On Becoming More Christian, Not Less, In Our Politics

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If you’re on social media or are watching the news for more than twelve seconds, you’re sure to spot some sort of rant about a political figure. It has become our habit to mock and insult those authority figures we disagree with.

While we can (and should) feel strongly about different political and social issues, as Christians, we’re called to respond to authority with respect. Rather than bucking the system, sticking it to the man, insulting, or despairing, Christians are taught in the Bible to respond to authority with honor. This starts with honoring God, who holds authority over the whole universe, including every earthly kingdom.

One of the chief ways we honor God is in how we respond to those He has put in authority over us. Whether we agree or disagree with our authorities, showing honor and respect is presented in the Bible as a non-negotiable. In showing honor and respect, we also honor and respect God, who, in His own wisdom and for His own purposes, ordains who will lead and who will follow.

ARE GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS THE EXCEPTION?

The Bible also says Christians should honor, respect, pray for and obey authorities in positions of government. This can be challenging for us, especially during a heated political season like the one that is ramping up right now. And yet, because politics are so heated, the season we are in presents Christians with a unique opportunity to live counter-culturally to the typical partisan spin and vitriol.

Biblically, Christians have a civic duty to honor their national, state and local officials. As long we aren’t being coerced to sin against God, following Jesus includes submitting to and praying for all of our public authorities. When this happens, citizens of God’s kingdom will be known as the most refreshing citizens of earthly kingdoms, no matter who is in charge. This was true in biblical times, and it can be true now.

New Testament Christians were routinely marginalized, persecuted and even put to death by the Roman state. Even in this climate, honoring, respecting, cooperating with and praying for Roman officials was part of being a disciple. The Apostle Peter, who would later be executed by Rome for his Christian faith, said that in all circumstances, Christians must honor the king (1 Peter 2:17). The Apostle Paul, who would also be martyred by decree of the Roman Caesar, said every Christian must submit to and pray for governing authorities (Romans 13:1).

In today’s political climate, it is hard to find Christians who embrace this line of thinking. Instead, many have been drawn into partisan spin and rhetoric. In so doing, these well-intended but misguided Christians have become more like the world than like Jesus.

Here are a few thoughts about how we can retreat from the spin and rhetoric, and instead return to more of a New Testament approach:

1. DON’T LABEL OR SMEAR; INSTEAD, HUMBLE YOURSELF

Right-leaning Christians fall prey to dishonoring our last president. He identified as Christian, yet was labeled as patently anti-Christian. He identified as a social Democrat, yet got labeled as a Socialist. He claimed to champion the poor and underserved, yet got labeled as a crook who takes “other people’s money” and uses it to enable laziness.

Similarly, left-leaning Christians have shown disrespect to the president before him. Words like “Murica” and “Strategery” became part of the American lexicon, but not for honoring reasons. Rather, such words were used to belittle, embarrass and caricature this president and Yale graduate as a bumbling idiot.

Left-leaning Christians can also engage in inflammatory and unfair rhetoric that labels right-leaning authorities as anti-poor, anti-woman, anti-immigrant and so on.

Christians on both the left and the right have expressed concern about the gross character flaws, and some of the policies, of our current President as well. This is fine and appropriate, unless of course concerns give way to name-calling and personal insults. Not even the young man David, when King Saul sought personally to destroy him, fell into this trap. Although David had two opportunities to finish Saul off, he would not assassinate him, either in his person or his character. In his own words, he dared not harm “the Lord’s anointed.”

Right, left, or neither, we should address the logs in our own eye before we presume to address the specks in someone else’s.

2. SHOW RESPECT FOR AUTHORITIES WITH WHOM YOU DISAGREE

Examples fill the Scriptures. In spite of being put in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, Joseph treated Pharaoh and the Egyptian guards with honor. Daniel and his three friends spoke respectfully to Babylon’s evil King Nebuchadnezzar. David blessed and prayed for King Saul, as I mention above. When David had the opportunity to destroy Saul, he resisted the temptation. Instead, he entrusted himself, and the ways that king Saul had injured him, to God who judges justly.

David wouldn’t even speak negatively about Saul. Why? Because God, for reasons only God knew, wanted Saul to be king for a time. Out of respect for God, David gave respect to Saul.

These are great models for us to consider as we engage political discussions, and as we think about how to relate to authorities we don’t agree with.

3. ENGAGE THE POLITICAL PROCESS IN A GROWN-UP, NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY

Amid a heated political campaign in 1774, John Wesley wrote the following in his Journal:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them:

1. To vote … for the person they judged most worthy,
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Another thing you can do is organize. With the rise of Facebook groups and hashtag movements, there is no shortage of opportunity to engage in causes you believe in.

But activism that’s limited to social media, or “slacktivism,” isn’t enough. If you really want to make a difference, you need to also figure out how you are going to donate your time, financial contributions, and professional skills to leave the world better and, so far as it depends on you, make government intervention and involvement less necessary.

4. REMEMBER JESUS’ KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD

Jesus came to fulfill every part of Scripture. Not one word of God’s just and true law will go unfulfilled by Jesus.

How conservative of Him.

And yet, as Jesus demonstrates, the more conservative we are in our beliefs about Scripture, the more liberal we will be in the ways we love. Jesus fulfilled the law by feeding the hungry, identifying with the poor, empowering women, reaching out cross-culturally (as a white, English speaking man in North America, I’m especially thankful for this), and welcoming and eating with sinners.

How progressive of Him.

And get this: Jesus brought Simon, an anti-government Zealot, and Matthew, a government employee, into his group of disciples. Of the four Gospel writers, Matthew alone points out this fact, signaling that loyalties to Jesus transcend all other loyalties, including political ones.

Even Simon and Matthew, two people on polar opposite political extremes, were able to live and love in community together. Why? Because instead of creating dividing walls, Jesus breaks down dividing walls and prays that His followers—from the political left and the political right—will live as one. In this, we show the world that we are His disciples.

5. ASK YOURSELF THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

In consideration of Matthew and Simon living in community together under Jesus, we should wrestle with the following question:

For whom do I feel greater affection, and with whom to I feel most kindred?
1. People who agree my politics but don’t share my faith? Or …
2. People who share my faith but don’t agree with my politics?

If it’s the first instead of the second, we are rendering unto Caesar what belongs to God. And that can’t be a good thing.

The way we answer this question will, in many ways, determine what kind of honor—or what kind of dishonor—we will give to those in authority over us. It will also reveal whom and what it is that we truly follow.

Will we be disciples of a partisan platform, or will we be disciples of Jesus, who is King of kings and whose kingdom is not of this world? I pray it will be the latter, not the former.


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7 responses to “On Becoming More Christian, Not Less, In Our Politics”

  1. […] On Becoming More Christian, Not Less, In Our Politics […]

  2. Bonnie Jean says:

    I agree with most of what you say in the above article. However, I have found it almost impossible to find anyone who shares my faith but not my politics… at least on the major things. I don’t understand how someone can be a Christian (and not in name only) and believe that abortion is okay … especially when the baby could survive on his or her own. Nor do I understand how someone can be in a same sex relationship (or marriage) and continually defy the will of God daily and still truly be a Christian. I believe that once saved always saved, but I am not sure that people who live in sin defying the will of God on purpose … well I am not sure if that still applies… maybe you have thoughts on that. I also believe that there are many who categorize sin, which I don’t … I believe that people who live together before marriage are also willfully disobeying God… and most Christians seem to think that is not as “bad”… or other sins are not as “bad.” I know we are all sinners and Christ died for our sins… past, present, and future… but how do we deal with willful, continual sins ??? Is it the same ? As far as politics goes, it seems to be that the Republican Platform is more in line with what the Bible tells us about how we should live together… where the Democratic Platform which is now the Democratic Socialist party it seems…. well it is just the opposite. Government intrudes far too much in our lives. I think the body of Christ could do far more on our own if we were all living as we should. We should be caring for the poor and the needy… we should be the voice of the voiceless… and we should be helping immigrants… but are not laws about that important too ? Should we not respect the laws… ??? I believe that we should obey the laws, but that doesn’t mean we ignore a pregnant woman or a child. There are far better ways to deal with many of the issues we have today… but most Christians just shy away from everything. President Trump certainly has not led a life that lines up with Biblical teachings either, but he has been supportive of many things important to Christians… like supporting Israel… working to support Pro-Life causes… and getting more just judges on the courts. Human law and government is far less important than God’s laws. But so many Christians just do not vote… or vote for those who cannot win. Considering how corrupt our society is… it is hard to even find a friend you can talk to let alone a Christian who agrees with your politics. It makes me sad that even many at church have been more divisive than those outside the church. I have the hope of Heaven in my heart, but it is sad to see our country possibly going the way of Nazi Germany or Ancient Rome.

  3. Alem says:

    Thank you Bonnie for sharing this;
    “Considering how corrupt our society is… it is hard to even find a friend you can talk to let alone a Christian who agrees with your politics. It makes me sad that even many at church have been more divisive than those outside the church.”
    Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32). In other words, the Cross the instrument of love, holiness and unity (not uniformity)! I think that is where the problem lies. We work from two separate frames; Jesus is Savior but not Lord in all areas of life! We are not being fed the Word to grow to maturity; we have remained children, complaining, making heroes out of people, never coming to the knowledge of right or wrong, easily seduced by power instead of knowing the Truth and paying the price for taking a stand, and so on. Evangelical leaders are today more interested in having access to the White House than to the Throne of God. Truth is fast becoming the casualty. Hence, we have no credibility to tell the world Jesus is the Truth. Hence, we are divided (in every way) like the rest of the world. I chuckle when I hear someone say Thank God we are not persecuted for our faith (like those others out there). There is no need for Satan to waste his energy persecuting sleeping and complacent believers.

  4. LuAnne Warre says:

    I agree. But when you you call evil out? Are we to stay silent when someone Ah such hateful rhetoric to other human beings? When Chaldean Christians are detained and could be sent to Iraq, probably to their deaths. I pray for our president, Intry to applaud anything he’s done that helps people. Are you saying to call out hate and evil is wrong here because someone is in leadership?

  5. David Monty Montgomery says:

    Bonnie. “I have found it almost impossible to find anyone who shares my faith but not my politics”. Really? Look at that again. Really? You only have to travel outside the US, and probably look closer within it, and you will find plenty. This maybe says more about your social circle. Is your statement not tantamount to identifying your faith with your Politics? I think it is. Politics is about a lot more than abortion and same sex marriage. An awful lot more. What about those of us who live in countries where these things are liberally available? We get on with being salt and light. What about issues in right wing politics that are anti-Gospel?

    I said to a group of students recently “you’ll never find a party with whom you will agree on all things as a Christian. So choose one you feel will do the greatest good; campaign from within on issues you disagree with ( because all parties have diversity, be that Democrats for life, or Republicans for gun control), and most of all, respect and work with those Christians across the house who believe the same things but whose choice of party led them in a different direction!” A Christian whose commitment to global issues and social justice led them to join or vote for a party whose policy on same sex marriage they disagreed with, is worthy of the same respect as a Christian whose commitment to moral issues led them to join or vote for a party whose immigration policy they disagree with. Scot is spot on in this great article.

  6. Alem says:

    “Politics is about a lot more than abortion and same sex marriage.” I agree. Democrats and Republicans are both for these issues! Republicans are for “big government” when it suits them. Remember? “We should not let financial entities” that caused the 2008 crisis go under; we should bail them?

    Evangelicalism as defined by Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, etc is about whiteness, about FEAR; not about Truth! Graham and co. spend their energies not outing lies (defending Truth) but coming up with excuses and consequently undermining the credibility of the gospel. No wonder Millennials are leaving the church!

  7. greg rogers says:

    I really agree with some of what you say here. We are called to love even those who we consider our enemies. I think we need to be careful to revere how God’s written word handles how we should choose to relate to those who call themselves Christian verses those who flat out are not. For example, for the person calling himself “brother” who is living in unrepentant sexual sin even after they are lovingly confronted with this, Paul calls the church to no longer associate. On the other hand, a person outside of the church who is immoral, we should associate with enough in order to share with them about the opportunity of repenting of such sin for forgiveness and a life of joyful relationship with Jesus by grace!

    I definitely agree that God chooses to use even immoral leaders of His choice in earthly kingdoms which we should respect once they are in office. On the other hand, anyone who calls themselves a brother or sister in Christ who does not acknowledge, for example, the compounding Biblical principles and commands that most definitely declare abortion as heinous evil and who tend to demonstrate such in their patterns in the voting booth I do not sense any draw towards finding tolerance and unity with. Living in unrepentant sexual sin and turning a blind eye and indifference towards what is most definitely evil in God’s sight in the practice of abortion are really not much different.

    If I saw that there are fruits from progressive gov’t beyond just their approval of abortion practice that help those who are social minorities, I could give the benefit of the doubt towards Christian support. But progressivism that has the appearance of lovingness has instead led the good people under their leadership towards dependence on gov’t at the expense of familial unity and almost every city in our country run by these has resulted in fellow human beings made in God’s image living in impoverished conditions of no dignity. Coupling this with a call for big government with less and less layers of accountability that America in its design sought to establish as also formulated from Christian principle will most definitely lead to worsening conditions not better. God in His sovereignty may allow such, but in the meantime, Christians should stand in unity to support that which God approves of in the details then find satisfaction in His resultant decision on which direction the earthly kingdom may go.

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