So our former junior senator is enjoying his turn at fifteen minutes of fame. He’s waited a long time as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and I can’t remember who else were ahead of him in the long line of presidential wannabes. Will his moment in the limelight last any longer than that of the others? Who knows. Whether it is the quality of the candidates or the reality of living in the glare of the 24-hour news cycle, it seems as if we have become a very fickle people. Our loyalties don’t last long. And this is no Republican thing. Half the people who thought President Obama was doing a fine job less than three years ago now think he’s a rascal who may need to be voted out of office. We’re a very fickle people.
Yes, fickle is a good word to describe us. It’s also a kind of funny world. Fickle. It sounds funny. It’s one of those Old English words that is fun to say. Fickle. The dictionary defines it as “likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution or instability. Some of us remember something called the “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award,” and if you do, you have just dated yourself.
Fickle is not much of a Bible word, though the translators of the NIV use it once as Paul defends a change in his plans to visit the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:17). “Was I fickle?” he asks rhetorically, assuring his readers that he was not.
Most English translations use the word “vacillating” in Paul’s question. The Greek word means literally to be lightweight, that is liable to being blown around and knocked about; unstable and unreliable. The opposite of fickle, then, is grounded, stable, anchored, secure, reliable – not very sexy, but in a world like ours very important.
As he writes the Corinthians, Paul moves from a defense of his change in his plans and a stout denial of the charge that he is fickle to a soaring call to freedom from being fickle; a call to Christ who is our ground, our anchor, our security – God’s reliable “yes.” “All the promises of God find their yes in him,” he reminds us.
Whatever our party loyalties (or disloyalties), we’ll spend much of the new year with the freedom to be fickle, lightweights blown from one preference to another, happily supporting candidate X today and candidate Y tomorrow. But, in fact, the stakes are high in our national life. Our decision on November 6 is not something to be taken lightly – based on last night’s sound bite or this week’s photo op.
It is important that we not be fickle voters, lightweights who will complain in March about the vote we cast in November.
All the more so, it is essential, perhaps a matter of life and death, that we not be fickle Christians, lightweights who will complain about God’s apparent neglect of our needs on Wednesday when we neglected to worship him on Sunday.
With the Apostle we must ask ourselves, “Are we fickle?” Pray that, live so, the answer is no. It is, after all, a heavy God we serve and a weighty gospel we proclaim – a secure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
See you Sunday (that we not complain on Wednesday)