Posts Tagged ‘Christian politics’

As our nation is now embroiled in fierce debate about right and wrong, and as Christians are drawn into the discussion, I find some need for clarity on what is good, what is godly.

Below are a few thoughts: None of this is directed at a political party or political figure. I find myself disillusioned with partisan, party politics and with leaders on all sides who seem to spend their time attacking each other rather than working together on our problems. I find myself longing for wise leadership that can bring sides together, that values everyone. I find myself longing for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

What does that look like?

Within God’s perspective, public virtue is always based on private virtue. Evil in private, virtuous in public is not virtuous. Within Christ’s teachings, congruency is expected, integrity required. Jesus taught that a good heart produces good, an evil heart evil.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Luke 6:45

Jesus condemned those who looked good but had greedy and selfish hearts.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Mathew 23:25

Inside the cup matters. Greed and selfishness is a chronic personal and political leadership problem for all of us. Care for others, unselfish thoughts of our nation’s future, other nation’s futures. our planet’s future should — if we are unselfish — enter our discussions about race, gender, debt, wars, pollution, health and community fairness and integrity.

The kingdom of God is unselfish. It thinks of the welfare of all people, men and women, all races, all faiths, all nations. It seeks peace, it is willing to negotiate, to listen, to be fair.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 

James 3:17

We would do well to use James’s standards to judge the wisdom of our leaders, to judge what is love, to judge governmental decisions, laws, and to measure ourselves.

Next, we must hold to this: a good end is never justified by an evil means. If someone does evil, God may work some good out of it — perhaps their downfall and replacement by a better person — but God holds all of us responsible for our actions.

Evil behavior is never justifiable. Paul gets at this in one key place saying. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

Romans 6:1

No person in any culture or government has an exemption from being moral, good and legal. A public official does not have an elite, morally exempt status. Nor does a rich or powerful citizen. Nor does a group. We are all judged by our laws and by God alike. Right is right for all.

God held the ancient Jewish kings to his standards and commands. Saul didn’t get away with disobeying God. Neither did David get away with immorality. Neither did the nations of the Old Testament sin before God without God noticing and responding.

We can’t see this as clearly today, but I am convinced God is watching and in his time and way he will bring justice and kindness to many.

What are the means by which we might measure a godly kingdom or government?

The greatest Christian and Jewish moral code provides a standard for behavior; this is the Ten Commandments. Many laws are derived from that. That’s a starting point for standards.

But there is a Biblical standard beyond that. Jesus came with something new. He taught that the highest Christian measure of godliness and of virtue is love. He brought love and forgiveness in as a deep part of God’s plan. Apply this to politics. The best leaders love; they that means they understand grace. The best government is the most loving, like the best person. It is certainly not the most dominant. Love is the greatest law and the greatest power.

The great command by which we measure good is love. Does this person, public or private, love people, all people, neighbors? Does this government love? It’s odd that we never ask that, seldom apply that standard to government, particularly when we have a people’s government, government by the people of the people and for the people. A group of people is not subject to a different moral law then one person. They may have different functions but there isn’t a different morality to govern them.

The state has the right, for instance, to arrest, judge, incarcerate and punish. But only and always morally and justly and by law. We are commanded to respect this and our leaders in Romans 13.

In this role authorities should protect, as they are appointed to do, but protection must still be guided by love and protection from evil is to be accomplished by doing good. Good government doesn’t protect just one group or one kind of person. Jesus set up a love standard and he didn’t exclude anyone or any group from it. Thus there is a Christian ban on racism.

We should respect governments, engage them to engage the kingdom, vote, lobby, protest, serve in them in order to establish love on earth.

But when government is wrong, we have a higher calling to respect God. When men, especially when leaders or governments are wrong, we must speak and act for the good.

When commanded to stop preaching about Jesus, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’”

Acts 5:29

Particularly in the United States, where we have freedom of speech, we are responsible to speak up when things are wrong and to stand for what is good. That is our civic duty, to stand up for love. The kingdom of God looks like wise love!

Finally, who do we Christians look to for protection?

We do look to governments, just and fair governments, but we must apply great wisdom and oversight. Too often governments have used people, us, all of us, to do evil and they have also abused us for being good. Sometimes they have protected us, and we are grateful for that, and we must continue to use and work with governments to create order and protection of the good, but ultimately, we look to God for our help, even in crafting good governments and electing good leaders.

Scripture constantly points to God, not government, for guidance, wisdom and protection precisely from the ways and means of unreliable humans and dangerous enemies.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Never will I leave you;

    never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

    What can mere mortals do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

Many Christians view politics negatively, perhaps after the fashion of Larry Hardiman who once quipped, “The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’, meaning ‘blood sucking parasites.'”

Ronald Regan had a mitigated view.

Politics is not a bad profession. “If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself,  you can always write a book.”

But what did Jesus say about politics?

In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus responding to his followers when they became political, competitive and  power hungry by saying, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus opposed dominating, power hungry, competitive, self-serving leaders. Jesus taught servant leadership.

How can we apply this to politics?

Christians would do well, following Jesus, to promote and elect politicians who have servant’s hearts. Those leaders can be strong, but they should use their strength for the people, not for themselves.

Which candidate currently running for President of the United States would be the best servant of the people?

I think Jesus might say, “Look into the candidates hearts. Elect the best servant.”

I have always admired British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in this regard. Churchill stayed in London when the Germans bomb it during the blitz of WWII, even though this put his own life at risk.

Churchill’s position: “We shall go on to the end … we shall never surrender.”

That’s leadership. In the blitz, Churchill didn’t dominate his people,  but instead he identified with them, lived with them, served them.

We recently hired a woman in our church to be our REFINERY gardener. We needed to buy her a lawnmower to cut our courtyard grass. I told her we should get a gas lawn mower, with a twin turbo V-8 powering it, one that you ride on. That way the staff could even use it to get to work and back.

Instead she wanted a GreenWorks electric lawnmower, one that you push. Why? She didin’t want smelly, toxic gasoline in our church storage areas and our church courtyard.

I didn’t try to dominate her, although I am her supervisor, but instead respected her as a fellow leader. She should have the power to make her own decisions. We bought the GreenWorks mower. She is the gardener, not me. She, and her good vision for our organization are to be respected. My job is to support her, to empower her, not to control her. Jesus taught servant leadership; we Christians would do well to ask what this looks like at church, and at home. It looks like not dominating people.

What else did Jesus say about politics?

In Matthew 10:15-16 Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Jesus taught us, as his followers, to be shrewd. What does shrewd mean?

Here it means not easily deceived, not easily taken advantage of, not overly simplistic and gullible in thinking.

This is needed when Christians confront politics.

During many recent Presidential campaigns Christians have run after candidates they thought represented their values — say pro-life, or pro-family — only to find that once in office those candidates did nothing to advance those causes.

We Christians should be smarter than that, and not let candidates manipulate or deceive us by seeming to align with us on one Christian issue.

Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 commands us, “Test everything.” What should we test, politically? Going back to Jesus, we should test the hearts of our political candidates and the plans they have to accomplish things.

Before we vote, we might ask, is this candidate full of love, or hate? Does this candidate or this issue come from a place of fear, or love? Will what this person proposes work, or is this a false promise?

It is no secret that the American government has recently been stuck, polarized and bogged down by politicians who are unwilling to work together. So, we are in need of servant’s hearts in government,  ones who can negotiate, compromise when needed, get things done, serve, not try to dominate.

This brings us to the third important thing Jesus said about politics.

Jesus said, ” Love your enemies.”

We are not to hate even those who oppose us.

When George Bush was president, some of my Christians friends thought he was the devil. The invasion of Iraq sealed that for them.

When President Obama was elected, I heard a few Christians who thought the sky had fallen. Such hatred. Such lies, that he was a Muslim, that he wasn’t an American. Those charges were ridiculously untrue.

Listen Christians, you have the right and responsibility to choose candidates, and to side up on the issues. You do not, as Christians, have a calling or mandate to hate well-meaning leaders you disagree with. I don’t believe we have ever elected a truly evil American President.

We Christians are not called to be negative or cynical or despairing about government or its “blood sucking politicians.”

We should control ourselves. Jesus told us to love even our enemies and scripture commands us to pray for all our political leaders. We can disagree, we can oppose — we cannot hate. Hated is toxic. Jesus was against it.

Consider this flash point for love and hate in politics — political parties.

Which is the Christian political party; what is God’s party?

Let’s consider this conceptually.

The Republicans are pro-life, but the Democrats care for the poor, and the Independent Party claims their foundation is within Christianity.

So which one is God’s party. None of them. There is no perfectly Christian Party. One represents Christians well on one issue, one on another. And it is complicated. There are Republicans who care about poverty, Democrats who are pro-life.

We must not be naive.

We must face facts; the people on the other side of the aisle, in the other party, those who differ from us politically, even those in another form of government or even those in another religion aren’t necessarily evil. They probably even have some good points to make on the issues the country faces.

In my own church we have people from all persuasions; some have told me they are staunch Democrats, some staunch Republicans, some Independents, and yet we happily go to church together without forcing anyone to adhere to other’s political opinions.

This is because we Christians are not called to be devisive, to be unreasonable, to be narrow-minded, and we are not called to be negative or cynical or disparaging about government, about someone else view of government, even about those “blood sucking politicians.”

Our passion and calling, as a Christians, is to love our leaders, to love those who we disagree with, to work with them to bring about good and to pray for them to follow God.

I spoke to my dad recently. I asked about politics. He is 87 years old. He has always been very conservative.

When I asked him about the race this year, he said what he always says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Wise man. Then he added. “I changed sides.”

I had to laugh. My dad, changed parties! He has never done that, but I applaud his open mindedness. He is a lover, not a hater. He is following Paul who described wisdom as being open to reason.

Love and not fear should dominate our political Christian thinking. When we  vote, we should ask, is this vote coming out of fear, or hate, or love. We Christians are called to hope, to love, to good and truth wherever it exists. Good governance is full of love.

Good governance is Abraham Lincoln, loving us as one people and preserving the Union at great cost. It is Teddy Roosevelt loving nature and preserving it though a system of national parks. It is Franklin Roosevelt lovingly shepherding us through the Great Depression.

Lastly, in terms of politics, I want to bring up something else Jesus said. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Jesus did not say government is the way, truth and life. For the Christian, our ultimate trust is in God, not government. Do we expect human government to establish Christianity on the earth?

Our government may follow our Christian morality — we want it to; it would be good for it to — but government’s role is not to teach our faith or our prayers to the people. We, the church, do that ourselves.

It is good and right to seek a just, fair state. We should do all we can do to bring truth, order and wisdom to government. It is noble to be a politician, it is a great calling to lead a nation, but we must not try to turn the state into the church, not expect the state or the government to do the work of the church.

The government can’t make people Christians.

The story goes that in 311 Constantine was marching to capture Rome when at Milvian Bridge he saw a vision of the initials of Christ in front of the sun surrounded by these words: “By this sign conquer.”

Then the narrative goes, Constantine marched his troops into the river, declared them baptized, and ordered them to paint those letters on their shields.

Historian Charles Williams says that then “All insincerity became Christian.” Legs standing in water don’t make Christians. No one can mandate Christianity. The state does not exist to force baptisms.

And yet some Christians seem to want someting like this. I have heard Christians say that we have lost the fight for prayer in schools, lost the protection of unborn life in our laws, lost the sanctity of traditional marriage. It is as if they think the government should be the church.

I personally don’t want the government teaching my children how to pray. I don’t trust they would do that well, but I do want the government to allow my children to pray — and it does. I wish the government protected unborn life, but even if it doesn’t I will protect life whenever I can. And whatever the government decides marriage is, that doesn’t change or harm my marriage.

My marriage is still sacred. The only real threat to my marriage is me. It is mine to keep sacred, and if it is ruined, it wll not be ruined by governmental law, it will be ruined by the choices my wife and I make or don’t make to deeply love each other.

We Christians are not losing. We have not lost our freedoms or our values or our own choices to be moral, and we have not lost our own definitions of what is moral.  The government has yet done very little to take away our right to personally live according to our values.

Of course, as we look back on history, there are many case of the American government running over citizens rights, but I find that when I go to church I am yet free to practice all the essentials of Chrisitanity without any governmental interference.  As for now, the first amendment of the Constitiution stands. It protects us. I expect it to continue to protect us. I appreciate this.

And consider this. Nothing the government does or ever can do cancels the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to set us free and so we are free indeed. No Government can do that —  set us free from sin and death — and no government can take Christ or our freedom in Christ away from us.

Christians, pray when you want. Protect life by your own choices. Love and marry as you choose, and keep your own marriage sacred by being loyal to your own spouse.

Our lives, our values, our hopes, our truths are safe — in Christ.

I like what Jesus said about politics.

What kind of political leaders can we support? We can support servant leaders. What kind of political thinking should we do? Savvy and shrewd. What best defines the good politics? It is love not fear.

What is our true source of order and stability?

It is God.