sin. That would definitely solve your crime problem in this town."
Trevor rose to his feet and walked to the window. The nearest sign with his face on it was a stone's throw away. That was supposed to be his legacy. But he couldn't think straight right now. None of what Max had said was connecting with his recent victories.
Turning to face Max, Trevor planted his feet wide apart and crossed his arms.
"Maybe they're out there," Trevor said, "but I don't know of any politician who's outspoken about the gospel like that, not as the answer to all of society's problems."
"Oh, I'm not arguing with you, Trevor." Max calmly stared back at him. "There's a reason you don't know of anyone who promotes too openly about Jesus Christ's salvation through grace by faith. It's impossible to merge the world's attempts to fix itself with God's promise to give people new hearts."
"I'll need to come up with something different," Trevor said, rubbing his hands together. "Yeah, I'll need to, I don't know, water down the gospel or something, and sort of, like, mix it in with some of the programs that are already offered in the world to fight violence and addictions. That way the world would get some kind of the gospel message. Right? It'll just be sort of . . . camouflaged."
"Do the world's programs deal with sin and the forgiveness of God Almighty through faith in Jesus Christ?"
"Is there any other way to be saved from sin and hell except through Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection?"
"If I answered honestly, I'd have to say no, Max. Of course not."
"So, worldly solutions to sin issues are actually a lie, since they reject the Savior. Lies don't help people. They're poison."
"So, you've got poison in one cup, whereas the gospel truth is life-giving water. It actually delivers believers. Would you actually mix the water with even a little poison, just to try to convince the public that the water tastes good and Jesus is acceptable? When you mix water with poison, it's still poison, son."
"Well, what else am I supposed to do? I can't just go into city hall and tell people we're going to teach the Bible's gospel truth from now on, because it's the only true answer to our crime problems in society!"
"And why can't you do that?"
"Well, you just can't!"
"Why not? What would happen?"
"Uh, it's illegal now to talk like that. I mean, I'd get fired."
"For leading this town up the path of truth, you'd get fired?"
"Well, I guess you could go back to watering down the gospel with a little bit of poison and mix it with lies." Max shrugged. "You know, make it more acceptable so your polls reflect an approval rating. After all, calling yourself a Christian probably isn't too frowned upon. It's when you actually lead others to Christ as the only way, truth, and life that'll get you fired."
Trevor returned to the sofa and shook his head.
"Max, I'd lose my job. And I was just elected! This can't be what it means to trust and obey Jesus Christ as a politician. I've worked my whole life to reach this point."
"I don't understand." Max held open one hand. "Are you angry that your life choices for public office aren't lining up with living effectively for Jesus?"
"Well, yeah, I'm a little angry right now.
"You know what I think?"
"What?" Trevor looked away. "I'm not sure I want to hear it, but go ahead."
"I think you want a religion that fits your agenda. I think you worked your whole life to get some place you wanted to be—without talking to God about it—and now you're surprised that where you've ended up may not fit God's calling. You shouldn't be surprised."
"Well, I am. And I'm disappointed."
"With God or with yourself?" Max grunted. "All I've told you is what you already know about God's will and the gospel."
"This isn't the type of approval I was expecting from you, Max."
"Approval?" Max sat forward. "Trevor, why don't you stop trying to gain the approval of men, and get back to pleasing God?"
Trevor nodded and picked at a piece of skin on his palm.
"I'm mayor right now."
"That's what you've told me."
"But I may not be mayor for too much longer—not if I return to what I learned as a boy—that Jesus is the only answer this town should be trusting in."
"Don't win the town, Trevor. Win souls."
"Whatever. It'll ruin me."
"It'll be popular in heaven," Max said, "but not too popular on earth."
"Then what should I do?"
"Let me ask you a few questions, okay?" Max waited a moment, then continued. "Who saved you from hell?"
"Who's Lord of your life?"
"I'd have to say Jesus, even though I've wandered a bit lately."
"Who's preparing a place for you in heaven?"
"Who strongly supports those whose hearts are completely His?"
"And who is called to believe and to suffer for Christ's name?"
Trevor glanced up, then shook his head with a smile.
"Then, Tao No-Mat-Con."
What's that? A Chinese mantra or something?"
"No, just a little saying I used when making hard decisions for my family when I was about your age. Tao No-Mat-Con—Trust and obey, no matter the consequences."
"Tao No-Mat-Con," Trevor repeated slowly. "Trust and obey, no matter the consequences. Easier said than done, Max. If I go down that path, my family won't understand."
"Maybe not at first. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"I'll be laughed out of office."
"There'll be other jobs. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"My opponents will mock me."
"If they're godless, their mockery is to your honor. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"The media will call me a radical."
"Jesus was a radical. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"Without a job, I could lose my car."
"I've heard bikes don't require much maintenance. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"I'll have to pull my kids out of private school."
"Oh, I imagine there are other venues available to teach your kids. Tao No-Mat-Con."
"You know what my campaign slogan has been?" Trevor lifted his head. "For months, I've been shouting to everyone that we're investing in tomorrow. Invest in tomorrow!
Now I guess I'll really be putting my money where my mouth is. Except, I won't have much money. I'll be jobless. Maybe homeless . . . with a wife and two kids."
"Ah, you'll be rich in other ways." Max nodded his head. "Appearances and opinions only matter to people for a little while on earth. What matters is if you're a citizen of heaven, or a citizen of earth."
"Tao No-Mat-Con." Trevor looked up at the ceiling. "This is disastrous. My life is over. This is a whole new direction."
"I've never heard of repentance described any other way."
"Max, I'm going to need a lot of prayer. I can't believe I'm actually going to step out like this. I haven't even been reading my Bible regularly."
"We should pray right now," Max said. "And if you think the company of an old man might help, I'll pray with you every day you come by here."
"I'd like that." Trevor smiled. "And I'll need it. It's a Daniel and the lion's den situation. Politically speaking."
"Yeah. I've heard Daniel wasn't too popular with his peers for choosing faith over his fellow politicians."
"But he overcame the lions, and God approved."
"Yes, He did."
Trevor bowed his head. His heart was pounding, but his conscience was clear. He'd already resolved in his heart what he needed to do, though it seemed reckless and could cost him everything. It wasn't the reason he'd come to visit Maxwell Huston, but it was with that reason he would be leaving. Something profound had been restored, something he'd been ignoring.
Maybe he was setting things right, or maybe he was finally using for God what he'd already received on earth. Whatever the case, he knew from now on, in these last days, he needed to trust and obey God, no matter the consequences. Tao No-Mat-Con.
[story key: Tao No-Mat-Con = Trust and obey, no
matter the consequences.]
NOVEL UPDATE: For those who are anxiously waiting for news about David's next book, here's a little tidbit for you! The book is now in the hands of our local proofreader AND David will soon be making his final tweaks! THEN we'll be passing the book on to his faithful Beta Readers! (Watch for that email soon, Beta Reading friends!) Hidden Humanity is coming in May! We still need to finalize the book cover then we'll have that for you, too.
NOTE: Our APRIL BOOKSWEEPS GIVEAWAY of a bundle of 52 Christian & Inspirational Reads is open for entry through APRIL 20! (These are different books from the March giveaway!) Be sure to ENTER NOW for your chance to win this bundle by multiple authors, including STEADFAST COLLECTION: Books 1-6 by D.I. Telbat! The Grand Prize winner gets a new eReader, too!
COMING UP: Join us next time (May 2) for David’s Mother's Day short story, "La Barbera."
If you missed our last newsletter, you can find it here.