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Politics & the People of God

These are my notes from a talk I gave at church. Sorry if they are a bit hard to follow, so here’s the audio.

I’m going to quickly address how Christians should view themselves politically and how we should and shouldn’t engage in politics.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
John 18:33-36

1) Christians are Citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:2-21

Even as we live in the United States, we are already living under the authority of Christ the King. We cannot be saved without becoming His royal servants.

We ought to live now as if He had already established His Kingdom on earth because He has already established it in our hearts.

The biggest crisis in the US today is not political—it’s spiritual, and it’s the same crisis hitting every nation in the world. Who cares about healthcare laws, birth certificates, immigration, or any of the other junk that the so-called “news” channels have decided to rail about this week when the people living on our streets do not know Jesus?

Because we have both a temporal and an eternal citizenship, there are going to be times when pursuing politics is a “chasing after the wind”—it won’t matter for eternity, and it might not really matter now.

Furthermore, it’s vitally important that we don’t confuse the United States with God’s Kingdom. “Old Glory” will cease to fly at some point, but “Old Calvary” will never cease to impact eternity. The US is a great nation—the greatest on Earth today—but the Kingdom is so much greater, and I think that many of us will be shocked, even a bit ashamed of ourselves, when were realize how “un-American” and how very dark-skinned Heaven’s population will be.

2) Christians should be the best citizens of any earthly kingdom.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority….For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:12-13, 15-17

When non-Christians think about the Church, they may disagree us, but they should be able to admire the way we live, as loving, obedient, and honorable citizens.

Do you honor the “emperor”? Do you show love and respect to those with whom you don’t agree politically? When we complain about our elected officials and engage in name-calling, we undercut Jesus’ message of loving ones enemies. We forget, sometimes, that political officials are people, who were also made in God’s image and have feelings, like our own, that can be hurt by the words we say. Furthermore, we could not look more petty, judgmental, and unloving than when we declare that a political figure can’t be a Christian because of a political position they took or a decision they made. We would be far wiser to ask questions of those leaders, in a respectful, graceful tone, than to do what only God can do by judging the condition of their soul.

It’s also crucial that we not forget that “citizenship” applies at all levels: federal, state, and local. Citizenship requires that we be the best members of our community. When our neighbors, when the people of our community, are met with crisis and disaster and must find someone to turn to, we ought to be the first names on their lists. And when I say “first names,” I mean our personal names. Our neighbors ought to call us because they know us, because we are involved in their lives and have been loving them like Jesus loved us.

3) Christians must stop “fighting” against the cross.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21

We too often engage in politics in the same violent way that Peter “engaged” with the High Priest’s servant’s ear. We strike at our political opponents, fighting back against persecution—or, rather, perceived “persecution”—and cut off their ears. Then, we bemoan the fact that no one listens, complaining that we’re so marginalized.

When we fight to maintain political or social power in this world, we are fighting to keep what will ultimately fade away, and, in doing so, we may find ourselves fighting against God’s will for His Church. He led His Son to the cross. He led the apostles and the early Church into the thick of Jewish and Roman opposition. Can we really question God’s choices if He declares that it’s time for us to likewise follow Him through adversity?

Time and again, history has proven that the Church grows against the grain. If God has ordained it for us to receive persecution, then let’s take Matthew 5:11-12 at face value and rejoice because it will mean that we have been chosen to glorify God in the face of opposition.

4) The Church needs to stop trying to be the nation’s conscience and must instead seek to be its source of healing, the bridge to that “other place” Jesus told Pilate about.

“When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment….” John 16:8

Let me be very clear: I’m not arguing that should stay silent on moral issues. No, we shouldn’t stay silent, but we could probably stand to stop screaming at people.

What I am saying is that, to some degree, we’re arguing with fence posts and tilting at windmills when we argue with the world about issues of sin. Very few non-Christians are unaware of our stance on sin. Too many non-Christians have never had a positive, loving experience with a Christian.

Our world is full of moral evil, and we have the solution to that evil. We have found freedom from sin, and that’s the real message that we need to be delivering: the message of salvation and healing. Let the Holy Spirit do the job of conviction; He’ll point out the world’s sin, and we’ll be the place He points to as a solution for that sin.

At the same time, we must make it clear that we have something to offer to those on the outside—what makes us a place of healing?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

We need to love one another. Politics is one of the most divisive arenas in our nation, even in the Church. It’s the most divisive and the least loving, but there is no room for unloving attitudes among the children of God because it displeases our Father and hurts our witness.

One of the few things that people still believe in is community and their need to be loved and accepted. Let’s be the kind of place, the family, that takes its proper place as the source of healing, the bridge between Heaven and earth, the embassy of the Kingdom of God.

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