Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Should the Church Be Involved in Politics?

I guess that I still find it funny that Christians and non-Christians have strong opinions about national and local leadership. Some think that the church should control politics; a Christian nation, and others think that candidates should never be mentioned in church. (I know, you can lose your 501C3 status.)

I remember when I first heard about the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. It kind of bothered me. It may not be the same reasons that it bothers others, but it certainly mattered to me. I am always concerned about the perception of the church... especially by non-Christians. We are not of this world, but we have to live in it-- and being salt and light isn't easy. Our job is not to judge, but to live a godly life as a witness to others.

If we take a quick look at Jesus, he didn't seem to be all that worried about the Romans who occupied Israel at the time, but more about the "whitewashed tombs" called the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day). Even amongst Jews, there were factions that also included the Scribes and Sadducees. They were all prisoners to their own understanding (good ideas, religious practice and programs that were not of God). If you recall, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were wrong, or should I say dead wrong! Jesus was concerned about souls, relationship and glorifying the Father. But He is also the King of the Nations.

Jesus must have been aware of how countries would war and come against one another as the End of the Age came to a close. However; he did not promote any particular leader, but chided many of them. He didn't wear any political buttons, and it is very likely that he was not allowed to vote as an Israelite in a Roman territory. I guess that begs the question, would He, if He could have? I think the answer is yes. As a minister of reconciliation, He would have wanted to use every means of promoting the Kingdom of light. I don't think that He would have been all wigged out over who was running, nor elected. One might support a group like the Christian Coalition, which is fine. Bringing light to a lost world is good! My concern is at what cost or gain is it to the Kingdom?

This discussion leaves us with a few different possible scenarios.

-1 We can not vote, and not participate.
-2 We can vote, but be quiet about our views.
-3 We can vote and be vocal about our views.
-4 We can vote and only support Christian leaders.
-5 We can vote our own beliefs even if they are contrary to the Bible.
-6 We can vote for the person that best represents Christian principals regardless of their religious affiliation.

We should be praying for our leaders regardless of their religious position. (I Timothy 2:2, Romans 13:1) That is a given. But who do we vote for, and should we care? Come on, yes, we need to get involved. If we are salt and light, then we need to promote that in our governments as much as we are able.

Jesus is a very good example, He always voted for love, and for righteousness by the way that He acted. And He did turn over the tables of the money changers. This is a revealing passage, he took spiritual authoity in an area where He had authority; the Temple. This passage is not a license to destroy property or inflict bodily harm. Umm that isn't the best way to show someone that you love them. But when we have a chance to effect potential change in our school boards, or local, state and national governments we need to get involved.

Something funny happens with religious and political people, they become passionate about what they believe and discussions can get heated. I always wonder how God feels about that? Paul peacefully debated the Greeks on Mars Hill and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he made converts. Remember how angry that silversmiths were with the disciples as "their" God came in power overshadowing the idol worship at the Temple of Artemus? People are passionate because it affects their "secure" beliefs, their pocketbook and their ability to be in control. Even in the church! Consider this, Jesus commanded the CHURCH to take care of the poor, the widows and those in prison, not the government. No wonder they are clamoring for entitlement from the capital, the church global is not doing its job!

I think it is interesting that the churches of the candidates come under fire because of their beliefs and potential prejudices. The church should have a right to profess her beliefs regardless of the consequences. But it isn't always like that. As believers it is our job to proclaim the Gospel.

In the final analysis, we need to get involved for the good whenever we can. In the same way there is NO perfect church, there is no perfect candidate, or dad or mom or kid or friend. We need to get past judgment and be led by God to choose what he wants. After all He is the one that raises up the governments of the word ummm and tears them down. (Romans 13:1) It is in this sovereignty that we can trust our vote to be manifest for the good. We can vote for the lesser of two evils, and we can participate in His will for the nations. I think about the "hanging chad" election that came down to about 1,000 votes in one county and that was the difference between a win and a loss. God can use a donkey, he certainly can use any of the candidates... but he has a choice to carry out his will.

The last issue seems to be character.... or sometimes personality. Certainly character matters, but Biblical principals trump that. Our leaders need to best promote principals regardless of whether we like them. Even if they have a well known "sin." it is just too easy to choose a sound byte we don't like to make a decision. Again, biblical principals trump personalities and even character flaws.

I often think of Bible characters that lived in godless nations such as Joseph, Nehemiah, Ester, Moses and Daniel. They had a greater impact on nations that were pagan than on the believers of Israel-- sometimes by serving its leaders! How about we just get over ourselves, and become an example to a great cloud of witnesses, they are watching everything we say and do.

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